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A Lot Of People Do It Around The Holidays. Here's Why You Shouldn't.

Just admit it. Kwanzaa has always kind of felt like a knockoff end-of-the-year holiday. Most black people don't even give it any love (I do, of course, but that's just because my parents were persistent.) Maybe it's time to change all that and give a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T and a lot less shade to the little holiday that could.

A Lot Of People Do It Around The Holidays. Here's Why You Shouldn't.

Lots of well-meaning people make jokes about Kwanzaa.

And yes, some of them are pretty darn funny. But apparently, it isn't just the nice, witty coworkers at your office holiday party who make fun of this stepchild African-American tradition.


*Record scratch* People like Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter have joined the fun, which should be a sign that perhaps we ought to investigate a little further, lest we be seated next to them in "making fun of black things" class.

First things first: What is Kwanzaa?

Kwanzaa is a weeklong secular (nonreligious) holiday that honors and celebrates African heritage, traditions, and culture in African-American life. It is observed annually from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1.

Kwanzaa focuses on seven key principles and commitments (one for each day of the holiday).

  • Umoja (Unity)
  • Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
  • Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
  • Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
  • Nia (Purpose)
  • Kuumba (Creativity)
  • Imani (Faith)
Each night, a principle is honored with a ceremony, which can include drumming, dancing, singing, eating, and prayer. Pretty amazing, right?

If Kwanzaa is so wonderful — it even has a national stamp! — why isn't it given its due with the other major holidays?

Probably because it's the baby of the bunch. Kwanzaa was created in 1965 by professor, activist, and author Dr. Maulana Karenga. And while most people get that humans created all holidays (even the religious ones) to honor meaningful and special things, thereby making Kwanzaa no less "valid," it's sometimes hard to remember when so few people acknowledge it and the creator is still alive.

Kwanzaa was actually pretty hot in the '80s and '90s. But according to Duke University's Dr. Mark Anthony Neal, Kwanzaa has waned in popularity recently because the energy of the cultural moment in which it was created (the black freedom struggle of the 1960s) has changed. It is much easier to connect with African and uniquely African-American culture today (thanks, Internet!), so there isn't as much of a hunger for a separate holiday.

But that doesn't make it any less dope.

And there is no real reason to slander it. There's no imaginary characters climbing down chimneys, no red-nosed animals flying with toys through the sky. Nothing to see here except a little community, solidarity, and cultural appreciation.

So get it together, folks. Stop the jokes.

Let Jessica Williams from "The Daily Show" and funny woman Phoebe Robinson break it down for you as only two black female millennial comics can: hilariously.

Photo courtesy of Justin Sather
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While most 10-year-olds are playing Minecraft, riding bikes, or watching YouTube videos, Justin Sather is intent on saving the planet. And it all started with a frog blanket when he was a baby.

"He carried it everywhere," Justin's mom tells us. "He had frog everything, even a frog-themed birthday party."

In kindergarten, Justin learned that frogs are an indicator species – animals, plants, or microorganisms used to monitor drastic changes in our environment. With nearly one-third of frog species on the verge of extinction due to pollution, pesticides, contaminated water, and habitat destruction, Justin realized that his little amphibian friends had something important to say.

"The frogs are telling us the planet needs our help," says Justin.

While it was his love of frogs that led him to understand how important the species are to our ecosystem, it wasn't until he read the children's book What Do You Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada that Justin-the-activist was born.

Inspired by the book and with his mother's help, he set out on a mission to raise funds for frog habitats by selling toy frogs in his Los Angeles neighborhood. But it was his frog art which incorporated scientific facts that caught people's attention. Justin's message spread from neighbor to neighbor and through social media; so much so that he was able to raise $2,000 for the non-profit Save The Frogs.

And while many kids might have their 8th birthday party at a laser tag center or a waterslide park, Justin invited his friends to the Ballona wetlands ecological preserve to pick invasive weeds and discuss the harms of plastic pollution.

Justin's determination to save the frogs and help the planet got a massive boost when he met legendary conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall.

Photo courtesy of Justin Sather

At one of her Roots and Shoots youth initiative events, Dr. Goodall was so impressed with Justin's enthusiasm for helping frogs, she challenged the young activist to take it one step further and focus on plastic pollution as well. Justin accepted her challenge and soon after was featured in an issue of Bravery Magazine dedicated to Jane Goodall.

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Photo by Sterling Pics

Pinky Cole, owner of the Slutty Vegan

Last year, in the middle of what we thought were the darkest times of the COVID-19 pandemic, after endless months of cooking at home, my husband and I decided to venture out of our cocoon and get "slutified." That's what people are called after a visit to one of Atlanta's hottest burger joints, provocatively named, Slutty Vegan.

Owned by 33-year-old fuchsia-loc'd maven and philanthropist Aisha "Pinky" Cole, Slutty Vegan has three locations in the ATL, with more in the works. Her menu reads more like a list of offerings at a bordello than a restaurant, with the "Ménage à Trois," "One Night Stand," and the "Super Slut," and the atmosphere is more like a night club. But, it's not just the cheeky burger names or the concept of plant-based fast food that has customers literally wrapped around the block at all of her locations, it's the vibe she's created. Slutty Vegan is more than a restaurant. It's a culture. And Cole is at the center of it, building a community based on supporting Black entrepreneurs, getting involved in politics, giving back, and being thoughtful about what you put into your body.


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