Cultural Revolutions

First National Kwanzaa Celebration

Last December, almost five hundred black men, women, and children met on Jekyll Island, Georgia, for the first National Kwanzaa Celebration. No whites were allowed. Solemnized with what the Atlanta Constitution called "none of the usual holiday hype," Kwanzaa is a week-long black religious festival founded in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, a professor of black studies at Cal State Long Beach. Kwanzaa—Swahili for "first fruits"—is "a holiday created by Africans for Africans," said Karenga, and it ran from December 26th to January 1st.

The sponsor of the Jekyll Island program was the National Black Wholistic Society, an organization that, in the words of its founder. Professor Haki Madhubuh of Chicago, seeks "to introduce our people to a way of life that's not conflictual with the way of nature." The society made sure, for example, that every meal had a vegetarian entree such as akara, mashed black-eyed peas baked in a patty, and that foods were cooked in the "way of nature," such as sauteing collard greens in olive oil rather than salt pork. Speakers at the gathering, in addition to Karenga, included Professor Nain Akbar of Florida State University on "Spirit, Water: The Healing of Our African Souls" and psychiatrist Frances Cress Welsing of Washington, D.C., on "Building Families to Destroy White World Supremacy."

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