Queering Kwanzaa: Or, Alternative Ways to Celebrate and Contemplate Your History and Heritage

If, like myself, you are “regular Black” (a phrase coined by a good friend of mine), then you might have considered celebrating Kwanzaa, but then you thought to yourself… Kwanzaa, ain’t that the fake Black people holiday Kyle from Living Single celebrated that one time?  Nah… that’s too much.  Well, what if it were an amazing way to bring in the new year? A celebration of yourself, your history… an opportunity to look back and forward to what you want in your new year.

Well, I can guarantee that it won’t make you any more Black (so keep your Dashiki right where it’s at), but I find that the celebration, or careful contemplation, of my history and heritage, does wonders for my spirit.  And at the close of the year, the last seven days–beginning the day after Christmas and going to the first day of January–I really need that.

Let me be clear: If you don’t do it because you don’t know how to, or because you don’t yet have a husband or wife and two kids, or if you’re queer and the whole thing seems kind of heterosexist, then read on.  I wrote this for you.   You don’t have to celebrate it like Dr. Maulana Karenga says, he’s homophobic and sexist anyway, but perhaps you’ll consider an alternative (or queer), way to think on its Seven Principles.


What I offer here are a few ideas that are easy to incorporate into your world and make great centerpieces for your alternative celebration of Kwanzaa and its Seven Principles.  You can do them all, or just one.  You can come up with new ideas.  The point is that there are endless possibilities.

Alternative Ways to Celebrate or Contemplate During Kwanzaa

Nguzo Saba: The Seven Principles

Make sure that the Seven Kwanzaa principles are up somewhere in your house.  I will placing my principles next to the All Seeing Eye kinara.  Put them in your calendar.

The kinara is not required.  In fact, Apple has a widget that you can download that’s a virtual kinara and its candles light up on the corresponding day of Kwanzaa.  Don’t feel like you have to have one.  I had really been wanting one, because I wanted to light it every evening after my last meal of the day.  I purchased this beautiful kinara for $25 from the local Delaware Etsy shop owner at Heavenwood.

The Kwanzaa Cleanse*

There is nothing more powerful than a cleansing ritual to make you think about your body and its connection to the Earth. Try a 3-5 day cleanse during these 7 days. My personal favorite is the Diva Detox by the Raw Divas which I modify slightly by adding raw nuts and protein powder in my smoothies.  For those who, like myself, still plan to do light workouts during their cleanse, I would recommend making sure you have enough calories to ensure their effectiveness, but try to follow the basic tenants of the fast which is to eat three RAW meals a day.  On the last day, I like to “break fast” with some vegetable sushi rolls.

The point of doing the Kwanzaa Cleanse is to ground yourself in yourself. To rejuvenate your body and to get your body in preparation for all the wonderful things that will be able to flow into it at the start of the year.  I also like to incorporate some meditation before my first meal and after my last.  That means, no internet, no t.v., no gadgets. Just you and whatever force you believe to have brought you to this Earth.  Each day, I meditate on the principle of the day.

For more benefits to cleansing, GOOGLE it!

Daily Meditation*

It may prove difficult with an irregular schedule (especially if you’re traveling) to be thinking on the right principle on the corresponding day.  Don’t force it, but remain mindful and present especially if this is a personal celebration.  You’ll feel lighter and the holiday will be more appealing if you think about the principles as guideposts.

I will post a meditation here every morning during Kwanzaa.  Enjoy!

A Celebration in Your Home

Family and community are integral in celebrating Kwanzaa.  It’s often difficult for the single person, or even the couple to celebrate a week long holiday such as Kwanzaa.   Throw a party, or go to one.  It doesn’t have to be Kwanzaa themed, but you can certainly be thinking on the principles of Kwanzaa while the celebration is happening around you.

Creativity Unbound

Feed that left side of your brain.  Make something.  Break something and put it back together. Make a new dish for dinner.  Make something for yourself and for the people you love.  Make a collage with magazines and fill it with all the things that you want to happen in the upcoming year.

Get Stuff Done*

Do that thing around your home or for yourself that you’ve been meaning to do all year, but just never made time for.  If you’re fasting, then you’ll need something to do to keep your mind off of the food you’re not eating.  You might also spend a day reading “Getting Things Done” by David Allen who offers a tried and true method for organizing your life so that you can be more productive in work and life.  It works for me!

Journal about Love, Life, and How You Feel Being a Person of African Descent in America

Journals have saved my life.  Keeping a journal forces me to get centered.  It make me listen to myself which is important especially when you’re thinking foolishness.  It also lets you get the day out of your head.  Grab a new notebook and journal everyday during Kwanzaa.  Incorporate it into the daily meditations which you can find here.


*My favorites. If these three things are implemented over the last 7 days of your year, I know that you will set yourself up powerful things to happen in the New Year.  However you celebrate, celebrate well! Happy Kwanzaa!!

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