Thursday, December 23, 2010

Stop Playing Games with Kwanzaa

Yesterday, I was subjected to visual assault by this video:

I really, really wish people would stop treating my beloved holiday as a joke.

As a child of the early 70s, I share a common social history with countless of individuals born during a time of social awakening. Our parents changed their names, cut off (or grew) their hair, and embraced all things Afrikan. We were the vegetarian, communal living, family structure experimenting, arms bearing, organic garden growing, politically organizing, Marxist-Lenninist elite. And we longed for a holiday that celebrated the principles upon which our ideal society could be built.

In our home, we had a Kwanza book. (You will note that I spelled Kwanza with ONE a because at the time, Kwanza was spelled with ONE a, and not two – which would come later to differentiate kwanza the Angolan currency from Kwanzaa, the African-American holiday. I TOLD y’all I’m a veteran at this.) And our Kwanza book, lovingly designed and illustrated by my mother, was our family handbook for the holiday. The meaning and practice of each principle was defined in detail, and we reviewed the book as we lit our candles that sat snuggly in the kinara made by my father.

We decorated our home with colorful masks made by my mother, and all of our Kwanzaa supplies were kept in a wooden window seat that was also made by my father.

You see where I’m going here?

Aside from espousing the values of unity; self determination; economic independence and cooperation; strong community work ethic and responsibility; creativity; purpose; and faith, Kwanzaa challenges us to put all those values into action. We grew our own food. My mother sewed and knitted our clothes. My father made much of the furniture we used in our home.

Our gifts were handmade or were given to increase our intellectual capacity or creative abilities.
Our Kwanzaa decorations were not bought, but a manifestation of our own God-given talents. Kwanzaa time is family time – to reflect on what we’ve done and what we can do better. To have fun and enjoy one another.

And then along comes Sandra Lee, with her “tablescapes” and her “semi-homemade” disasterpieces, basically making a mockery of my holiday!

Aside from the obvious nastiness of the recipe – honestly, who in the world would combine a store-bought angel food cake with tinned icing mixed with cocoa and cinnamon, and then fill said angel food cake with canned apple pie filling (not even WARMED UP!!), and THEN top it all with CORN NUTS, SUNFLOWER SEEDS AND CHOCOLATE CHIPS??????

And yeah, I know that Sandra did not create this recipe for instant diabetes in a plate – you can read about the creator here:

But I’m charging Sandra with full responsibility for denigrating my holiday on a national scale. Everybody with basic cable has probably watched at LEAST one FoodTV network show. This is the network that made Emeril and Bobby Flay household names and catapulted Rachel Ray and her “ee-vee-oh-oh” into the magazine publishing and custom cookware industries.

FoodTV network = big time.

Sandra Lee is the epitome of what’s wrong with our nation. In the span of 3 minutes, Ms. Lee has managed to dumb down, scoop out, mix up, and slather on a facsimile of a conscious and well-thought out holiday for the world to see.

Thanks, Sandra.


Thursday, April 1, 2010


We women are some complex beings. We do a number of things – wearing different hats and super hero capes and all that. We love our families and make it work in amazing ways. Women who are married or in committed relationships with children and careers are often deeply ensconced in their roles. A lot of times, we don’t take the time to acknowledge that our funky moods are because we want and need to get away from it all. Even fewer are the times that we actually DO it.

PERSONALLY – I’ve found that there’s a mental price to pay for “getting away”. Or even THINKING ABOUT IT!! It means saying “I can’t do this today. I can’t be cupcake baking, 3-course meal delivering, event planning, outfit coordinating, spiritual bath making, best friend counseling, hostess with the mostest’ing, hooverlike dick sucking (yeah, I said it) SUPERWOMAN today!”

Then comes the “oh shit! Did I SAY THAT?” reaction from all the talking hats that I wear. And then the superwoman comes out with her big ass cape and says “fuck that shit! (wo)Man up! Suck it up! Yo ancestors had babies in the cotton fields, cut the cord and threw the baby on the back and kept it moving!! What the FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU??!!”

How the hell am I supposed to go to Tahiti when dinner needs to be made? How the hell am I supposed to justify taking care of myself when so many others have such a seemingly immediate need to be cared for and nurtured?

And so I feel guilty, put the credit card back, and log off Travelocity; tucking my dream vacation itinerary back in my junky ass overstuffed purse.

But I want and NEED to get away! I need to see some new scenery from a 12 inch reinforced, plexi glass window with a pull down shade. I need the flight attendant to bring me an overpriced sandwich and some peanuts. I need to get where I’m going safely.

I also need all those people I take care of back home, to want me. I want my man and my children to say, “come back” or “can I go whichyew?” or “don’t go.” I need that, too.

In all my superwomanness, I need someone to encourage and direct me, just like I encourage and direct others. I need to feel appreciated and loved. I need that long “bye-bye” in the airport that says “go ahead, get away, but don’t stay too long because we need you next to us.”

It took a lot for me to admit this. Women are conditioned to value being stoic and immoveable. We’re taught to be strong and gracious in the face of crisis. We’re told that strong women continue to move forward with their heads held high despite any obstacle. I’m a woman. I won’t deny this.

But we’re human, too. And humans need to be needed. Part of being valued is feeling that one brings something to the table. That one possesses something – a quality, a skill, an attribute – that others NEED.

In admitting this rather schizophrenic pattern of thinking – and maybe it’s just Erykah and I who share this, I don’t know – I feel like she removed the layers. She stripped herself of the Erykah superstar, the Erykah with the crazy wigs, the Erykah mother of 3, the Erykah on tour, the Erykah with the legendary punani that makes rappers want to wear crocheted pants. She told the superwoman to stand down for a moment and she breathed without guilt.

I’ve been trying to retire my personal superwoman for YEARS now. She’s got issues, I tell you. Her only words are “yes”, “sure”, and “no problem”. She is a chronic people pleaser, mixing bowl, writing skills, and any other of her 4,080 services at the ready. She’s ironed, coiffed, and lip glossed, with a full tank of gas and a smile.

And she totally has her place. She boots me out of bed in the morning, pushes me past my comfort zone, and makes me a less complacent and more ambitious person.

But she takes some shit waaaayyyy too far. She’s a strong willed, habitual line stepper who doesn’t like to be told to play her position. She drains me. (she’s probably going to kick my ass for this later, too). And I need a break from her sometimes. I need to leave her at home while I take my seat at the window – in the car, on a plane, on the metro…..I just need to get away.

So…that’s my personal interpretation of the song. Shit, Erykah could get wind of this lil piece and say that I got it all wrong. I guess that’s the beauty and the beast of interpreting art.