My non-American wife was shocked and slightly bemused when I explained that the deep traditions of Kwanzaa, with which she was strangely familiar, were only created in 1966 by a bizarre black radical named Ron Karenga. She was equally incredulous when I explained that Karenga, a minor league Black Paanther and later a college professor at California State University, was once sentenced to prison for holding a member of his organization hostage and burning her with an iron. The founding Santa Claus of Kwanzaa was, it seemed, the holiday version of Rick James.
(The Los Angeles Times reported on the incident, helpfully explaining that Karenga’s victim “Deborah Jones, who once was given the Swahili title of an African queen, said she and Gail Davis were whipped with an electrical cord and beaten with a karate baton after being ordered to remove their clothes. She testified that a hot soldering iron was placed in Ms. Davis’s mouth and placed against Ms. Davis’s face and that one of her own big toes was tightened in a vise. Karenga also put detergent and running hoses in their mouths, she said.” As far as can be determined, none of this is part of the Kwanzaa ritual, though the celebratory detergent and hose in the mouth sounds festive.)
Heh and good riddence.