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  • Writer's pictureDarian

KuchuQwanzaa: Holiday Celebration Expands On The Original, Affirms Black LGBTQ+ Experience

Louis F. Graham (left) and Marcus R. White (right), founders of KuchuQwanzaa in 2009.

Between December 2019 and May 2020, Joshua Henry Jenkins, co-creator of “Black, Gay, stuck at home,” lost two of his closest Black queer friends—Dr. Louis F. Graham, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Promotion and Policy at The University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Marcus R. White, an Assistant Professor of Dance at Arizona State University.

The sudden loss was incomprehensible and rippled throughout the marginalized and artistic communities in which their work was rooted, specifically, but not limited to the cities of Chapel Hill and Greensboro, where Jenkins first encountered the former romantic partners as undergraduate students at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill during the early stages of creating KuchuQwanzaa—a 7-day celebration and expression of Black LGBTQ+ cultural principles, values, and ideals that expands on the more widely known Kwanzaa celebration.

“The idea of interrogating or flipping Kwanzaa on its head to be Black and queer meant that Louis [Graham] and Marcus [White] wanted to also interject those ideologies into the name,” Jenkins says.

“Kuchu is a phrase that was coined by East African LGBTQ folks as an empowering sort of naming of self, versus, perhaps, the less than pleasant names that were being used and weaponized against them,” he adds. “And so the Kuchu is a prefix of sorts to Kwanzaa, and then they decided to also infuse queer ideology into Kwanzaa by switching out the K for Q. So that's how the name came to be.”

Jenkins tells The Reckoning that while both celebrations are rooted in family, Graham and White created their celebration with a focus on chosen family.

“We oftentimes anchor the holidays in given family, and I think they had a desire to make something that would allow for chosen family to gather and for chosen family to affirm and to love on each other and to honor those who came before,” Jenkins says.

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