I was part of a movement of "dinosaur moms" when I lived in Maryland (Astrodon Johnstoni is the Maryland state dinosaur.) Which is nothing more than this -- dinosaur moms delight in the half-feral nature of the beasties they parent, even as they whisper Shakespeare and Kierkegaard in their ears at night.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hatin' on Kwanzaa, Part 2

In which our heroine finds peace about kwanzaa.

I wrote this e-mail to our school's principal this year:

Will you please pass this on to the teachers and staff? As a person who grew up celebrating kwanzaa, I am interested in making sure people have an accurate idea of it.

Increasingly, people of good will sort of blindly lump it in with other, essentially religious, seasonal holidays. And there has arisen this mystery around it, which suggests that Black Americans are in on something that is difficult for others to understand or appreciate. Even a lot of the books out there make it seem like it's something that it's not. I think that shrouding these rites in secrecy only increases racial division and we certainly don't need any of that.

I would like to make myself available for anybody who wants to do something on kwanzaa. I don't want to hear anybody spreading the misunderstanding that it has roots in Africa or in religion. It was really an early civil rights awareness exercise -- a pillars of character program, if you will.

Appropriate to the age group, of course, I'd want teachers to be prepared to discuss critically that its principles are nationalist and Marxist and might very well not ring true. That its practices embrace a primitive fetishized view of the African continent that might very well not be authentic or sensitive to the real modern day people who actually live there. That the principles and the practices should be understood in their historical context, the 1960's.

I personally hope that what kids would get out of it is the idea that the creator of this program did this because he wanted people to pause and reflect on some really important principles. That pausing and reflecting on principles is always good news. And that its importance now might be as an invitation to pause and reflect on your own principles.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A limerick for grandma

I write from my father’s house where we are celebrating my grandmother’s 85th. My grandmother is one of 13 and the first of them (who had survived to adulthood) passed this year. So there seems to be a renewed effort to gather the family while we still can.

There have been enough of these milestone birthdays that they have a predictable shape. We have our roles. My dad hosts, foots the bill, and makes remarks in his speeches that scandalize or outrage the aunties. My cousin – the one who steals a little time from her tech job to run marathons, update her children’s website, and do a little modeling – does the planning. My stately great-aunt fusses over the catering. My second cousin prepares the sweeping epic video montage, with auntie as biblical matriarch.

My offbeat uncle gives the comic roast.
My deadbeat uncle sends a letter.
And my beaten-down uncle takes potshots.

I sing.

I love to sing, but really the only reason that I sing is so that no one will make me give a toast. I am categorically lousy at them. I practically ruined my sister’s wedding going on and on with no point until they finally had to cut me off.

I sang “Amazing Grace.” Not an inspired choice, but fool-proof.

The kids did poems. Girl did a limerick, “My grandma is really fantastic/ And no, I’m not being sarcastic./ The perfect playmate/ There is no debate/ Over her I am enthusiastic.”

Some others of her generation did a very inventive skit. I was talking to their dad (Actually, I was angling for him to take my bookish girl in for a month and maybe some of their sass would rub off). He volunteered that they had an agent and were vying for a spot on Disney. Which sort of made the performance seem less like an act of creative exuberance and more like an opportunity for exposure. But I’m sure I’ll feel differently when they’re the next Naked Brothers Band.