From December 2018.
December 26th always triggers a ~special~ memory for me.
During my junior year of high school, the principal rounded up all six (yes, when you add up those of us who are mixed, there were a total of 6) Black kids in my class and said, “You’re all African; put on a Kwanzaa celebration!”
Since childhood, I’ve been subject to constant, innumerable “diversity initiatives,” and people and institutions trying to utilize my image to make them seem more inclusive. But this was by far the LAZIEST attempt.
And if we’re being honest, Kwanzaa is about as real an African holiday as Wakanda is an African nation.
Though I hear the fine folks at Disney’s EPCOT do a great job of explaining it to people.
EPCOT: where you can find entire pavilions dedicated to Mexico, France, Japan, China, the USA, Norway, Germany, Canada, Italy, the U.K., and, aside from the recognition of Morocco, a milkshake hut — a literal HUT — called Africa.
Now, if you didn’t already know, I’m actually Caribbean-American. Certainly of African descent, but very culturally different. I’m speaking solely for myself and how I identify, but if you were to ask a person who is or whose parents are directly *from* Africa (and whose history wasn’t robbed from them — cough, cough) they’ll tell you Tooky Kavanagh about as African as a Ukrainian-owned Thai restaurant in Alberta, Canada.
No lie, I had never even tasted African food until I was like 28 and went to an Ethiopian restaurant.
Plus the pure lunacy of telling a bunch of Black-American kids they’re all African is what also threw me. That’d be like if I went to the IKEA headquarters in Sweden and was like, “You’re all Italian; put on a Saint Anthony’s Feast!”
But we did it. With three days to prepare and a $0 budget, we put on the Fyre Festival equivalent of a Kwanzaa celebration.
Are you familiar with the Fyre Festival? It’s an incredible event from 2017 when Ja Rule — yes, washed rapper and famed 9/11 commentator, Ja Rule — and some other guy convinced thousands of very intelligent people to spend upwards of $100,000 on tickets to be stranded in soggy FEMA tents in the parking lot of a resort … on island in the Bahamas. Such Luxury.
We packed about 50 people — students, parents, and faculty — into the school cafeteria and proceeded to disrespect them with food that was basically some mac & cheese made with half-melted Kraft Singles, Uncle Ben’s rice, two Costco rotisserie chickens, and we drank Kool-Aid with a disgraceful powder-to-fluid ratio that basically made it pastel tinted grape-water. I feel like any respectable sommelier would find that about as palatable as the thought of artisanal Zima.
We had one green candle (there are supposed to be seven on the Kinara), no live music, just an African drumming CD, and someone’s Hotep uncle was going around the room letting all the white moms touch his hair and dashiki. It was a MESS.
Oh and my dad embarrassed the everliving sh*t outta me by giving a shoutout to the Late-Great Miles Davis during the portion of the ceremony when you’re supposed to salute your ancestors. Did I mention my dad is white? Yeah there are layers to this.
As garbage as this whole experience was, I can’t help but to look back on this story and laugh. Honestly, who wouldn’t?
And I’m glad that at least in 2018 going into 2019, society as a whole is ~*slightly*~ less ignorant and culturally insensitive, and more willing to learn from mistakes like this Kwanzaa fiasco.