Vice President-elect Kamala Harris issued a greeting “to everyone who is celebrating” Kwanzaa on Saturday, recalling her family’s celebration of the holiday as “one of my favorite childhood memories.”
Harris was born in 1964; Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by activist and academic Maulana Karenga, who was later imprisoned for torturing two women that he believed were trying to poison him.
A recent New York Times profile of Harris’s father, Stanford economics professor emeritus Donald Harris, noted that he and Harris’s mother met as part of a circle of political activists at the University of California Berkeley that helped popularize the new holiday: “Members of the study group that drew them together in 1962, known as the Afro American Association, would help build the discipline of Black studies, introduce the holiday of Kwanzaa and establish the Black Panther Party.”
Our Kwanzaa celebrations are one of my favorite childhood memories. The whole family would gather around across multiple generations and we’d tell stories and light the candles.
Whether you’re celebrating this year with those you live with or over Zoom, happy Kwanzaa! pic.twitter.com/21bzGHZpYe
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) December 26, 2020
In her message, Harris said that her family used to gather around, “across multiple generations,” and discuss the “seven principles,” especially “the one about self-determination, Kujichagulia.”
Critics often describe Kwanzaa as a “fake” holiday. Even some on the left have trouble with the holiday, noting Karenga’s past activities to oppose the Black Panther movement through a rival organization allegedly backed by the FBI.
President Donald Trump has also issued Kwanzaa greetings over the years, and has displayed a seven-branched Kwanzaa candelabrum, known as a Kinara, at the White House.