OP-ED: Kwanzaa during the pandemic
Many people have aptly described 2020 as “unprecedented.” It was the year the nation’s twin pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racism were publicly acknowledged and inadequately addressed.
Some of the names of those who have suffered brutal deaths due to the color of their skin have become well-known: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery. Many others, including those who are gender nonconforming and/or transgender, remain obscure.
This is the year #BlackLivesMatter extended beyond Black people into the hearts, minds and mouths of ordinary “woke” white folks, in the United States and throughout the world.
Ordinary folks are finally seeing what Black people have experienced in this country for more than 400 years. Diversity and inclusion reign supreme, at least for now. Countless educational workshops and seminars have been held remotely to aid with global healing.
And however much it may discomfort the defenders of the status quo, the rallying cry #DefundthePolice has raised the urgent concerns of reallocating resources to help with community ills, including programs to address mental and physical health issues, homelessness and hunger.
Many have seen this as a time to reset and take stock. With President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris taking the oath of office in less than a month, we are poised to end 2020 on a positive healing note.
This will be the year we celebrate holidays without gathering in person. This includes Kwanzaa, an annual celebration of African American culture that began in 1966 and is today celebrated worldwide by folks of African descent, along with our allies of other races.
Kwanzaa (from Swahili, meaning “first fruits”) is a seven-day, Pan-African and secular holiday with cultural roots. Its origins are in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. My family and I have celebrated Kwanzaa for decades. But I will do so this year with special urgency in light of what 2020 has unleashed.
The seven principles of Kwanzaa resonate more than ever before. They are: Umoja (unity). Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity) and Imani (faith).
This year, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the California African American Museum and others will be providing virtual resources to help folks celebrate while staying at home and socially distancing.
Folks will be Zooming, FaceTiming, Google Meeting, Skyping, Housepartying, Facebook Room Meeting and using other remote video connections to celebrate Kwanzaa from the day after Christmas, Dec. 26, to New Year’s Day, Jan. 1.
This year, one of the messages of Kwanzaa will be to reinforce behaviors that can help blunt the impact of COVID-19: Wear masks when in public, social distance, cover coughs and sneezes, wash hands frequently.
Here’s hoping that this Kwanzaa season and beyond will continue the healing for our twin pandemics.
Harambee (Let’s pull together)!
— Kiki Monifa of Oakland, California, is editor-in-chief of BlackHistoryEveryday.com. This column was produced for the Progressive Media Project, which is run by The Progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.