Dec 30, 2021·edited Dec 30, 2021Liked by Michael David Cobb Bowen

Kwanzaa was invented using Ki-Swahili as the language, which is an Afro-Arab lingua franca from the Islamised East African coast and originally spread by the East African slave trade to Arabia, India and other places. Some countries have Swahili as the first language ( Tanzania and Zanzibar) and a number of academic African-Americans, disenchanted with the USA, moved there after 1969. Their literary output was quite prodigious and Tanzania was a socialist country built on near communist systems.

This must have been the feedback loop -acdemics to academics- that ended up with Karenga, adopting Swahili and numerous socialist principles that sound much like late 1960's Tanzanian political slogans. There is a certain irony in his choices, one feels.

Americans do not have any roots in East Africa, and should probably better have used Yoruba for example, a wholly African language and a pastiche of West African customs but Karenga was not in that scene. Then, the lack of socialism in West Africa ( except Francophone Guinea at the time) might have been a factor too for him.

Here in Kenya, the population loves to dress up as Santa and celebrate Xmas and snow, neither of which have any cultural relevance to their past or present, so everyone in the USA should be able to concoct the Kwanzaa they want, I suppose. Maybe one day it will be celebrated in more communities..

Expand full comment