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December 2004   
Kwanzza Time's A-Coming By Lynn Wooley

Kwanzaa Time’s A-Coming Lynn Woolley Monday, Dec. 20, 2004 Consider the strange case of Kwanzaa – the multiculturalists’ answer to Christmas.

Kwanzaa, meaning something like “fresh fruits of harvest” in Swahili, is not a long-standing holiday that’s based on traditions that have built up over the centuries; Kwanzaa was simply invented in 1966 by a black radical named Ronald Everett. Since then, many people have embraced the new “holiday.” Check out any appointment calendar, and you’ll find it duly noted on December 26th that “Kwanzaa begins.” Stroll through your local card and party store and you’ll find Kwanzaa items on the shelves. You can even look it up in the World Book Encyclopedia, where you’ll find an article written by “a black cultural leader” that explains all about Kwanzaa.

Those who celebrate the holiday will often explain that it’s not just for African-Americans. They’re not telling the whole story; in fact, it’s doubtful that everyone who celebrates Kwanzaa really knows its origins.

Most stories about Ronald McKinley Everett refer to him as Dr. Maulana Karenga, and rarely examine his past. But in recent years, much of the Everett/Karenga story has been told in a few print exposes, and in op-ed columns.

Forget the notion that Kwanzaa is a holiday for all people. Dr. Karenga states that he created it at the height of the black liberation movement as part of a “re-Africanization Process - “a going back to black.”

Dr. Karenga, still just “Ron Everett” at the time, was heavily involved in the black power movement. He started an organization called US - “United Slaves” – as a violent rival to the Black Panthers. Everett and his organization became dupes of the FBI which wanted to use radical groups such as the United Slaves to split and discredit the Left.

He dropped the “Everett” name and adopted the Swahili one, which means “master teacher,” shaved his head, and began wearing traditional African clothing. US members, similarly attired, and often encouraged by the FBI, clashed with the Panthers over which group would control the new Afro-American Studies Center at UCLA.

There were incidents involving beatings and shootings, including one in 1969 in which two US members shot and killed two Black Panthers.

Dr. Karenga had other run-ins with the law, including charges that he abused women. In 1971, he was convicted of assaulting female members of US and he served time in prison.

A Los Angeles Times snippet describes the torture of the women as involving a hot soldering iron placed in the mouth of one, while the other’s toe was mashed in a vise.

For his part, Dr. Karenga insists that he is the victim in all this; he was quoted in the Dallas News: “All the negative charges are in fact disinformation and frame-ups by the FBI and local and national police.”

Members of the multicultural community either believe his denials, or they don’t care. But they have to face the fact that they are accepting the teachings of a man whose organization –and who personally – committed heinous crimes against members of his own race.

So what happened to Dr. Maulana Karenga after he served his time in prison? Some nine years after Kwanzaa was invented, he decided to moderate his views and become a Marxist. In 1979, he was hired to run the Black Studies Department at Cal State Long Beach, in all likelihood, the first ex-con to do so.

His biography, appearing on a web site called “Profiles in Black,” says that he is also chair of “the President’s [Clinton] Task Force on Multicultural Education and Campus Diversity” at Cal State Long Beach, and director of the “Kawaida Institute of Pan-African Studies.”

It also lists him as chairman of “Operation Us” (sound familiar?) which the site says means “black people” – so named to stress the communitarian focus of his philosophy, Kawaida, which is an on-going synthesis of the best of African thought and practice.

The extensive bio made it apparent that Dr. Karenga is enamored with all things African – though it never once mentions anything about United Slaves, or shootings, or the torture of women, or prison time.

The militant past of the creator is now ignored in favor of the co-called seven principles of Nguza Saba – principles such as unity, family and self-determination that could have come from Bill Bennett’s Book of Virtues – although Bennett would not likely approve of the collectivist tone of the principles.

Dr. Karenga does his part to promote the holiday and blur his personal history. In December, he goes on an annual “Kwanzaa circuit” of speeches and appearances. And he writes. Among his writings are many articles and ten books, mostly concerning Black Studies, and his commentaries on ancient Egyptian texts.

And, remember that little article in the World Book Encyclopedia that legitimized Dr. Karenga as a “black cultural leader?” You guessed it – he wrote the article himself.

Toward the end of his presidency, Bill Clinton issued a formal proclamation in support of Kwanzaa.

Ann Coulter described the announcement as beginning with “ ... some claptrap about preserving ‘what we value of our past,’ and Kwanzaa being a ‘wonderful example’ with its ‘focus on the values that have sustained African-Americans through the centuries.’”

Either the President of the United States had not done his homework, or he really believed in what Coulter called “a lunatic blend of schmaltzy 60’s rhetoric, black racism, and Marxism.”

More likely than that, President Clinton simply believed in multiculturalism, which, to many politicians, simply means embracing other cultures in return for votes.

Excerpt from Lynn Woolley’s book “Clear Moral Objectives.” © 2003 by Lynn Woolley. E-mail