• Nnaemeka Ali, O.M.I

First published in https://www.blackcatholicmessenger.com/kwanzaa-is-a-gift/?fbclid=IwAR3_9oNBxLTczM3fXmaE8tUWSz12p4QXW

I have never heard about the Kwanzaa celebration before coming to Canada.

The reason is apparent: the West usually doesn’t have much interest in metanarratives. Hence, it treats Kwanzaa as a sub-cultural celebration not worth promoting.

Also, unfortunately, some members of the African diaspora—especially those who grew up in Africa like me—aren't always keen to embark on cultural events proposed by our brethren here in the Northern hemisphere. The problem isn't simply that they refuse to embark on such events, but they often try to subvert them or judge them as non-authentic.

Sometimes, they even go as far as joining some detractors to fight against our brethren's beautiful Black cultural heritage. As such, on the second day of Kwanzaa celebrations in 2021, we woke to a polemic concerning it.

For those who don't know about Kwanzaa, the founder’s definition is as follows:

“...an African American and Pan-African holiday which celebrates family, community and culture. It is based on African first harvest celebrations and organized around five fundamental kinds of activities: ingathering of the people; special reverence for the creator and creation; commemoration of the past; recommitment to the highest cultural values; and celebration of the Good."

The weeklong holiday was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966. It celebrates seven fundamental and core values of Black people: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-determination), Ujima (Collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).

Although it is a celebration created in the late 20th century, it can be traced to time immemorial of Black people, as it celebrates the core value of our ancestors: the Ubuntu. Therefore, Kwanzaa is not only a cultural celebration but also a spiritual one.

The polemic against it this year involved Dinesh D’Souza’s resharing of a Twitter post from 2019, in which US Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted Kwanzaa greetings.

A famous UK-based Nigerian biomedical scientist and Catholic anti-abortion activist, Dr. Obianuju Ekeocha, replied to her less than enthusiastically:

The problem with such reactions is that they give our detractors a strong axe. It's evident that in this metaverse era, the joy of being retweeted or drawing people to our profiles is often stronger than sound reasoning. But when people who claim to be the moral guardians engage in such self-destructive projects, we have to question their motives.

Besides, even if those who take part in the celebration of Kwanzaa claimed that the feast came packaged from the motherland, where Obianuju has her roots, she would still be wrong to assume that being African gives one a complete knowledge of all African festivities. And implying that the entire African population shares one culture or feast is a colonial mentality.

For example, there are different local cultures and festivities among the Igbo, her tribe. And even when many communities share a celebration, like in the case of the New Yam Festival, they still celebrate it on different days or even months of the year. So how can Obianuju claim that Kwanzaa can't be African simply because she ignores it?

And what about the idea that the Igbo people celebrate Christmas around this time? Historically speaking, Christmas became a Christian celebration in Rome only in the fourth century. And we know that it wasn't originally a Christian festivity. So, following Obianuju's reasoning, St. Paul could laugh at us for celebrating Christmas because his community didn't participate in it.

Both in the UK and the US, celebrating Christmas was once a crime. As recently as 1828, the Christmas celebration attracted punishment in some American cities. In fact, New York City instituted its first police force in response to a Christmas riot.

On May 11, 1659, for religious motives, the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony made celebrating Christmas a criminal offence. It was stated that “whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labour, feasting or any other way was subject to a 5-shilling fine”.

It was 200 years before Massachusetts added Christmas, George Washington's birthday, and the Fourth of July to its public holidays.

And what about Obianuju's homeland? The first Christmas celebrated in Nigeria (in today’s Lagos State) took place in 1842. Before this, there was no evidence that anyone previously celebrated Christmas in Nigeria. Is this then the “time” that Obianuju is talking about? Does that mean that the Igbo nation had no feast before the arrival of the missionaries?

Moreover—along her reasoning—why would anyone fight, like we all do today, to continue celebrating Christmas, which history has confirmed was such a troublesome feast among the English colonies in North America?

Finally, how could those who are supposed to be proud that the diaspora promotes our ancestral heritages discredit Kwanzaa with its strong cultural and spiritual values? One would expect that Africans will rejoice to see that through Kwanzaa, Ubuntu has become an international celebration.

It's time that the Church encourages this Black initiative that celebrates the same values Christmas proposes. The diaspora and those in the Motherland should join their hands to promote Kwanzaa. It should be valued as an African gift to the entire world.

And, as we all can see, humanity needs to reinvent itself through the core values that Ubuntu philosophy propagates.

  • Nnaemeka Ali, O.M.I

Behold, we bring good tidings

Of two new births to the World

A gift of a son to a visible World

And another to the one invisible

The Royal city of Nazareth has a son

A king born in a manger to all nations

Fragile like an egg, he comes to you

Vulnerable, yet strong in meekness and love

The prototype of his many other brethren

Lo and behold another child is born

A giant from the home of Jerusalema

Tata Desmond Mpilo Tutu we called him

Bred in the African and Anglican pot

He rose, an iroko, he attracted birds of all kinds

Not of great stature, he dominated his world

Thundering from the altars of different religions

Proclaiming the Gospel of universal fraternity

Breaking barriers holding peace in hostage

Humbly born, poor he grew up to greatness

He goes home to join another Anglican giant

Both born within a year under different stars

John Shelby Spong the other was called

Two great Anglican oblations to the world

Who refused to be caged in a single religious family

— Alisonomi2021®️

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We’re back to the festive period when communities and churches mount their crusades against principalities and powers. Many religious men and women, the Nietzschean merchants of illusion, will begin to run around our cities looking for disillusioned youths to recruit for their cults or poorly adapted traditional religions. We will start to hear prophesies and oracles proclaimed on how this deity or that demon is holding one family or the other down. They will wage war against Incubus and succubus and comically tear down imaginative demonic temples and dominions. Then, we will retire and wait for next year to repeat these comic pseudo-spiritual routines indefinitely.

Get me well, I believe in the existence of demons, for if God, Angels and Spirits exist, why wouldn’t demons exist? They’re everywhere except that it seems the poorer or hopeless a nation is, the stronger their demons. By the rate at which Nigerians embattle the devil, one might think that we’re the demon capital of the world. But when one understands that more Nigerians are getting frustrated daily; the economy is crashing here and there; and the rate of insecurity, almost on a chronic level, then one might if we diagnosed well the demons behind our piteous situation.

Gustavo Gutierrez once wrote:

This challenge [theological crisis] in a continent like Latin America doesn’t come primarily from the non-believer, but from the man who isn’t a man, who isn’t recognized as such by the existing social order; he’s in the ranks of the poor, the exploited, he’s the man who is systematically and legally deprived of his being as a man: who scarcely knows that he’s a man. His challenge isn’t aimed first at our religious world but at the political and cultural world; therefore, it’s an appeal for the revolutionary transformation of the very basis of a dehumanizing society. The question, therefore, isn’t how to speak of God in an adult world, but how to proclaim him as a Father in a world that isn’t human.”

Gutierrez is known as one of the fathers of Liberation theology. Liberation theology starts its reflection on God from the milieu of life of a given Christian community. It’s a type of theology “born out of a concrete encounter with the hard facts of history.” (J. Putti, Theology as Hermeneutics, Kristu Joyti, Bangalore, 1991, p. 61).

While European theologians were quarrelling over whether ideas about God are well presented, Gutierrez and many other Latino theologians knew that the problem of their people was neither about how God is theoretically presented nor mentally comprehended. They understood that their people have no proper means of articulating their faith in God if they keep on doubting that their life is worth living. They understood the French saying that “un ventre affamé n’a point d’oreille” — loosely translated as “a hungry man is an angry man” but means “a hungry man can’t hear anything”. They knew that for one to reason well, one needs to have the strength to stand on one’s feet. Gutierrez comprehended that the origin of the problem of their people was neither intellectual nor spiritual, but political and sociological.

Armed with these facts, he went down to the society not to speak to them about a mystical liberation but a deliverance from the hands of those who were holding their community hostage. He presented to them the Man of Nazareth who, when faced with the choice of praying for a spiritual liberation of his people, accepted to give up his life to send a strong message that for the kingdom to come, believers should be ready to die martyrs. And when on the third day, he conquered death, his followers understood that the principal enemy is within and not beyond. So, from one shore to the other, they went around defying every authority, even to the extent of being burned or crucified like their master.

Like Gutierrez, Sobrino and others followed suit, denouncing political leaders and religious sycophants who sit on the high places and who participate in the devouring of the destiny of their citizens. Like Bishop Oscar Romero, religious leaders followed this crusade, paying the ultimate price.

On the contrary, in our society, we chase rats while our house is on fire. We cast out demons, causing road accidents when the money allotted to constructing those roads is continuously diverted. Which demon do we think will accept to humiliate itself by causing an accident in our dilapidated roads? Which devil is controlling the reckless drivers on our roads? The principalities causing accidents in our roads are the people siphoning the money meant for our road constructions — let’s rebuke and fire them.

Which demon is behind our generalized crisis? Which demon is causing the untimely death when our hospitals have no beds and strings? Which demon is causing the constant strikes that push half-baked graduates out of society? Which devil is responsible for the hardship in the nation? Which demon is bankrolling the unknown gunmen or arming the terrorist organizations in Nigeria? These are our principalities and powers, and we know where they are. If all our men of God could channel all the efforts they invest in fighting non-existing demons in Nigeria to our state capitals; if they stand up to condemn the ghostly 666 reigning in Aso Rock; the Queen of Sheba in Lion House; the Incubus and succubus in the Northern governors’ offices; or the dominions in the Southern Government houses; and all the principalities roaming around in white clothes in Eastern Nigerian governors’ lodges, Nigerians will have no cause to keep on casting out its pseudo-demons yearly.

Therefore, though you were told in the Bible (Ephesians 6:12):

“our struggle isn’t against flesh and blood, but the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”; I tell you: “our struggle in this part of the world should be against flesh, blood and ego. So, yes, our fight is against the authorities, the powers of this dark country, and against the physical forces with evil plans who sit at Aso Rock, Lion House, Brick House, Creek House, Kashmir House, Douglas House, Alagbaka House, Lugard House, bishoprics, etc."

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