It has been four decades since Kwanzaa was created as an African-American celebration of family and community, but in that time it has not resonated widely in South Carolina, a state where one-third of the population is black.
“I personally don’t know a single person who celebrates the holiday,” said Marcus Cox, founding director of the African-American Studies Program at The Citadel.
The holiday was created in 1966 by California State University at Long Beach professor Maulana Karenga, and a survey for the National Retail Federation in October found 2.3 percent of Americans celebrate it.
Kwanzaa celebrates unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.
Khurhu, a black Columbia store owner who uses a single name and sells Kwanzaa merchandise, said the idea of a holiday for blacks is unpopular with some whites.
“In its infancy, it was something that was hated by the establishment,” Khurhu said. “You’ll find some negativity. It has its detractors.”
But Khurhu continues to celebrate the holiday.
“It’s been a part of the fabric of my life,” he said. “I embrace the principles and live it in my life.”
Cox said more blacks might celebrate the holiday if they felt stronger ties to Africa.
“Most African-Americans recognize that their ancestors came from Africa. But very few African-Americans take it beyond that,” he said.
“The low number of African-Americans who know anything about Africa is mind-boggling,” he said. “In some ways, I think that’s sad. You should know your history. But on the other hand, African-Americans see themselves as Americans, not Africans in America.”