Sunday, December 9, 2007


Well, the holidays are here -- again -- and once again, I’m shaking my head at the massive scale madness that seems to engulf so many of us each year.

And it leads me to wonder: what are you REALLY “celebrating”?

Now, some folks say that they are “celebrating” this religious holiday or that one.

But I can’t figure out how spending money that you don’t have; going into debt that takes 6 - 9 months to pay off (just in time to spend again for another holiday); and focusing on secular symbols (not that there’s anything wrong with that if that is how you flow), food, and presents has anything at all to do with religion –- unless the Higher Power being celebrated is The Great God of the Coin (and in this economic climate you’d do better to genuflect to the Euro, but that is another story. . .).

And now poor Kwanzaa is on the run from the powerful, all-encompassing, greedy hand of American consumerism. Used to be that amerikkka did not even recognize Kwanzaa as a holiday. But with Kwanzaa growing worldwide as a season of importance for Afrikan descendants, I guess amerikkka decided that as long as there was a buck to be made –- or two, or three, or a couple hundred –- it would be more profitable to absorb it in the great maw of amerikkkan consumerism than to continue its ineffective strategy of marginalizing it.

After all, amerikkka has never been adverse to making big bucks of off Afrikan descendants -- in fact, the history of this country is ripe with example after example of that –- but the sad part is that now we seem to eagerly welcome our own exploitation by throwing our money into the mouth of the consumer machine that is amerikkka, especially around the holidays.

In 2006, Afrikan descendants spent 50%* more during the holiday season than they had in the previous year: more than whites (35%)* and more than Latinos (37%)*. 39%* of that consumer spending went to “mass merchants.” You can imagine that not many of those –- if any -- were Black owned stores or even stores in our Black communities.

In 2006, it is estimated that Kwanzaa generated as much as $500 million in consumer spending.

And with the dollars of Afrikan descendants staying in our communities for all of six hours (just enough time to deposit your check in the bank), you can imagine how much –- or more accurately, how little! -- of that money benefitted Afrikan descendent business owners and other Black entrepreneurs.

Sadder still is that we willingly disinvest in our communities, ourselves, our families, by investing –- through our spending choices –- with “mass merchants” even as we are reverently and sincerely mouthing the Ngozo Saba (The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa).

So much for Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), and Ujamaa (Collective Economics)!

Maybe this holiday season, we can give ourselves and our loved ones the gift that keeps on giving: consciously and truly celebrating -– with our hearts and our pocketbooks and wallets -- what we say we believe with Nia (Purpose), Kuumbaa (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).

Habari Gani?

That’s what’s up.

Moving Forward,


*From the 2006 National Shopping Behavior Study, The Gordman Group