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December 2008
The Black Candle (DVD REVIEW)

by Kam Williams

The Black Candle (DVD REVIEW)

Actors: Maya Angelou, Chuck D
Directors: M.K. Asante Jr.
Producers: M.K. Asante Jr., Ben Haaz
Region: All Regions
Studio: Asante Filmworx
Run Time: 71 minutes

   








DVD Explains Roots of Kwanzaa Celebration

Kwanzaa has come a long way since it was created by Maulana Ron Karenga in California 42 years ago. The now mainstream holiday is observed each year between December 26th and January 1st by over 40 million black folks around the world interested in honoring their African heritage. The U.S. Postal Service has even issued a commemorative Kwanzaa stamp which is why it should come as no surprise to see the arrival of the first feature-length documentary about the annual celebration.

Written and directed by M.K. Asante, the movie is narrated by former U.S. Poet Laureate Maya Angelou and features contemporary interviews with Karenga, rapper Chuck D, pro football Hall of Famer Jim Brown and numerous other luminaries who weigh in on the value of Kwanzaa and its seven principles: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity) and Imani (Faith).

Dr. Molefi Asante, father of the director, suggests that the holiday was born more out of a cultural crisis than an identity crisis because, historically, African-American school kids have had “two sets of notes, one for the test, one for the truth.” Malcolm X affirms this notion, courtesy of file footage, indicating, “You can’t help hating Africa and not help yourself.” Similar sentiments are expressed by the late novelist James Baldwin when he wistfully acknowledges that, “There are days when you wonder what your role is in this country and what your future is in it.”

For this reason, Dr. Scot Brown concludes that Kwanzaa as important because it “insists on celebrating our Africaness,” while Ms. Angelou tells future generations, “You owe no racial debt to history.” A most informative DVD aimed at anyone interested in exploring the roots of Kwanzaa or explaining its meaning to young children.