Growing up in the middle-class suburbs, we accompanied our parents every Sunday to the Caucasian Methodist Church. Now, "Caucasian Methodist" is not an official designation of the United Methodist Church; in this case, it's merely an observation. We pre-teen Methodists were lovingly and gently tutored in the liberal leanings of the Methodists. We learned a little about the eastern religions, a little more about Judaism, and we even recited a creed each Sunday that said we believed in the "holy catholic church" though our minister patiently explained that catholic with a lowercase "c" means something different from Catholic.
We didn't have much trouble understanding Christmas and separating the religious parts from the secular parts, which we liked best. Our Jewish friends were having Hanukkah about the same time we were having Christmas, although the Jewish holiday seemed a mighty poor substitute to us at the time. The real bandits in mid-December were the kids who had one Jewish parent and one Christian parent. They were riding down the freeway of Christmas in a pink Cozy Coupe! Forget that when they grew up, they might suffer religious and heredity confusion; they always had a rockin' December.
Tonight marks the first night of Hanukkah and four days till Christmas. The pagans are preparing to carouse for Winter Solstice, and we can't remember if the Buddhists celebrate anything special this time of year. The CMC kinda glossed over Kwanzaa, too, probably because it was hard for the Caucasians to understand the relatively new African-American holiday. Kwanzaa lasts almost as long as Hanukkah, running from December 26 through January 1, we now realize, and Dallas gets behind it in a big way.
Every year, the Third Eye coordinates citywide events that intertwine African traditions with American customs. And the organizers are trying to get the commercial stench off what started as a low-key, low-cost, ritual-centered celebration. "We've got to stop thinking the only way to show love of self, community, family, and culture is to buy everything in sight," says Third Eye member Marilyn Clark. So Kwanzaa, in its 34-year history, is falling victim to the same crass commercialism the zealots think we should take out of Christmas. If the purists get their way, we'll have to rethink our latest holiday theory, which is: The luckiest kids this December will have one Jewish parent and one African-American Methodist parent.
Dallas kicks off Kwanzaa Tuesday, the day that celebrates unity, or "Umoja" in Swahili, with a parade beginning at noon at Lincoln High School and ending around 2 p.m. at the MLK Center in South Dallas. From 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. that evening, the youth of the Nation of Islam will present "History in the Making" at the Park Manor Senior Citizen Complex, and St. Luke Community United Methodist Church will host a program organized by the African Heritage Academy and the Rites of Passage group. The Pan African Connection Bookstore will present a lecture and discussion by the United States of Africa Revolutionary Party at 7:30 p.m. On Wednesday, when self-determination (Kujichagulia) is honored, Melody Afiah Bell will lead Kwanzaa activities for children at 1 p.m. and the Nu Afrikan Spiritual Temple will perform a renaming ceremony from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Both happen at Pan African Connection Bookstore.