I am a person that always likes to get to the heart of a matter. So it seems only fitting that in lieu of slicing tofurkey with friends, or stuffing myself with cranberry sauce alongside family, this year I will be spending the Thanksgiving holiday in Spain - arguably the origin of this “special” day. However I‘m not expecting a parallel Macy’s parade down the streets of Barcelona when I arrive next week. As one blogger posed “Why do Black people in America celebrate this day even more than the Europeans” Hmmmn, what do the Spanish know that we don’t?
I for one don’t want to hear any more excuses for how half a millennium later we are still practicing the traditions of our foremasters. And is it a coincidence that the day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday? Sure, we can all recite why we’ve been told the adjective “Black” is appropriate for the shadowed successor of turkey-day, but call me paranoid skeptic if there is something strange to me labelling the most consumerist day of the year following the most gluttonous day of the year “Black.” So, then what exactly, pray tell, are we to be grateful for, except 8 hours off from one workday to participate in the call and response dance of succulent indulgence followed by “itis”; only to somewhat recover and go shopping til we drop the next day (or for folks like my cousin--at the stroke of midnight!)? In that case “Black” sure enough is this holiday, in honor of the wool being pulled over our eyes – same wool that was permed and dyed to make a certain carpenter more, um, marketable. Yeah, thanks be to y’all!
Throughout the Diaspora and here in the U.S., never have I come across a Black family that did not celebrate Thanksgiving. In fact I have one Jamaican friend’s mother who has since refrained from inviting me to her most important family gathering after my first decline some years ago. Then there was the time I failed to convince my Ghanaian family that it was a better idea for me to spend the holiday at a “No Thanks No Giving” benefit Hip Hop concert in NYC rather than joining them at home for the holidays. It’s rare that I find folks in the Diaspora who share the sentiments expressed in Issue 66 of the Black Commentatator. And yet, there was one Thanksgiving in particular where I was reminded of the reason why African and Caribbean immigrants join their African-American brothers and sisters in celebrating this problematic holiday, all politics aside. This particular Thanksgiving, I sojourned to South Carolina. Driving past fields of cotton looking like historical mist swept and settled on southern soil. I could literally feel the living history being churned inside of me. A living history that could never be translated or conveyed through a Department of Education-sanctioned textbook. Somehow, observing an African-American family in South Carolina practice cultural traditions that mirrored the exact traditions practiced just a stones throw from where my parents came, like carbon copy, with generations and oceans in between nonetheless, left me aghast and enchanted, watching time folded like a paper napkin daintily wiping the lips of tradition. So OK I get it - Black folk celebrate the holiday not for Columbus’ perverse legacy as we all know, but indeed for the importance of staying together as family, in defiance of space and time. I can stick my fork into that.
Maybe then what I would propose is that, akin to Kwanzaa, we develop an ante-Thanksgiving (not to be confused with anti-Thanksgiving) holiday. This holiday could be what Black folks and other (formerly) colonized peoples use to reunite, eat, laugh and do all those good things that we already and inherently do during the holidays. And this new holiday would last from Wednesday through Friday, giving us enough time to stuff ourselves to the brim with food and family, and be resurrected in time for the weekend. Those shadowy holiday sales aren’t going anywhere, just like, and in competition with the traditions that truly keep us together.
As for me, this year, I will be celebrating my no-thanks with the Spaniards, and boy will I be celebrating no-thanks. As the saying goes, when in Rome, do what the Romans do. So if Spanish folk aren’t sitting around a table consuming pumpkin sauce and stuffing, well there’s not much I can do, now is there? Nevertheless, I will be spending time with family in Spain - and that’s what this holiday is truly all about, right? So in a way, I will really just be killing two turkeybirds with one Atlantic cornerstone. Touché!