KWANZAA: Excluded From National African American Museum Exhibits...Why?

The African American holiday Kwanzaa, which celebrates family, community and culture, is a significant contribution to Black history and culture; however, the National Museum of African American History and Culture has excluded Kwanzaa, and by doing so they have revised and reduced Black history and culture.

Chuck Berry’s red Cadillac Eldorado

20190728_151413.jpg

P-Funk Mothership

MC Hammer’s pants

Star Child’s (Bootsy Collins) platform shoes

Clearly space is not an issue, for example there is ample space for Chuck Berry’s red Cadillac Eldorado, MC Hammer’s pants, Star Child’s (Bootsy Collins) platform shoes and the P-Funk Mothership in the Culture Galleries.  The museum has five levels/floors, the “Culture Galleries” takes up the complete top floor (4th), which is dedicated to African American culture.  Kwanzaa is the only cultural holiday African Americans have that was created by an African American, sustained and embraced across the spectrum of Black People.  How can it be excluded from the Culture Galleries and its’ name not mention? 

The museum is a great collection of African American history and culture, so how could this possibly happen?

How could Kwanzaa be omitted when it was created by an African American, practiced by millions over the last 53 years, recognized by the United States with White House proclamations each year and the US Post Office honors the holiday by issuing Kwanzaa stamps each year?

How could it possibly not be in the National Museum of African American History and Culture?

We questioned the museum staff, everyone from the information desk staff to the janitors. They all said, ‘an exhibit should be here,’ but no one knew where. Their general belief was I should find it in the fourth-floor cultural galleries. After overlooking it several times, the word “Kwanzaa” was found in small print mentioned only once in the History gallery collection "A Changing America:  1968 and Beyond."

That’s it, unbelievable!


Under a small picture of Dr. Maulana Karenga, it listed some of his accomplishments, one being creating Kwanzaa. The word “Kwanzaa” was not mentioned to honor the holiday. Acknowledging Dr. Karenga created Kwanzaa is good, but not to include the holiday’s history, meaning and cultural contribution to Black life in America is unthinkable for the museum's “teams of experts in African American History and Culture.”

The word "Kwanzaa" is mentioned only once in the museum History Gallery collection.  William Pretzer, Senior Curator of History, said this is  adequate representation for the international holiday.

Why Kwanzaa Deserves A Museum Exhibit

All informed and honest people must agree Kwanzaa should be in the National Museum of African American History and Culture (even if they don’t practice it or like the holiday) for the following reasons:


1. Kwanzaa is a Pan-African cultural holiday, which celebrates family, community and culture, created 1966 by an African American, Dr. Maulana Karenga, and first practiced within his organization Us.


2. Kwanzaa has grown from a single organization’s practice to an international holiday celebrated by millions of African descendants around the world.


3. Kwanzaa is officially recognized by the federal government, e.g. postage stamps and annual White House proclamations.


4. Kwanzaa is annually recognized by numerous state and municipal proclamations.


5. Kwanzaa’s fundamental purpose and practice should be honored and presented as a significant part of and contribution to African American history and culture in the museum, i.e. “Kwanzaa’s essential activities are about that which stresses, strengthens and celebrates family, community and culture.”  This is done in five basic ways: “INGATHERING (unity) of the People; REVERENCE for the Creator and creation; COMMEMORATION of the Past; RECOMMITMENT to our highest ideals; and CELEBRATION of the good.”


6. Kwanzaa’s is a positive cultural holiday all African descendants can practice, because it is not based on religious or hero worship.


7. An appropriate Kwanzaa exhibit would be consistent with the four pillars upon which the National Museum of African American History and Culture stands.  (see museum four pillars visit:  https://nmaahc.si.edu/about/museum )

An Appropriate Kwanzaa Exhibit

for

The National Museum of African American

 History and Culture

 

 

Kwanzaa Now Campaign is calling for an appropriate Kwanzaa exhibit be included in the African American museum.  We believe the exhibit at a minimum should include:

 

  1. Kwanzaa symbols properly displayed with historical artifacts and pictures.

  2. Audiovisual teaching station allowing guest to choose from various Kwanzaa topics such as:

            a.  demonstrating and explaining the proper performance of Kwanzaa,

            b.  its symbols meanings and origins,

            c.  Kwanzaa history and public acceptance,

            d.  Kwanzaa contribution to the Black Freedom Movement and Black culture identity in America and abroad.   

 

Dr. Maulana Karenga, the creator of Kwanzaa and Chair of Africana Studies at California State University, Long Beach, is the foremost scholar on Kwanzaa history, ritual practices and in-depth meanings.  He is most qualified to head a team of scholars in establishing an appropriate Kwanzaa exhibit in the National Museum of African American History and Culture.  Therefore, the Kwanzaa Now Campaign recommend and support the founder of Kwanzaa leading and framing the final outcome of a NMAAHC Kwanzaa exhibit.

The Kwanzaa Now Campaign is organizing and calling for a appropriate Kwanzaa exhibit in the museum.

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