Subject: The Kwanzaa Hoax
William J. Bennetta
"Anywhere we are, Us is."
That looks like a line from an Amos 'N Andy show. One can easily
imagine that it served as the motto of the Mystic Knights of the
Sea, and that it was recited by such characters as The Kingfish,
Andy Brown and Algonquin J. Calhoun.
In fact, however, the line that I have quoted is the motto of a
real organization -- a real organization that was originally
named United Slaves but now calls itself The Organization Us (or
simply Us or US). It was created some 40 years ago, in Southern
California, by a black racist who had begun life as Ron N.
Everett but later had assumed the name Maulana Karenga.
Karenga -- known chiefly as the inventor of Kwanzaa, a fake
"African" holiday that he contrived in 1966 -- has enjoyed a
truly colorful career. He was a prominent black nationalist
during the 1960s, when his organization was involved in various
violent operations. He was sent to prison in 1971, after he and
some of his pals tortured two women with a soldering iron and a
vise, among other things.
He emerged from prison in 1974, and a few years later -- in a
maneuver that even The Kingfish might have found difficult -- he
got himself installed as the chairman of the Department of Black
Studies at California State University at Long Beach. CSULB
wasn't the only American university that got the racial willies
during the 1970s and set up a tin-pot black-studies department,
but CSULB (as far as I know) was the only one that hired a
chairman who was a violent felon.
Karenga is still working at CSULB and is still running The
Organization Us, and he and Us are still promoting his
proprietary holiday, Kwanzaa. Prentice Hall is promoting it too,
so The American Nation displays a picture of "an American
family's celebration of Kwanzaa" -- but The American Nation
doesn't tell anything about Karenga, about his rules for
carrying out a "celebration of Kwanzaa," or about his make-
believe Africanism. Let me supply some of the information that
Prentice Hall has hidden:
Kwanzaa is supposed to be celebrated from 26 December through 1
January: It competes with Christmas and Chanukah while
incorporating some echoes of both, e.g., gift-giving and a
ceremony built around a seven-holed candle-holder that recalls
Judaism's seven-branched menorah.
Karenga has concocted some bits of lore, lingo, and mumbo-jumbo
that are intended to make Kwanzaa look like something out of
Africa instead of something from Los Angeles County, but his
efforts have been feeble. If you scan The Official Kwanzaa Web
Site [see note 1, below], you'll read that the origins of
Kwanzaa lie in "the first harvest celebrations of Africa," which
allegedly "are recorded in African history as far back as
ancient Egypt and Nubia" -- but there is no explanation of why
any ancient Egyptians or Nubians might have held harvest
festivals around the time of the winter solstice, and there is
no identification of the crops that they harvested. Karenga's
formula for celebrating Kwanzaa requires the use of two ears of
maize -- but maize is a New World plant, and it wasn't known at
all in ancient Africa.
True believers can purchase ears of maize and other Kwanzaa
equipment (e.g., candles and seven-holed candle-holders and
straw mats) from the University of Sankore Press, a company in
Los Angeles. This outfit evidently is controlled by Us and
serves as Us's marketing unit. It isn't a university press, and
its name is a mockery. The so-called University of Sankore was
an aggregation of Islamic schools that flourished at Timbuktu in
the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. No University of Sankore
In Karenga's Kwanzaa-lingo, ears of maize are called by the
Swahili name "muhindi." In fact, all the objects that Karenga
has worked into Kwanzaa have names taken from Swahili, which The
Official Kwanzaa Web site describes as "a Pan-African language"
and "the most widely spoken African language." The labeling of
Swahili as a "Pan-African" language is rubbish. Swahili -- a
Bantu tongue that includes many words absorbed from Arabic, from
Persian and from certain Indian languages -- is spoken by some
50 million people (i.e., about 7% of Africa's population). Most
of those Swahili-speakers are concentrated in eastern Africa, in
a region that includes Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and a strip of
Zaire. The language which is used most widely in Africa is
Arabic; and indeed, Swahili was originally written in Arabic
script [note 2].
Kwanzaa is a hoax -- a hoax built around fake history and
pseudohistorical delusions. By attempting to dignify and promote
Kwanzaa in The American Nation, Prentice Hall has joined in a
The Official Kwanzaa Web site is maintained by Us. [return to
A Roman-based alphabet has been used for writing Swahili since
the mid-1800s. See the UCLA Language Materials Project's
"Swahili Profile" at
http://www.lmp.ucla.edu/profiles/profs04.htm on the Web. [return
William J. Bennetta is a professional editor, a fellow of the
California Academy of Sciences, the president of The Textbook
League, and the editor of The Textbook Letter. He writes often
about the propagation of quackery, false "science" and false
"history" in schoolbooks.