My parents decided I needed a lesson in Kwanzaa. Now I'm sharing it with you.

You might not know these cool things about Kwanzaa, America's 'youngest' holiday.

I remember reading the "My First Kwanzaa Book" with my dad as a 7-year-old.

The Proud Family was always on point. GIF from "The Proud Family."

That year, I was completely occupied with making sure Santa knew that my Beanie Baby collection desperately needed an update, so my parents decided that I also desperately needed some cultural engagement outside of FAO Schwarz. That year, we read Kwanzaa books, went to West African fabric stores, and had deep cultural talks about the values of African-Americans.  


It was the first and last time I did anything Kwanzaa-related for a few years, but the experience stuck with me. Clearly, my parents wanted me to take some important values from the holiday. Now, as an adult, I realize the importance of having holidays that reflect your cultural values and ideology. As an African-American, knowing that there's a holiday that's built to support my identity is something that I didn't know back in 1999 I'd be so grateful for in 2016.

Kwanzaa is celebrated by at least 12 million people annually.

So why do we often ignore it or, worse, mock it? Probably because many folks didn't have a "My First Kwanzaa Book" in 1999 and also because it can be hard to ask about something you don't understand for fear of looking ignorant.

That's why, as a Kwanzaa celebrator, I wanted to break down what the holiday truly about. Here are seven things you might not know about Kwanzaa but might be too afraid to ask:

1. How long has this holiday been around?

Kwanzaa will actually be 50 years old this year, so it's a pretty young holiday as far as holidays go. Created by African-American studies professor Maulana Karenga in 1966, the holiday came about during the black nationalist movement. It was symbolic way for African-Americans to reconnect with their African roots and a culture that was largely censored during the Atlantic slave trade. It is a human-made holiday along with many others like Easter, Hanukkah, and St. Patrick's Day.

2. Where does the name come from?

The name is derived from Swahili, an East African language. It comes from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza" meaning "first fruits of the harvest" or "fresh fruits."  

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

3. Who celebrates the holiday?

While the holiday honors African-American history and culture, the universal message behind it encourage folks from any racial or ethnic background to celebrate. According to Duke University professor Lee D. Baker, 12 million people celebrate the holiday each year, but the African-American Cultural Center puts that estimate at more like 30 million. Celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie are known to celebrate the holiday annually, too.      

4. Why is seven such an important number in Kwanzaa?

The number seven is key to Kwanzaa for several reasons. Aside from the name being seven letters, the holiday begins on Dec. 26 and lasts for seven days until Jan. 1. On those seven days, families focus on seven principals that are important to the people of the African diaspora:      

  • Umoja (Unity)
  • Kujichagulia (Self-determination)
  • Ujima (Collective work and responsibility)
  • Ujamaa (Cooperative economics)
  • Nia (Purpose)
  • Kuumba (Creativity)
  • Imani (Faith)

Families light seven candles — three red, three green, and one black — on a candelabra as a dedication to those values. Some people wear "kente" cloth, a colorful African cloth, while lighting the candles.    

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

5. Why those colors?

The colors of Kwanzaa represent the Pan-African movement.

Pan-Africanism, an ideology that focuses on strengthening solidarity between all people of African descent, is the inspiration behind the principles of Kwanzaa. The colors black, red, and green represent "unity" amongst people from the African diaspora. Black represents the people, red represents the blood that unites everyone with African ancestry, and green represents the richness of African land.      

6. What religion does the holiday represent?

Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday. The holiday was modeled after the first harvest celebrations in Africa, and it was created to celebrate values like family, culture, and heritage. However, faith is central to it. "Imani," the word for "faith" in Swahili, is one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa.  

7. Why do people give this holiday such a hard time?

Kwanzaa was pretty popular when it first came onto the scene in the 1960s. It was created at a time when black pride was on the rise. But after the 1990s, popularity dwindled as the black civil rights struggle of the 1960s became something that younger Americans saw as a thing of the past. Because the creator is still alive, many saw Kwanzaa as an "invalid" holiday, thus making it the brunt of the holiday season.      

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

I believe that this year, more than ever, we need Kwanzaa.

As time goes on, culture ebbs and flows. The Black Lives Matter movement has reawakened the desire for real liberation for African-Americans, and many millennials are using Kwanzaa again as another way to reclaim black identity.

So whether you celebrate Kwanzaa this year or not, remember that the holidays, no matter what they are, give people a chance to celebrate our individual cultures and the magic and history within them.

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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

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The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

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What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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