The Black Candle
by Elaine Hegwood Bowen
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The Black Candle is an examination of the origins of Kwanzaa in 1966 in California under the auspices of Dr. Maulana Karenga. Kwanzaa, which is a seven-day celebration, pulls from African heritage celebrations known as the first fruits and highlights seven principles under which Africans in America should live and prosper.
Unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith are the seven principles, and each one is emphasized in community and family celebrations beginning December 26 of each year.
Kwanzaa is Afro-centered and, while not meant to replace traditional Christmas celebrations, it’s presented that Kwanzaa is an attitude that should be practiced throughout the year and not just in December.
The Black Candle is a documentary by M.K. Asante, Jr., and is narrated by esteemed poet Dr. Maya Angelou and iconic rapper Chuck D and has tremendous help from such noted scholars, writers and celebrities, both alive and deceased, as Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, James Baldwin, Haki Madhubuti and Baraka Amiri.
The Black Candle reviews the lack of cultural teachings for Africans in America, while noting that traditional European studies are alright, but that young African-American children also need more structured teachings about their ancestral heritage in Africa. To buttress this opinion, the movie examines the “doll” test, administered in the 1950’s by psychologist Kenneth B. Clark, in which black children choose a white doll over a black doll as being the best or nicest doll—one with which they want to play. The movie also queries blacks, both young and old, on their African history, with many admitting that they don’t know much about their collective heritage.
Filmed across the United States, Africa, Europe and the Caribbean, The Black Candle is a timely illumination on why the seven principles of Kwanzaa are so important to African Americans today. The Black Candle is the first feature film on the Kwanzaa tradition, which traces roots from the Black Power movement in the 1960’s to its present-day reality as a global, pan-African holiday, and it incorporates vivid cinematography.
It’s more than a film about a holiday, it’s a celebration of a people!
Elaine Hegwood Bowen is a veteran public relations and journalism professional and former journalism professor. She’s publicist for her daughter, Hip-Hop artist Psalm One. A native Chicago South Sider, Elaine was a recent University of Maryland Bio Ethics, Health Disparities & Clinical Trials Fellow and winner of a Black Press Messenger Award.
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