So whether you know it or not, today is the second day of Kwanzaa. I blogged about it last year and expressed how it feels a bit contrived/made up yet I still see a lot of value in the Kwanzaa principles (Nguzo Saba).
Well, this year, I took a book out of the library on Kwanzaa and even though we don't have a Kinara set up or anything, we're going through each day of Kwanzaa. Today's principle is kujichagulia or self-determination. Or course, if you know me, you know this is one of the biggest principles I'm trying to engender in my own life, i.e. living my life on my own terms and it would be a tremendous blessing if I could pass this principle on to my children.
Anyway, as I share these principles with my children, I still can't shake the feeling that Kwanzaa doesn't feel true to me. I am not African-American. My parents are relatively recent and voluntary immigrants to the United States. I know the geographic location where my family hails from. And I ache for authentic traditions.
My parents, being the staunch Christians that they are, made it a point to avoid all traditional celebrations and holidays. In fact, there are no pictures of my parents' traditional wedding (I don't think they had one) and I'm pretty sure my mother was not pleased that my cousin had her traditional wedding with "all that unnecessariness". I can't say that had we been exposed to our ancient traditions, I would still embrace them today but I feel like a part of who I am is missing.
This is complicated by the fact that although I understand my mother tongue of Igbo, I cannot speak it with any fluency. It makes communicating with my grandmother, who only speaks Igbo, a serious challenge. I feel like she is a treasure trove of information, history and wisdom and I am cut off. I've googled to find an organization of my dad's village people have here in the States. I know that folks are celebrating our traditions but I feel awkward. I don't really know anyone having lived in the States all my life, I don't speak the language and since I'm married, I technically am not from the village my father is from anymore but from the village my husband is from. Since my husband is American, technically/traditionally speaking, I'm from whatever "village" in America he comes from. In fact, because of this I could really only be an honorary member of that organization to which I linked above.
It's kind of frustrating that I should have a direct connection to my history and culture along with the traditions and celebrations but I don't. Do I try to forge one with my strangers from the village my dad comes from? Or do I just suck it up and embrace Kwanzaa as my own? After all, every tradition was made up/started sometime. If we really get into it now and take it seriously, it will be a real tradition for our great-great grandchildren.