LEIMERT PARK (CBSLA.com) — The creator of Kwanzaa is fighting back against a Wisconsin GOP state senator who said “almost no black people care” about the holiday and that it’s spearheaded by “white left-wingers” who want to separate the country.
In a statement released last week, Sen. Glenn Grothman said, in part, “Why are hardcore left-wingers still trying to talk about Kwanzaa? Almost no black people today care about Kwanzaa, just white left-wingers who try to shove this down black people’s throats in an effort to divide Americans.”
The senator also claimed it was “irresponsible” for public schools to tell “new generations of blacks that they have a separate holiday than Christians.”
Dr. Maulana Karenga, a Cal State Long Beach professor who created the African-American and Pan-African holiday in 1966, told CBS2’s Rachel Kim that he doesn’t take Grothman’s rants seriously.
“He has some issues he’s working out. Anxiety about what he considers is the multi-coloring of America,” Karenga said. “He’s suffering from falsehood, ignorance and misinformation in order to discredit not just me and Kwanzaa, but black people and their right to choose their own special culture.”
The Kwanzaa founder said he developed the holiday, which celebrates family, community and culture, to reinforce the principles of unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.
“I created it as a cultural holiday so that people of all faiths who are African can, in fact, celebrate the holiday,” said Karenga.
Grothman, however, doesn’t appear to accept that explanation.
In an interview with CNN, he defended his comments by personally slamming Karenga.
“I think the underlying problem here is not enough TV types when they talk about Kwanzaa, talk about the horrible, racist, violent past of its founder. And if they knew the past, I think Kwanzaa would die a quick death,” Grothman said.
He continued, “We’ve got to remember that Kwanzaa was something that was thought up by a radical person who was a leader of a sect that wound up murdering a couple Black Panthers and being very violent towards women of his own sect.”
Karenga said Grothman was referring to his “political imprisonment” in 1971.
“I have maintained my innocence for 41 years. That’s a 41-year-old wrongful conviction. I was a victim of a program (J. Edgar) Hoover put together to destroy, discredit and otherwise neutralize all potential and real black leadership,” he said.
Karenga said he hopes the attacks against Kwanzaa come to an end.