The 34th Annual LGBT Community Kwanzaa, at the LGBT Center in Manhattan, January 1st 2012. 01/15/2012
The Author Imani Rashid published article for the Huffington Post on Kwanzaa in the LGBT Community 01/14/2012
The Author Imani Rashid wrote an article for GLADD ( Gay And Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) that was published by the Huffington Post on December 30, 2011.
Here is what she wrote:
Celebrating Kwanzaa in the Black Lesbian and Gay Community
I first learned about Kwanzaa in 1977. I was 37 years old, and my then-wife and I were raising a son together in Harlem. He attended an alternative school focused on African heritage and culture, and the school hosted a Kwanzaa celebration. This event opened the door to a new way of life for me: theNguzo Saba, the Seven Principles, of this week-long celebration resonated with me, given their focus on culture, family, and community.
It was not easy to be a black lesbian couple raising a child together in 1977. Many of us were cast out of our families, while others faced opposition from family members (often our mothers and grandmothers) who feared that our decision to live openly as lesbians threatened our safety. Same-sex adoption was not legal at the time, and in-vitro fertilization was not an option. Yet with our lesbian partners, many of us were raising children from former relationships. When my wife and I attended the Kwanzaa celebration with our son's classmates and their families, we were the only lesbian couple in the room. For many attendees, we were the first lesbians they had ever met. Yet we were welcomed into that room. This was a life-changing event for me. It was one of the first times I felt accepted by a straight black community. At the same time, through the principles of Kwanzaa, I could understand other people's children as children I was responsible for, and I felt that I was part of a community where previously I had not. I was inspired to learn more.
Kwanzaa was created as a week-long celebration, beginning the day after Christmas and running through New Year's Day. In 1966 Dr. Maulana Karenga, a leader in the Black Power movement,created Kwanzaa (sometimes called the "Festival of the First Fruits") to provide African Americans with an official celebration through which community and culture could be affirmed and strengthened. When I look back, I can see that it was a radical proposal at the time. The Seven Principles, Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity), and Imani(faith), can be applied to every facet of black life. They emphasize that success is not measured by the amount of money you make, the titles you have, or the letters you have behind your name. It is measured by the commitment one has to one's family, to one's community, and, ultimately, to one's people. Kwanzaa offers the broader black community a way to reflect on principles that had in essence been taken away from us through slavery and colonization, and to move forward as a community after centuries of shared oppression.
There is no way that Dr. Karenga could have known what the impact of his contribution would be on the black LGBT community. Once I learned about Kwanzaa, I introduced the idea of a Kwanzaa celebration at a meeting of Salsa Soul Sisters (the oldest black lesbian organization in the United States, founded in New York City in 1974, which is now called African-American Lesbians United for Social Change). My new sisters embraced the idea of Kwanzaa as a project that we could take on. Several of the women had heard about the holiday. Cassandra Grant, another member of Salsa Soul Sisters, helped me organize the first Kwanzaa celebration in our community.
We began by gathering our chosen families to celebrate together in seven different homes over the seven days of the festival. There was so much Umoja (unity). There was so much Ujima(collaboration). Kwanzaa gave us a way to promote our own value system and take time together, safe in each other's homes, to name our fears and our hopes. Kwanzaa became a training ground for the principles we wanted to live by in the coming year, in community together. From the beginning, there was an emphasis on connecting to our ancestors and forming intergenerational ties. Most of us were in our 20s or 30s at the time, though we also had a few youth and elders involved. One of our elders served as an adopted mother or counselor for several women in the group. And our exploration of the Nguzo Saba stressed that if we were willing to invest in ourselves and in our children, we would reap the benefits, as a community, for years to come. Salsa (as we affectionately referred to our organization) members supplied everything that was needed for the celebration. Some brought fruit and set up the Kwanzaa Table. Others brought enough food and drink to last us for 12 hours! Sisters came to New York from all over the country to celebrate with us, even some from as far as Los Angeles. One member taped the evening's discussions and aired them on WBAI -- this was groundbreaking, to have a black lesbian program aired on the radio in the 1970s! And the evening was made complete with African drummers playing until sunrise.
As our traditions took root in our community, our celebration expanded. We began to designate the third Thursday of December as "Pre-Kwanzaa," a tradition that continues even to this day. The Pre-Kwanzaas were all about the children. We painted their faces, dressed them in African clothes, played drums with them, taught them African songs and dances, told them Anansi stories, and then listened to the amazing stories the children created. Very often, the children would perform original skits that expressed the meaning of each of the Seven Principles.
Before the '70s were over, Kwanzaa was a household concept in black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families and communities. And by the 1980s, we expanded our celebration to include other local groups, including men's organizations like Gay Men of African Descent (GMAD), and other black and people-of-color LGBT organizations like the Audre Lorde Project. These collaborations, along with the leadership of organizers such as the late Candice Boyce (one of Salsa's co-founders), kept the tradition of Kwanzaa alive in our community over the past 34 years.
In New York City, the tradition of Kwanzaa in the black lesbian community continues with a celebration on Jan. 1, 2012 at the LGBT Center. And I have documented a deeper history of Kwanzaa in black gay and lesbian families in my new book, Kwanzaa in the Lesbian and Gay Family.
Many of us have been deeply influenced by the principles of Kwanzaa and the way of life they dictate to become the responsible, cultural, and political elders that we are today. And we recognize that we walk with our ancestors, who constantly remind us to connect with family. That is who we are. That is our African heritage. Kwanzaa in the LGBT family is our legacy, and we can pass it on to our children and to our children's children.
This article can also be found by clicking on the link below:
Jaque Dupree's Sentiments on The Annual LGBT Kwanzaa Celebration at the LGBT Manhattan Center 01/12/2012
The Kwanzaa Event: We were all there; a room full at the LGBT NYC center 208 West 13th Street Celebrating Kwanzaa in the name of the Black Lesbian and Gay Community; January 1, 2012. Imani and the committee called us all back to help do it again, host with our elders, and our youth our 34th year of Kwanzaa. We were educated and entertained by a body of storytellers, spoken word artists, songsters, venders, and attendees. Known to most and introduced to a few; our focus African heritage and culture. I was reminded as a participant how I am always honored to revisit the rituals, the principles, the breaking of bread together, the songs, and the dance of life, why because it brings me home. Imani I thank you for your continued connecting and support. I am sure Imani your article published by the Huffingonpost helped to bring more attention to this event. At different points in the evening my eyes began to well up and my heart swells with pride, knowing that I am a part of the families that felt gifted to have a space and community to celebrate Kwanzaa back in the day. I also thank Dr. Maulana Karenga for the academia, Salsa Soul Sisters for the sisterhood, Gay Men of African Decent for extended family, and the many individuals for opening their homes, whom all helped us to carry on in the tradition. I too was struggling to help raise a family in the life. The only thing remised for me last week-end was our African sisters out in number with their drums drumming the evening away. Their absences helped to make clear my role, that as long as I am able, to give back that which is expected of me. I will remember to voice in the African tongue a chant, or tell an Anansi’s story, or sing a song to the legacy of Audre Lorde, or Candice Boyce to name a few who stood up, who influenced, who were responsible to cultural, and political leadership. Now that it is our turn to carry the torch we can not drop the ball.Time and care was taken to see to it that most of our folks had a way home and as usual time to leave comes too soon. Imani here’s to our ancestors, the committee and you; for another soulful serving. That is what happened January 1, 2012. Let us never give up this way of being!
Kwanzaa is very important in the LGBT community. It's not just a holiday, it's a way of life. Many of us, who are ole school, recognize that had it not been for the fact that Kwanzaa came into fruition just about the time that we were "coming of age", we might not have become the responsible, cultural, political elders that we are today. Success to us is not measured by the amount of money we make or by the titles we have or the letters we might have behind our names. It is measured by the commitment one has to one's family and to one's community, and ultimately to one's people. In 1966, Dr Maulana Karanga introduced the concept of Kwanzaa to The African American Community. When I look back, I can see that it was a radical proposal, at the time. By engaging in the practice of Kwanzaa, African peoples were destined to find out more about our Heritage and spend time reflecting on "Principles " that had in essence been taken away from us during SLAVERY IN THIS COUNTRY AND THROUGH-OUT THE DIASPORA. So that Kwanzaa in theory and in practice becomes a Revolutionary vehicle for Black people to move forward . Kwanzaa is structured around the Nguzo Saba. They are The Seven Principles that can be applied to every facit of Black Life. It was probably the best Christmas present that ,we as a people ,ever received. Kwanzaa was devised so that it begins the day after Christmas . Some people refer to it as "The Black Christmas". However Kwanzaa has nothing to do with Christmas. It is not a Religious Holiday. The best way to describe Kwanzaa is to say that it is an African American Celebration that takes place over a period of seven days, and is traditionally celebrated in seven different homes. With the advent of Kwanzaa ,in the African American / African Caribbean Communities, came the insight that one did not need to spend a lot of money ,shopping for Christmas gifts. Black People , like others were spending money that we didn't have. So in some circles, Kwanzaa became an alternative to Christmas. And increasing numbers of us, began making gifts (zawadii)
There is no way that Dr Karanga could have known what the impact of his contribution would have been on The Black LGBT Community. In 1977, I was 37 years old. My wife then was Naema and we were raising a son together and living in my newly renovated Harlem Brownstone. It just so happened that our son was attending an African Alternative School. It was there that I learned about The Nzuzo Saba and was able to bring this concept to the first meeting that I attended at Salsa Soul Sisters, Inc. That organization is now re-named African Ancestral Lesbians United for Societal Change, or AALUSC. It is the oldest Lesbian org in the world. My new sisters embraced the idea of Kwanzaa as a project that we could take on. Several of the women had heard about the holiday. Cassandra , like myself was already celebrating the "Festival of The First Fruits " with her students. There weren't many LGBT Families raising children together in those days. Adoption Agencies were so homophobic that they wouldn't allow same sex couples to adopt and invitrofertalization wasn't an option. However, there were always single lesbians and bisexual women raising children they either had "out of wedlock"or as a result of a previous marriage. Those children, I am proud to say, were raised by the black lesbian community. Kwanzaa gave us the Principles to view other people's children as our own and to create community where there was no community. Back in the beginning, the third Thursday was designated as :The Pre-Kwanzaa. ( a tradition that continues even to this day). Pre-Kwanzaas then , was all about the children. We painted their faces,dressed them in African clothes, played drums ,taught them African songs and dances, told them Anansi stories and then listened to the amazing stories the children created. Very often we would break up into groups and the children would perform original skits that expressed the meaning of each of the seven principles. Everything , was under the direction of The Ancestors. Most of us were in our twenties and thirties. There were a few members of the organization who were younger. Maua was our esteemed elder and later became my very best friend.OUR PARENTS FOR THE MOST PART WERE NOT DOWN WITH OUR LIFESTYLE CHOICES. They feared for our safety. Our mothers and grandmothers, before us, had protected us from the wrath of racists whose prime objective was to violate little Black girls, so we would not grow up to be proud, confident, courageous Black Women in the society. Their concern became, what was going to happen to their daughters who chose to be different. There is no doubt in my mind that some of the opposition we faced in those days, especially from the Matriachs came from a place of profound love. It then became the task of The Ancestors