Those who celebrate the holiday will often explain that its not just for African-Americans. Theyre not telling the whole story; in fact, its 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 others 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 dont 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 Presidents [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 Bennetts 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.
Ah, yes, Swahili, the language spoken by the slave traders who Captured sold the ancestors of most black Americans into slavery--doesn't anybody learn history anymore? Obviously not.