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Feb 06, 2017

How Can We Make Kwanzaa Lit?

If you’re reading this, I have good news: you’ve made it another year! While it’s tradition to make bold predictions and proclamations about what you want out of 2017, I’ve decided to take a reflective step back. But I’m not interested in digesting the entire year, just the recent holiday season.

While speaking with my friend Lauren (who happens to be the International African American Museum’s program manager), it crossed my mind that Kwanzaa doesn’t get the same type of love as Christmas or Chanukah (or Festivus for that matter). You probably didn’t even notice that it came and went without as much as one television special or department store discount. Instead of crafting some self-righteous rant on why this is a travesty (which would be so fake of me seeing as even I don’t celebrate Kwanzaa), the writer within me thought that this would be a great opportunity to find a modern solution to the Kwanzaa-awareness problem.

Should you continue to read, it’s imperative that you accept the fact that Kwanzaa is, indeed, not lit. Also note: I won’t be discussing Kwanzaa’s merits or value, just the fact that, as a holiday, it could use a boost in the marketing department.

Allow me to discuss a few of my ideas for what could be done to build the buzz of Kwanzaa.

Commercialize it.

I’m not a huge fan of Christmas, mainly because of the mass commercialization that surrounds the holiday. But I’d be a fool to act like said commercialization doesn’t add to the holiday’s overall appeal. Everything about Christmas has been packaged, marketed, and sold so effectively, that we have now associated the receipt of tangible goods with “the holiday season”.

Department stores line our mail and inboxes with enticing deals and specials. Marketers have convinced us that the best way to show the special person in your life (or co-worker, or pet) that you love them, is to make sure they have something to unwrap the morning of December 25th. The financial impact is a welcomed sight to retailers and financial institutions alike. Kwanzaa doesn’t command that kind of attention, and until it does, it will always feel like an also-ran.

Sing it.

Also, can a brotha get a Charlie Brown Kwanzaa special!? There are literally no Kwanzaa themed movies or music registered into the collective consciousness of America. There’s no Grinch That Stole Kwanzaa or Mariah Carey rendition of All I Want for Kwanzaa Is You. That has to change, immediately.

“Itemize” it.

This is an extension of my previous point but it’s one that bears repeating. Yeah, Jesus may be the actual reason for the season but, let’s be real, most people look forward to Christmas because of the gifts. And, if you think about it, all major American holidays — that come with some type of marketing sizzle — have an item attached to it. For example…

Valentine’s Day: candy, dinner, and the possibility of alone time with a loved one.

St. Patrick’s Day: green clothes and beer (green or otherwise).

Easter: new dress clothes and candy.

July 4th: Cookouts/BBQ, various meats, and beers.

Halloween: costumes, candy, and scary movies.

Thanksgiving: turkey, other food items, football, and naps.

Christmas: trees, lights, stockings, gifts.

What signature item does Kwanzaa have? Some candle thing (called a Kinara) that looks like a Jewish menorah. While technically it does light up a room, it is not “lit”, and no one is fighting complete strangers over one those like they were Tickle Me Elmo dolls in years past.

Kwanzaa needs a signature item. Something more important that Air Jordan sneakers but that also allows people to stunt on their friends and relatives. My idea? Gold.

Think about it: those of us with modest means could buy gold plated items or gold colored clothing while those with more disposable income could splurge on gold necklaces or teaspoons made of 24k gold.

Admittedly, this might not be the best example but you get my point. There needs to be a signature item associated with Kwanzaa outside of Kinaras in order for people to start anticipating its arrival.

Move It.

I think the founder of Kwanzaa had the right idea when placing this holiday squarely between Christmas and New Years. He was probably thinking that with everyone already excited about the holiday season, why not just ride Christmas’ coattails into the new year?

There is no way, in 1966 when Kwanzaa was created, he could have anticipated how big Christmas would become and thus, the fatigue that would take place immediately after. Some people are so drained by the entire ordeal that they don’t even remove their Christmas lights for months afterward.

My suggestion: move Kwanzaa so it has its own time to shine. It would be too cheesy to move it to February but what about June? There are no major holidays in June plus, we can pair it with Juneteenth so they both could be celebrated with the zeal they deserve.

Day off.

I also propose that, in addition to moving Kwanzaa to June, we also get at least one day off. In South Carolina, state employees have the choice of not coming to work in order to celebrate Confederate Memorial Day. That’s not a joke. If people have the option of taking the day off to “honor” the men that gave their lives to ensure my ancestors remained property, why can’t I get the day off to celebrate my Pan-African culture?

Then all the other stuff I mentioned could actually take place: it could be properly commercialized so that people could get excited about buying their Kwanzaa specific gifts while celebrating African culture with a cookout on their day off. Where’s the downside this?

I understand that by making Kwanzaa just like every other holiday, it runs the risk of losing its meaning and purpose. But couldn’t the same be said about it now? Very few people celebrate Kwanzaa, so for them, it already has no meaning. I’m not saying that my ideas are the best but it’s a start. So what do you think: can we make Kwanzaa lit?