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View Full Version : How many people really celebrate Kwanzaa?



afarnam
01-03-2015, 08:28 AM
I have a biracial trans-racially adopted character who is a college student. Her white, liberal parents were really into Kwanzaa as a way to "get her in touch with African American culture." What would be her experience of the popularity of Kwanzaa among Black people as she starts to branch out in experience in college in Michigan?

Thanks for ideas and help.

King Neptune
01-03-2015, 07:14 PM
Relatively few, but people like that family are the sorts who are likely to celebrate it. Try searching for information on university Kwanzaa celebrations.

S. Eli
01-03-2015, 07:25 PM
I agree with above as I grew up in a predominately black area I know no one who celebrated it, however such a family would probably try, just like how African/American based, aa owned businessesput up kwanzaa displays.

Also, never been to Michigan, but I grew up in the dmv area and spent the last 5 years in inner city Philadelphia, and my university didn't have any clubs doing a kwanzaa celebration, however is possible some community organization would have one.

It's important to keep in mind that Kwanzaa IS NOT like Christmas and Hanukkah, despite what many people think, and can be celebrated ALONG WITH either or because Kwanzaa is a political holiday/celebration.

afarnam
01-03-2015, 07:58 PM
Thanks. I had that general impression. My university did celebrate Kwanzaa back in 1995 or so. That is how I learned about it originally.

Actually, that is part of the reason it comes up in the story. She's at Michigan Tech. Some white kids are moaning about how the university Christmas program got changed to the "Holiday" program and they're mad and they give this character a bit of a hard time and assume she doesn't celebrate Christmas, when she's the only one of them who actually goes to church.

Lady Esther
01-03-2015, 10:22 PM
I am African-American and grew up in a predominately black neighborhood. I learned about Kwanzaa in my Baltimore City elementary school. After that, I didn't learn about it in middle or high school and no one that I know (including myself) celebrates it.

I went to a historically black college that had a huge African population. I don't remember any of my African friends celebrating it either. And I don't think my college had any programs about it. If it did, I never heard of it. My African friends were all Christians, so Christmas was a major holiday for them.

afarnam
01-04-2015, 08:56 AM
I'm not sure how it is at colleges now but back in the 1990s expensive liberal colleges with a few token non-white students always celebrated Kwanzaa, as a way of showing how multicultural they were. :) I'm not even saying the "holiday" thing is about Kwanzaa, just that some uninformed white kids think it is and this particular biracial girl actually has some experience with Kwanzaa as a thing because of her white adoptive parents, but she is also Christian and into Christmas. She probably knows about as much about African American culture as I do (more than the average white person but she's not well integrated into the culture), which is why I can get away with writing the character at all. I do know a bit about trans-racial adoption. I know it's a thorny issue and I'm not soft pedaling it, or at least trying not to.

blacbird
01-04-2015, 11:05 AM
I was raised as a Scandinavian Lutheran, and we are very democratic. We don't celebrate anything, with equal fervor. Celebration is sin.

caw

Cathy C
01-04-2015, 04:38 PM
I was raised as a Scandinavian Lutheran, and we are very democratic. We don't celebrate anything, with equal fervor. Celebration is sin.

caw

Well, except Lucia Fest...at least in my childhood Scandinavian Lutheran church. It was bigger than Easter or Christmas services.

CWatts
01-04-2015, 09:26 PM
Speaking as a white liberal who went to college in the 90s, I know of Kwanzaa but I never knew anyone who celebrated it, but it did seem to be a thing on campus among those students and faculty who wore kente cloth and dashikis. This was at a large state university with a very diverse student body. I had several black roommates but none were into it - the only one who might have been transferred before December. Her parents were both professors, one in the Ivy League and the other at a prestigious historically black university, so the same class background as your character's parents.

Lady Esther
01-04-2015, 11:54 PM
I'm not sure how it is at colleges now but back in the 1990s expensive liberal colleges with a few token non-white students always celebrated Kwanzaa, as a way of showing how multicultural they were. :) I'm not even saying the "holiday" thing is about Kwanzaa, just that some uninformed white kids think it is and this particular biracial girl actually has some experience with Kwanzaa as a thing because of her white adoptive parents, but she is also Christian and into Christmas. She probably knows about as much about African American culture as I do (more than the average white person but she's not well integrated into the culture), which is why I can get away with writing the character at all. I do know a bit about trans-racial adoption. I know it's a thorny issue and I'm not soft pedaling it, or at least trying not to.

I think it's awesome that you've taken the challenge to write about a character who is different from you. I'm writing about a Jewish girl with a mixed (Dutch-Indonesian & Israeli) background and I am neither of the three. So, I had to research extensively, like you.

But I love studying about different backgrounds and cultures. So, I'm really enjoying writing this character.

Side note: It's funny that you started this thread because I'm about to write a story about an African-American girl who finds out her dad is Nigerian. In the back of my mind I was wondering how many Africans celebrate Kwanzaa. So, I quickly clicked this thread when I saw it. :)

afarnam
01-05-2015, 12:35 AM
I've so far written Vietnamese, Romani, Australian, Kenyan, mixed Arab, Israeli, Japanese and Russian characters and I am none of those things. I have actually lived in Russia and Zimbabwe as well as a few unrelated places. And I have some distant relatives who are Vietnamese and very fun to be with. I have some Australian relatives who don't communicate much. So far no one has complained about my research.

But frankly I'd be more likely to attempt an African character than an African American character. And I only lived in Zimbabwe for about four months and barely scratched the surface. The most crucial thing is that readers will tend to insist that an African American character be highly steeped in African American culture and dialect instead of being primarily in the story and just happening to be African American. This is just how my sixth sense has picked up the public mood. I write emotive first person narratives, so I have to be able to create a reliable voice for a character and make it feel real.

At the same time, the cultural influences of my characters are backstory, not something that takes over the story or their voice. I'm not interested in writing in dialect or detailing a subculture at this point.

Lady Esther
01-05-2015, 12:55 AM
...The most crucial thing is that readers will tend to insist that an African American character be highly steeped in African American culture and dialect instead of being primarily in the story and just happening to be African American. This is just how my sixth sense has picked up the public mood. I write emotive first person narratives, so I have to be able to create a reliable voice for a character and make it feel real.

At the same time, the cultural influences of my characters are backstory, not something that takes over the story or their voice. I'm not interested in writing in dialect or detailing a subculture at this point.

I'm with you on this. My characters' backgrounds are mainly backstory. Their voice specifically shows their personality, not the culture of "their people".

I would love to read a story about a main character who, as you say, happens to be African-American. But that's me. I write stories to appeal to all potential readers. I don't write to appeal to, say, an African-American audience, or a Jewish audience, etc. I think that's the difference between writing an African-American (or any other ethnic) character and writing about someone who happens to be African-American (or any other race). It's all about the type of readers you want to attract.

afarnam
01-05-2015, 04:47 AM
That's a good point. I like to read about characters of different backgrounds. That's why I write them.

Still when I'm writing about a whole setting in a specific culture, I always wish I could corner a beta reader from that culture just to iron out details for believability. I want to write a whole prequel on my Australian character in his youth in Australia but I really don't want to try it without an Australian beta reader, preferably one who remembers what things were like in Australia 30 years ago. :) I can research and then guess to fill in the gaps but I'd like to know when I miss the mark. I've asked Australians but they tend to get mad and think I want to make the character stereotypical. I don't. I just want to know when I fudge a significant detail. I'm betting that I'd feel the same way about writing about a character within an African American subculture setting.

blacbird
01-05-2015, 06:29 AM
Well, except Lucia Fest...at least in my childhood Scandinavian Lutheran church. It was bigger than Easter or Christmas services.

You are headed straight to the Bad Place, if you don't change your ways.

caw

afarnam
01-05-2015, 08:28 AM
Is that a joke or are you hijacking my thread with something weird?