As the seven-day African-American festival of Kwanzaa begins today, the abundance of sites explaining and celebrating the holiday is illustrative of the growth of the black community online.
Afrocentric site NetNoir has a colorful and accessible Kwanzaa offering, sponsored by giants Bank of America and Kraft. The site features a history of the holiday, which was founded in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chair of the Department of Black Studies at California State University at Long Beach. Also detailed are the principles behind the holiday, games for children, information about the U.S. Postal Service's Kwanzaa stamp, an essay that reconciles the dilemma of Christians torn over whether to celebrate Kwanzaa, recipes, and a holiday-related bookstore (in partnership with BarnesandNoble.com).
It's Kwanzaa Time offers a more studious look at the holiday, with speeches in text and RealAudio by Karenga. The site features editorials about the debate over the commercialization of Kwanzaa (a Swahili word that means "first fruits of the harvest"), as well as pictures, music samples from a new Kwanzaa CD, and a list of holiday events in the Chicago area.
The Kwanzaa Information Center, put together by MelaNet, which touts itself as "the uncut black experience" online, also offers a multimedia look at the holiday, complete with a guide to national Kwanzaa events. The information presented about Kwanzaa is comprehensive and organized into chapters. Also, as part of the community push at this site, there are chats on various Kwanzaa-related issues and an online bazaar selling traditional gifts for the holiday, such as ceremonial items and clothing.
With 18 million people and counting now celebrating Kwanzaa, commercial interests are sprouting up as well. Hallmark, whose Mahogany card series is aimed at black consumers, hosts a site about the holiday that offers more than just the requisite advertisements for cards. It presents a look at the seven principles of Kwanzaa, with transliterated Swahili, as well as information about and pictures of the seven symbols of the holiday.