By Anonymous (not verified) on December 22, 2008

Kwanzaa has arrived.

The seven-day Afrocentric holiday from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1 is a period of rededication to basic principles we can all embrace. Some are especially relevant for surviving a deep recession.

Kwanzaa has arrived in another sense: It has become accepted.

Even though the holiday was controversial in its beginnings because it was viewed as a challenge to Christmas, it has taken on a life of its own. Nowadays it is considered a secular holiday celebrated by people of all religious faiths or no faith at all.

Proof of its maturing as a holiday is the commercialism that has grown up around it. When you can buy holiday cards at Walgreen’s, order holiday merchandise on scads of online websites, meet young adults who were raised with family celebrations and find it on most calendars, the event is a real holiday.

Forty-two years ago, amid an explosion of black pride and activism, Kwanzaa was born. A California black studies professor named Maulana Ron Karenga invented it and went to great lengths to create a series of rituals and symbols to shape the celebration.

I have to confess I never felt totally enthusiastic about Kwanzaa because it seemed so contrived and because Karenga seemed intent on creating a cult of personality.

But as an African American, I appreciate its affirmation of our history as a people that was brought here in chains. Even though most of us don’t know which countries our ancestors came from, through Kwanzaa we honor our African ancestry.

The seven principles of Kwanzaa originally addressed African Americans above all. Those principles are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

Over time, the holiday began to speak to all Americans.

And today, some of these principles can help us through the economic crisis we are in.

For example, after almost a decade of rampant materialism and competition, we need cooperation — or “cooperative economics,” in Kwanzaa terms — to get through the downturn. This means helping local businesses and joining co-ops and working in such endeavors as community gardens.

Similarly, “collective work and responsibility” means helping one another within our communities. And “creativity” means not just using our imagination for artistic purposes but also for making our communities better.

With “faith” in each other, and working together in “unity” and with “purpose,” we can help ourselves and all those around us in this time of need.

Happy Kwanzaa!

Starita Smith is a doctoral student and instructor in sociology at the University of North Texas. She can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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