TheGrio Daily

A Kwanzaa Starter Jacket Story

Episode 79
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“It was up to me and my two cousins, Squeak and Fred, to go around our neighborhood and try to get back my family’s coats.” Michael Harriot shares a story that nearly brings tears to his eyes involving a Georgetown starter jacket and a Kwanzaa miracle that happened on Imani day years ago. 

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[00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified. 

Michael Harriot [00:00:15] Hello and welcome to the Kwanzaa edition of theGrio Daily. You know, we’ve been doing Kwanzaa all this week, right? And today we’re going to talk about Kwanzaa gifts. Kwanzaa gifts are not like Christmas gifts, because you don’t get like big time presents for Kwanzaa. Right? Like for one Kwanzaa I got, like my first I still remember my first Kwanzaa gift. It was a See and Say, you know, that thing where you pull the string and it’s a cow goes, moo. Right. Like that was my first Kwanzaa gift. I don’t know how old I was, but that was the first one I remember. It was either that or you remember those cars where you stick the little zip tie in them and pull it out in the car. I would go one of those two things was my first Kwanzaa so that you could see they weren’t expensive gifts. They were just fun gifts. Sometimes you would get gifts, like one year we got a gift of a little flower pot and we planted beans in our flower pot and we had to take care of the beanstalk until the next Kwanzaa. 

Michael Harriot [00:01:41] Supposedly, like my my beanstalk had died by like probably by New Year’s Eve my beanstalk was dead. I didn’t water it because like it was fun doing Kwanzaa. But then after that, like it was like that was kind of a trash gift. But my mama would kinda go all out. My family didn’t celebrate Christmas, so like our Kwanzaa gifts were kind of our Christmas gifts. But we wouldn’t get the big gift until, you know, the last day. And so when I was in college I came home and I wanted this is what I really wanted a Starter jacket. This was when the Starter jackets was in style. Right. And I really wanted a Starter jacket. I knew I was going to get it for Kwanzaa. But, you know, that was my request. I wanted a Kwanzaa jacket. You don’t have anything to do it. Kwanzaa. I wanted the Georgetown one. Remember when everybody thought Georgetown was a HBCU? That was, you know, back in the days when Patrick Ewing was there. But I really wanted a Georgetown Starter jacket. 

Michael Harriot [00:02:57] So Kwanzaa, you know, all of my cousins, all of my family would come and they would stay. And we’d go to Kwanzaa celebration every, every day. Even when I when I went to college, I would come home because the Kwanzaa celebration was kind of like my neighborhood’s homecoming. Right. Like all black people would see each other at the Kwanzaa celebration behind at Young and Young’s Funeral Home. We’ll kick it sometimes, like as an adult right now after Kwanzaa celebration, like the adults would go we’ll go out to a bar or like in my neighborhood, Applebee’s, and have drinks, you know, just kick it, right? Like that’s how we celebrate Kwanzaa. But this year, I really wanted that Starter jacket. And I came home. All of my sister’s friends were from home, from college. All my cousins were there and. Even my cousin that had an addiction problem, he was there. You know, like it’s Kwanzaa, like he probably ain’t gonna act up. And I got home, I’m putting up my stuff from college, I see tucked in the back of the closet, it was the coat closet where everybody hung their coats, was a brand new Starter jacket. I didn’t tell my mom that I saw it because you know how I was going to act surprised. I was happy as heck, though, because, like, you don’t get that kind of Kwanzaa gift all the time. 

Michael Harriot [00:04:36] So, you know, I was going to give her, you know, her opportunity to let me be surprised. I didn’t see anything about it, but I just could not wait to that last day of Kwanzaa to get my Starter jacket. Everybody’s there, you know, I’m thinking about how to be fresh when I go out with my friends. I’m thinking about how I’m going to put on that Kwanzaa jacket and be fresh when I go out with my friends for the after Kwanzaa celebration. I’m really excited. Right? And our house is filled. What last year Kwanzaa comes we get ready to walk to the Kwanzaa celebration because it was like right around the corner from my house and it was so many of us, we couldn’t all fit in one car. So everybody goes there to grab their coats. And there are no coats in the closet. Literally everyone’s coats are gone. My cousin, who again was struggling with addiction, had stolen everybody’s coats and just sold them. And it was up to me and my two cousins, Squeak and Fred to just go around our neighborhood and try to get back my family’s coat. Cause I’m the only boy, right? And it wasn’t just my sisters and me. It was my mom. It was my sister’s friends from college. It was my cousins. It was kind of embarrassing going to people and say, “I don’t mean, you know, accuse you of anything but you don’t have a coat that somebody sold you?” So we finally get back all the coats. And, you know, my cousins are happy because everybody got their coats back and I’m dejected because I mean, I don’t have my Starter jacket. Like I know Kwanzaa is not about that. And I’m not a materialistic person, but I mean, I saw the Kwanzaa jacket. You got to understand. I saw it hanging up there. It was just in my size. I had already laid out me a outfit. You know how you lay out your outfits in the back of the chair. 

Michael Harriot [00:06:59] I laid out an outfit that was going to match my Kwanzaa jacket, man. I was sad. Everybody was wondered like, Why are you so sad? We got back all the coats. We’re going to be warm. We can go to the Kwanzaa celebration. Why are you so sad? But I didn’t have my Kwanzaa Starter jacket. And as we go to the Kwanzaa celebration. For the last day, which is the day that the Deltas give away their bikes, so everybody’s there, we see one of my friends the same age as me standing outside with a brand new Georgetown Starter jacket. And I know him. And I know like we had when I was in the seventh grade, we were about the same size. But he was what? In the African-American community we call swole. So we had to fight in wrestling class when I was like in the seventh grade and his name was Leonard. Leonard drug me all over that wrestling match because he was he was swole, he cocked diesel. He was, you know, he had, you know, arms like a WWE wrestler. He was, you know, he was cocked diesel. He was built like a college dorm room refrigerator. But I want my Starter jacket. 

Michael Harriot [00:08:46] So I walked up to him in the nicest way possible. And. I say Leonard I don’t mean to accuse you of anything, man, but I think you got to Starter jacket. He said, “Nah, I bought this Starter jacket.” I say, “Leonard, who did you buy it from?” “Your cousin.” I say, Well Leonard he stole that, that was going to be my Kwanzaa gift.” He’s like, “Your what?” “Yeah, yeah, that was that was my Imani gift and my momma had bought it for me because she know I had wanted a Starter jacket for Imani and so she had bought me a Imani gift and it was a Starter jacket. So like, like, so I know that they’re hers because they don’t even sell them around here. And so when you give me back my Imani jacket.” And Leonard looked at me. And without saying a word. He just put his hands on a Starter jacket. Open it up. And showed me a gun tucked in his waistband. That’s all I had to see. Apparently, you got your new jacket, bro. And I went inside that Kwanzaa celebration like I had no intentions of ever having a jacket in my life. And my cousins. They walked away. And we just celebrated Kwanzaa. And it was a Kwanzaa. 

[00:10:40] And then later, I got home. And I open the door. I’m teary eyed just thinking about this and my mama had a Starter jacket waiting for me. I later learned that Leonard had came by and talk to my mom. And she talked him out of that Starter jacket and he gave her the Starter jacket. And that was how I got an Imani jacket for Kwanza because that is faith. And that’s why I didn’t die for a Starter jacket that was stolen from me as soon as I got back to college. Man, I would like to think that somebody prayed for that Starter jacket who needed it and right now that Starter jacket is somewhere in the world keeping someone warm. But that’s why Kwanzaa is one of my favorite holidays because we gave the gift of Georgetown to the world. And that’s why you should subscribe to this podcast. That’s why you got to download that Grio app. And that’s why you got to tell a friend. And as always, we leave you with the traditional Kwanzaa greeting Habari Gani? Stay warm out there. And thank you for listening to theGrio daily. If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review. Download theGrio app, subscribe to the show and share it with everyone you know. Please email all questions, suggestions and compliments to podcasts at theGrio.com. 

[00:12:52] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified.