I live in an area where the population is 50% African American. So I
assumed there would be Kwanzaa celebrations here. To find out more
about it I spoke with Randy Stelly, a Creole businessman and publisher
of a newspaper called The Real Views, that I have been associated with
for several years. I asked Randy if he celebrated Kwanza and if so,
how he was doing it so I could pass that along to readers. I assumed
good things about it so I wasn’t prepared for Randy's reply.
His eyes narrowed and brows furrowed, Randy looked earnestly at me and
said, “First of all, remember that black folks are no more homogeneous
than white folks so don’t assume we all celebrate Kwanzaa. It isn’t
part of my tradition. And I think if people really knew what was
behind it and how it began, it wouldn't be celebrated by anybody
except those who just want to be stupid. I can tell you a lot about it
because it’s important. That’s because I think folks shouldn’t side
with something that was built on a history of intimidation and
I was curious since intimidation and violence aren’t words associated
with Kwanzaa images. I wondered, as many people might, how could
Kwanzaa could be anything but good. So my eyes were opened as I
listened to Randy talk about his California experience, in the black
power movement of the 1960’s. Randy knew some of the Black Panther
members, since he was always interested in politics and the news. He
was never a member of any black extremist group but had the
journalist’s inquiring mind. That led him to getting involved with a
number of people back then who figured prominently in the development
of the “black identity.”
Eldridge Cleaver, Kathleen Cleaver, Angela Davis, Bobby Seale, and
Mohammad X were familiar names to me since I was a young adult at the
time. These folks were described by the media in the 60's as the more
outwardly demonstrative, somewhat aggressive, always assertive,
members of “the movement.” There were other names, however, that I
hadn't known, names like Ron Karenga and Geronimo Pratt. And that's
where Randy's story started--leading me to find out about these
characters, to learn more about Kwanzaa’s founder and whether his life
reflected the teachings of the holiday he initiated.
Mr. Karenga, the founder of Kwanzaa, has quite a past. Randy told me
that Karenga had been the head of the opposition party on the campus
of UCLA, struggling against the Black Panthers for control of the
black movement in the area. He went on to tell me that a group called
Cointelpro, connected with the FBI and the government, got involved
with that opposition group which called itself US, a euphemism for
United Slaves. Research supports that Randy’s narrative to be right..
Karenga, born July 14, 1941 according a resource on the Internet, has
been also referred to by the title “Maulana” which means “master
teacher” in Arabic and Swahili. Kwanzaa was founded by Karenga with
the first observed celebration in California from December 26 until
January 1, 1967. Four years later Karenga was convicted of felony
assault for having kidnapped and tortured two of US female members.
Randy recalled that at the time Karenga was rumored to have a
particular dislike of black women. A Los Angles Time article on his
trial dated May 14, 1971 summarized the testimony of one of the women:
“Deborah Jones, who once was given the Swahili title of an African
queen, said she and Gail Davis were whipped with an electrical cord
and beaten with a karate baton after being ordered to remove their
clothes. She testified that a hot soldering iron was placed in Ms.
Davis's mouth and placed against Ms. Davis's face and that one of her
own big toes was tightened in a vise. Karenga, head of US, also put
detergent and running hoses in their mouths, she said.” They also were
hit on the heads with toasters.
During Karenga's trial there were questions about his sanity. He was
described by a psychiatrist as someone who “represents a picture that
can be considered both paranoid and schizophrenic with hallucinations
and illusions, inappropriate affect, disorganization and impaired
contact with the environment.” Yet in spite of his criminal acts, for
which he was prosecuted, found guilty and imprisoned until 1975, and
his questionable sanity, Karenga has become the symbol of the
importance of family, community and culture in the holiday known as
The idea that Ron Karenga is associated with a recognized holiday is
ironic to Randy Stelly because he sees it as a made-up holiday by
Karenga to establish black identity through ties to Africa. In fact
Karenga, in his treatise The Quotable Karenga, has detailed the
sevenfold path of blackness to think black, talk black, act black,
creat black, buy black vote black and live black.”
After leaving prison Karenga went on to obtain two doctoral degrees,
became head of the Black Studies Department at California State
University, where he toned down his speech but continued to espouse
black alternatives to mainstream experiences. The Kwanzaa Information
Center states, 'red, or the blood, stands as the top of all things. We
lost our land through blood; and we cannot gain it except through
blood. We must redeem our lives through the blood. Without the
shedding of blood there can be no redemption of this race.' The
Information Center also observes that the flag is a symbol of devotion
for African American people to create an independent African nation on
the North American continent.
Randy notes that we have all seen the result of separatism and
extremism in the world and throughout our own United States history.
Such movements, bred in violence, continually breed violence, even
within its own members, as occurred during the time of the rise of the
Black Panthers and US, when people were condemned, tortured and
killed. Such views have no place in the world of God and should be
That’s one man’s opinion but one that clarified enough for me not to
be politically correct about Kwanzaa.
References: Scholer, J. Lawrence, “The Story of Kwaanza,” The
Dartmouth Review, Monday, January 15, 2001. Mulshine, Paul “Happy
Kwanzaa,” , FrontPageMagazine.com, December 26, 2002. Snow, Tony, “The
Truth About Kwanzaa,”Jewish World Review, December 31, 1999.
Dutch Kwanzaa follower calls Obama 'a n***** in charge'
A leading member of the Amsterdam Kwanzaa movement and radio
personality Wensley Burleson with the Black Community Broadcasting
group has been banned from the airwaves over his racist comments and
The Amsterdam city council broadcasting commission (Salto) banned his
two-hour programme after local town councillors lodged charges of
antisemitism against him.
His "No Limits' broadcast time - on Sundays -- was taken off the air
until the investigation is completed. The BCB presents itself on the
air as 'a radio station which is only for blacks who support
At an earlier harvest celebration of Kwanzaa in Amsterdam, Burleson
also was widely reported in the news media as describing
then-presidential candidate Barack Obama and black Amsterdam city
councillor Laetitia Griffith as 'the n****** in charge, with the white
master determining who will be in charge.'
Burleson, is accused of delivering racist diatribes on the air in
which he blames "the Jews' for inciting slavery, referred to local
town councillors Jerry Straub and Peter Bals as nazis and said all
Hindus were 'hindu-nazis'.
He also described black women as 'weak', referred to Dutch Labour
Party MP Jeroen Dijsselbloem as a 'concentration camp guard' and said
that Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen 'used the identical language uttered by
(Adolph) Hitler.' see
Some thirty members from the large Suriname community in Amsterdam
showed up to support him at a press conference held by Burleson at the
local café Shaquil. They said they all were members of the Kwanzaa
Refuses to speak to white journalists:
Burleson refused to speak to any white journalists at the press
conference -- calling them the 'white supremacy press' and accusing
the Amsterdam news media of 'portraying him as a racist.
"The news media is the enemy. Don't ever talk to the white-supremacy press.'
Director Rudolf Buurma of Salto said 'the BCB programme was barred
from the airwaves because it does not fit into the context of our
community broadcasting system.We do want to broadcast all the
alternative viewpoints from all four compass points. However, this
particular broadcast by Burleson was extraordinarily antisemitic. And
when people start using such hate-speech against other race groups, it
also brings Salto in disrepute.'
BCB declines to respond as they are still conferring with a lawyer
about the matter, their spokesman said.
Burleson - a leading member of the Kwanzaa movement in Amsterdam --
was banned from Salto radio broadcasts before. Early in 2007, he said
in a Radio SouthEast broadcast that black liberal city councillor
Laetitia Griffith was a 'n***** in charge', i.e. a black who was
'granted permission from the white master to act as manager.' He has
also referred to President Barack Obama in the same way, and refers to
the Roman-Catholic religion as 'homophile and criminal'.
Burleson - who lives in the Amsterdam highrise suburb De Bijlmer and
used to work there as an integration councillor for the Amsterdam town
council -- now rejects this programme, which encourages all new
residents to fully integrate into Dutch society, including learning
Dutch and educating their children in the public school system.
Buurma and the board of Salto are now trying to find a way to prevent
a repeat of broadcasting such racist outbursts in future, Dutch daily
Het Parool reports."We now have examples in hand of which we can
definitely say that 'this had gone too far'.