I've been thinking briefly about what Spence mentioned yesterday about Kwanzaa. He said that nothing particular about the slandar against it warms him to the celebration although he is sympathetic in principle. But if there were to be a more real Kwanzaa, we know what it was that West Africans celebrate and we could ligitimately assimilate real African traditions into modern celebrations. I can dig that.
However on second thought it occured to me that in 1966 when this party started, that body of research didn't exist. There weren't even Black Student Unions on campuses, much less Afro-American Studies departments. Who was going to provide that research? It's as if people believing the Earth was the center of the universe upon reviewing Galileo 30 years hence was chiding him for not thinking about ellipses instead of circles. My history of science is sketchy, but you get the point. What Karenga has set in motion will inevitably be refined and changed over time.
As one commenter has pointed out, St. Patrick's Day was a holiday invented for political reasons. Today it's just an excuse to drink green beer, and among GenX, get a green dye job. But Spence's idea of incorporating some actual West African traditions into Kwanzaa might not be such a bad one after all.
In 1991 at BAM, I learned to dance the Sounou and the Koteba. It was easy. I just walked in and the instructors were patient. It was a great experience and every bit as deep as learning a martial arts form. I don't expect that West African dance studios will begin cropping up in every strip mall, but it would be a great addition to the American cultural scene.
I wonder if American students of Karate and other Eastern disciplines consider their schools to be authentic. Here too is a practice that only began taking shape in the 60s. Nobody who watches Batman really thought any of them could beat Kato, and every Western bar fight on TV now looks completely staged. In the light of Jennifer Garner of Alias, there has never been a real female superhero. And now Batman is being reloaded, centering him on Eastern martial discipline.
We evolve, apparently.