In 1966 Dr Maulana Karenga created an Afro-American holiday designed to honor African heritage and tradition called Kwanzaa. The week long celebration is observed between December 26th and January 1st and incorporates seven principles called the Nguzo saba. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, “meaning first fruits of the harvest.”
Kwanzaa has enjoyed a loyal following in the United States and around the world with millions of annual participants, but has not established a foothold in mainstream news and media coverage. Even with the number of Christmas and holiday films starring in and targeted to African-Americans there is little mention of Kwanzaa, even in passing.
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Not surprisingly, the discussion around Kwanzaa between the cast of the “The Best Man Holiday” (in theaters this Friday) is as varied as it is in the African-American community. While Director Malcolm Lee says his family does celebrate Kwanzaa, other members of the cast were not very familiar with the celebration at all. Nia Long, whose name is one of the seven principles (meaning purpose) was pragmatic about any possible inclusion of Kwanzaa in this or any holiday film.
“I think ‘Holiday’ is more universal,” she says. “This is a movie and we want to appeal to all audiences. I am of part of Kwanzaa but I’m not gonna say ‘The Best Man,’ Kwanzaa.”
However, her co-star Morris Chestnut didn’t think that was such a bad idea, even in jest. “I’ll talk to Malcolm Lee and maybe we’ll do ‘The Best Man Kwanzaa’ for the third movie.”
Regina Hall’s response may best sum up how many people feel about the celebration, “I’ve never practiced Kwanzaa but I’ve always liked the sound of it…”
To see what the rest of the cast had to say watch the clip below.
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