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Dispatches From The Kwanzaa Kid: Stories About the Turkey Bacon of Holidays

Michael Harriot Dec 27, 2018. 14 comments

I like turkey bacon.

I realize that turkey bacon is essentially a ribbon of bologna meat, but as someone who grew up in a super-religious household and was raised by an uber-religious mother, I never had bacon (or any of the popular pork-related meats) until I was an adult. Don’t get me wrong, I knew of bacon’s existence, but by the time I was old enough to try it, I had been so brainwashed that the smell of bacon frying still kinda turns my stomach.

Now that I’ve tried it, I like bacon. I am not under the impression that turkey bacon is somehow better for you or that it tastes better than heathen bacon. But given the choice, I will still choose to eat turkey bacon.

I like Kwanzaa.

It’s not that I don’t like Christmas. However, Christmas, to me is like bacon. I know people really like it but it sometimes turns my stomach when I smell it from a distance. I realize that Kwanzaa is a made-up holiday (and so is Christmas) but my family also never celebrated Christmas. Ever.

When I tell people that, they usually ask: “But you still got Christms presents, right?” To which I usually answer “Nigga didn’t you just hear me say we didn’t celebrate Christmas? What part of celebrate did you think I was talking about? Caroling? Dashing through the snow?”

Christmas is about presents and I didn’t really give a fuck about Christmas because we still got (Kwanzaa) presents and all the other extraneous bullshit seemed silly to me. My mom desperately tried to get us interested in Kwanzaa but it didn’t really take. Still, I have Kwanzaa memories just like most kids have Christmas memories.

Every year, we would go to the Kwanzaa celebration, which was held at the local funeral home (I kid you not). There, we would sit with the people who would eventually become known as hoteps and celebrate the principles of Kwanzaa. I would mostly use the time to examine the Martin Luther King, Jr. fans while my youngest sister Comelita would stare longingly out of the window at the glorious Christmas lights. Robin would usually do whatever I told her.

My oldest sister Sean, already a heathen who attended an all-white private school, would bite her nails and pretend to pay attention to the Kwanzaa testimonies. But what she was really doing was watching us. Sean was basically a deputized version of my mother, and was known throughout the Harriot household for snitching. Comelita would snitch too but only because she can’t hold water. She has to tell it. It’s biological. I basically grew up in a den of snitch-ass niggas and was the main subject of the snitching.

Anyway, I never thought about any of this until editor Angela Helm, who heads up our Kwanzaa coverage, lamented that no one had any Kwanzaa stories. When I remembered my treasure trove of Kwanzaa memories, I texted my snitch-ass sisters to make sure it was OK to tell seven days of Kwanzaa stories and to see if they had any memories that I forgot.

Now the first thing you had to remember is that my mother was half-hippie and half-Black Panther. She was pleasantly woke. And she did the shit that people talk about in hotep philosophy. I was homeschooled. She convinced us that Yellow Dye #5 would sneak into our rooms at night and strangle us to death. She also believed in self-sufficiency so we did shit like growing vegetables in a garden.

I say all of that to explain what may have been the worst part of Kwanzaa—not for me—but for my sisters: Kwanzaa dresses.

Yes, nigga, my mom would make matching Kwanzaa dresses for my sisters.

You know how you went shopping for Christmas presents with your parents?

Well, our shopping trips would include long hours at the Piece Goods Shop. Trust me, you don’t know how time slows down until you sat in the back of a station wagon waiting for your mama and your aunt to come out of the store that sells sewing shit. They would always emerge with a few patterns that would usually lead to a kente-cloth related sewing project.

Also, there were special barrettes and hair ribbons that were only to be worn during Kwanzaa. In fact, the only time I could ever exact any revenge on my snitching siblings was when I carried the straightening comb as my sisters got their Kwanzaa hairdos. I would sometimes leave it on the stove too long and laugh as they complained that it was too hot.

So, over the next few days, I will relate some of my favorite Kwanzaa memories to you. Maybe I will tell you about the time I did a too-woke presentation on why Christmas is bullshit prompting my 5th Grade social studies teacher to make me sit in the hallway during the class Christmas party.

Perhaps I will tell you about when my mom had to perform emergency surgery on my sister’s hair after I tried to curl her bang with the straightening comb just before we were leaving for Kuumba Day. Maybe I will relay the story about how I was banned from Kwanzaa celebrations for a year. Or that one time I skipped Kwanzaa shopping to go see my cousin perform BBD’s “Poison” in a high school talent show, leading to me being beat up by a police officer. I know I will tell you about my proudest moment, when I got to play the djembe at Kwanzaa. Or when my mama wrote a Kwanzaa play and made us perform it.

There are Kwanzaa stories galore. I hope you enjoy them.

I didn’t even know that I did.

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