A Field Guide to Celebrating Kwanzaa With Your Christmas Family in Your Aunt’s Gentrifying Neighborhood

Celebrate Kwanzaa

Explain Kwanzaa to Your Aunt Pat

Every year the day after Christmas, Aunt Pat forgets Kwanzaa is a cultural celebration of unity for peoples of the African diaspora, and not “some kind of black magic nonsense.” Be polite, thank her for allowing the kinara prime real estate next to the bedazzled Nutcracker, and use the moment to congratulate her on building home equity in a redlining state despite predatory lending practices. Don’t forget to light the first candle and ask “Habari gani?” when she leaves the room to watch her stories.

Get Lifted

Adorning the mkeka with fruits and corn is easier with a new Whole Foods in the neighborhood, but the eye-frisks you get shopping in your best dashiki makes you miss the bodega. Rise above it by meditating on Madiba, and when security guards operating as an arm of the surveillance state follow you to the produce section, call out your movements traffic-stop-style (e.g. “I am unarmed and reaching slowly for a jewel yam!”). Go organic if possible.

Fight the Saviors

Volunteering at the soup kitchen with your family is an emotional experience peppered with kindness, gratitude, and service that builds an empathy bridge between –hold up, did that Lululemon just snap a selfie? Pull her aside for a respectful carefrontation about how problematic it is to exploit a safe space, cast oneself as a savior to displaced people, treat poverty like a prop, and accidentally spill gravy on her ballet flats.

Reapply for an Income-Based Loan Repayment

College at an elite institution was all about strategic mentorships, pizza, and discovering high school textbooks are a safe space for alternative facts about our nation’s history. Four years of re-education were invaluable, but woke ain’t free and neither the orishas or the black baby Jesus in your aunt’s nativity scene would not want you to drop two stacks a month plus compounded interest on books you bought ten years ago.

Watch Elf

The original plan for the day of Purpose was to restore a sense of collective greatness by discussing past/present themes from cultural texts like The Souls of Black Folk but then Elf was on and who says you can’t build community watching a grown man put candy on spaghetti?

Hard Sell the Spinach

Annual resolutions to lose weight are not enough to get your family to sit through health food documentaries about the sugar-to-dialysis-pipeline. You’ve got to be the change by bringing delicious whole grain, plant-based foods to the Karamu, so get creative with those recipes and maybe tell your niece spinach is like bling for the digestive system.


Celebrate the last day of Kwanzaa by hitting up a locally owned brunch spot. This is the place, right? It looks the same, but now there’s a yoga studio next door and strollers everywhere and I think that’s the girl from the soup kitchen? Anyways, enjoy a lovely New Year’s Day meal in a historically black neighborhood where you and your family are some of the last blacks in the neighborhood. Harambee!



Pauline Ekholt

Author: Pauline Ekholt

Pauline Ekholt is a comedy writer who has contributed to Robot Butt, Reductress, The Tonight Show, and Los Angeles' Pack Theatre. She's also on Twitter using jokes and humor to rage against machines of social injustice/RT kittens.

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