TheGrio Daily

Kwanzaa Has A Carol?

Episode 76

“Teddy Pendergrass will almost make you shout about Kwanzaa.” Did you know Kwanzaa has it’s own carol? Michael Harriot introduces his listeners to a Teddy Pendergrass song that has everything you need to get you in the Kwanzaa spirit. TheGrio Daily is an original podcast by theGrio Black Podcast Network. #BlackCultureAmplified


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

Michael Harriot [00:00:16] Hello and welcome to our special Kwanzaa edition of theGrio Daily, where I just sit back and tell you some stories, some funny, some poignant about Kwanzaa and one of the things that people wrongly do is compare Kwanzaa to Christmas. Because, you know, it’s the same time of year. So people think like Kwanzaa is a Christmas replacement, like a substitute Christmas. Nah, Kwanzaa ain’t substitute Christmas. Kwanzaa is it’s own thing. Kwanzaa, first of all, like you don’t have a Kwanzaa tree. You don’t go, well, I was going to say there are no Kwanzaa carols, but there is actually one, well, two Kwanzaa carols. Now, the first one, I don’t even know if we can get the rights to this, but, I don’t know if you know this, but Teddy Pendergrass actually made a Kwanzaa carol. 

Teddy Pendergrass [00:01:23] It’s alright. It’s a celebration. That shall last throughout the year. Happy Kwanzaa.  

Michael Harriot [00:01:36] I mean, and it’s called Happy Kwanzaa, right? First of all, it is one of the most spectacularly crazy songs that you’ll ever hear. I’ve listened to it, at minimum, I would say probably 3,726,423 times. And that was just the first day. First of all. I don’t know if Teddy Pendergrass celebrates coins. You know, I imagine that he was held at gunpoint by someone to make this Kwanzaa  carol, because, first of all, it’s got like a blues riff. And it sounds like everybody in the Kwanzaa carol nand had a Jheri Curl and they were fresh out of activator because they were playing hard, like they were not going to get that activator unless they made a hit Kwanzaa song. And then the thing about the the Kwanzaa carol, the Teddy Pendergrass Kwanzaa carol, is, first of all, everybody knows who Teddy Pendergrass is. Right? He’s one of the foremost makers of, uh, what we call hoochie coochie music in history. Right? Teddy Pendergrass makes music, it’s not romantic. It’s not love songs. 

Teddy Pendergrass [00:03:12] I just got to say that not to say that, you can’t hide from yourself. 

Michael Harriot [00:03:24] Teddy Pendergrass makes. Give me some songs. Teddy Pendergrass his music is really about, you know, turn off the lights is not romantic. It’s about a girl you’ve got to give me some of that thing. And he’s found a way to make a Kwanzaa song that is a give me some song, right? First of all, it starts out with Ooh Yeah. Like he is doing R&B. Ooh, like Jodeci level Oohs at the beginning of a Kwanzaa song, right? Ooohh. And the band is back to singing this is Kwanzaa. Like, first of all. I imagined that like this was repaying a debt after he lost some money on the spade circuit. On the underground spade circuit to a big bookie because I don’t know like they ain’t no way he was just sitting at home and say, you know what, I’m a make me a Ooh Yeah Kwanzaa song. And then when he starts singing, first of all, he sings just like random stuff about Kwanzaa, right? He’s talking about, like, what it means and then he just breaks into a really almost holy ghost filled break about how Kwanzaa helps you carry on. And I can’t sing like Teddy Pendergrass. So you have to listen to this song. 

Teddy Pendergrass – Happy Kwanzaa [00:05:00] When the principles that help us carry on. Happy Kwanzaa. 

Michael Harriot [00:05:13] Teddy Pendergraass will almost make you shout about Kwanzaa it and then halfway through the song, while he’s singing the chorus, if you listen closely, and I swear this is true. Again, you’re going to have to listen. You can hear. People whispering the days of Kwanzaa. It’s great. It’s one of the greatest thing ever. Like people are whispering. Habari Gani. Imani. Kuji. And they’re just whispering the days of Kwanzaa. It’s not like with any purpose of meaning. They’re just whispering the days of Kwanzaa. And if you think that wasn’t enough for a Kwanzaa carol. You just have to listen to the second half because if you make it to the second half of the song, there is a great surprise. There is a rap interlude in the Kwanzaa Hallelujah R&B Give Me Some song. For real. It’s got all the Black genres of music in one song. It’s got blues. It’s got R&B. It’s got hip hop. It’s got, like, gospel. It’s got all. Like Jesus and hip hop in one song. 

Teddy Pendergrass – Happy Kwanzaa [00:06:41] Lift up The Cup of Togetherness. Its that part of the year that you don’t want to miss? I give a gift from the heart, so you know it’s true. So recite a principle and tell me what it mean to you. 

Michael Harriot [00:06:50] I’m telling you, it’s one of the greatest songs ever made, the Kwanzaa carol. Right. It is not just one rapper. It’s two people rapping two different verses in the Kwanzaa in the Kwanzaa carol. It’s oh, my God it’s one of the greatest things that you’ve ever heard. So. I want to recommend not just that you download the Creole app, not just that you subscribe to this podcast, not just that you celebrate Kwanzaa and tell a friend about it. But I recommend that you download Happy Kwanzaa by Teddy Pendergrass to get you in the mood. It’s basically The Temptations’ Silent Night for Kwanzaa. It’s it’s you know, it’s is Donny Hathaway’s This Christmas for Kwanzaa. It’s it’s a church song for Kwanzaa. It’s a rap song for Kwanzaa. 

[00:07:53] You are now listening to theGriots Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified. 

Michael Harriot [00:08:00] One of the things that I think about every time I think about Kwanzaa is, I know we’ve talked about Kwanzaa carols, but, my hometown had their own Kwanzaa carol that was written by one of America’s foremost composers, Sister Rosalie Hunter. Sister Rosalie was one of my favorite people in the world. I think she was a music teacher. Although I’m not sure of that. All I know is she had a piano in her house and she used to let me play the piano because I used to take piano lessons. Because, you know, I’m not musically inclined like the rest of the people in my family. So I had to take piano lessons. Everybody else can play by ear. And when I would take the piano lessons, I would have to go practice in between piano lessonsa at Sister Rosa’s House. We call her Sister Rosa. Not Miss Rosa, not Ms. Hunter. She was Sister Rosa because she sang like Mahalia Jackson and she was gifted with the Holy Ghost at an early age. She also babysit all the people in my neighborhood like we got generations of people who grew up being babysat by Sister Hunter, and she directed the Kwanzaa’s the Kids Choir, where she wrote a song that became a Kwanzaa carol. And it’s called We Are Celebrating Kwanzaa. We Are Celebrating Kwanzaa is one of my favorite songs of all time. Everybody who grew up where I grew up would sing from their heart We Are Celebrating Kwanzaa. And We Are Celebrating Kwanzaa began just by saying, “We are celebrating Kwanzaa. And then Ms. Rosalie, Sister Hunter would say, “Yeah, yeah.” And then everybody, “We are celebrating Kwanzaa. Yeah, yeah, we are cel.” And right there. Before you get to that bridge. 

Michael Harriot [00:10:17] Sister Hunter would always just raise her hand and say “louder!” So that last part we say, “We are celebrating Kwanzaa and all the principles.” And then from there, everybody, the most gifted singers would have their own special verse, right? Like we would start off with, you know, Umoja and we would go through the Kwanzaa principles, verse by verse, singing. We’re celebrating Kwanzaa. And then at the end. The musicians would stop playing. And we would sing. We are celebrating Kwanzaa. The people who couldn’t sing would sing. We were celebrating Kwanzaa because the people who could sing, they would break off into their own melody and they would be singing the days of Kwanzaa, right? 

Michael Harriot [00:11:18] U-mo-ja.  Kuji-chagu-lia. 

Michael Harriot [00:11:24] Like they would be singing that while everybody was singing, we are celebrating Kwanzaa. And then all of the boys, the bass. They would be singing their own version. “We are celebrating Kwanzaa. We are cele. And when it came together, man, music stopped. And it was acapella, you know. And we were singing Acapulco. Man, that thing was sound so good. Everybody would just stand up and just listen, man to the Kwanzaa Kids Choir. Just turn that mother out. Right? We would put all those other scrub ass choirs to shame,  when we broke into that last part of the Kwanza carol, bro, we would be jamming. I’m telling you, I’m telling you. Right. I’m pretty sure that Mississippi Mass Choir probably want to try to steal our song. James Cleveland probably had a little bit to do with that. But the Kwanzaa carol, the problem with the Kwanzaa carol, was that the person who played the piano, she hated that song. I mean, she hated it. She thought it was a simple, dumb song. She didn’t realize what the purpose was. She hated that song. So her name was Janay. Janay would play that piano with contempt when we sang that Kwanzaa carol. Until one year Sister Hunter got sick and they put Janay in charge of the Kwanzaa Kids Choir. And Janay said on the first day of Kwanzaa Kids Choir practice we were not going to sing the Kwanzaa carol. 

Michael Harriot [00:13:24] Brah. I was so I was almost in tears. This was like. This is like. If somebody told you that you couldn’t sing Jingle Bells, that’s the name of the song Jingle Bells, I don’t know what a Jingle is. But if they told you you couldn’t sing Jingle Bells at Christmas. Yes, that’s how I felt, right? Like I was I wanted to write a letter to my state senator, but, you know, the mail don’t run real good on Christmas, so they probably wouldn’t have gotten there in time. And my mama would have kicked my butt if I used long distance. So I wanted to organize a protest, but nobody was with me. Other people hated the song, too. You know, my sisters and I love that song, though. My my sister could play it. The first thing she played, learned to play on her flute was she joined her little band in junior high was We Are Celebrating Kwanzaa. We love that song. We would sing it, you know, right before bedtime doing Kwanzaa. And so we were devastated. But then Janelle, Janay made it up to me by informing me that I could rap my own rap verse. I told ya’ll, in an early episode, I was one of the highest rated rappers in the PD area of lower middle South Carolina in my neighborhood. She told me I could write my own rap verse for the Kwanzaa carol, that she was making up. And so that kind of, you know, made it okay, even though I still love that song. 

Michael Harriot [00:15:02] So I wrote my first man. All of the choirs came for the the Last Day, man. Imani Day. We were going to turn that sucker out with that new, brand new, updated, revised hip hop version of a Kwanzaa carol. And we were all ready to sing it. When during the Kwanzaa celebration, Sister Hunter walked in door. Now everybody else, they were excited about singing this new Kwanzaa carol. But. I knew that that song meant a lot to Sister Hunter. I mean, I practiced in her house playing piano. I was her favorite piano person. I was her favorite kid in the neighborhood. I mean, Sister Hunter love me, man. She would sneak me extra cupcakes when she made those cupcakes with the candy inside, man. Or sometimes when she didn’t have extra cupcakes because a lot of kids showed up. Like, she would put all different kinds of candy in the cupcakes, but she would give me a special signal with her eyes. I would move my hand over the cupcakes, and she would let me know which one had a Mary Janes inside because she knew that was my favorite. And when I started rapping that rap verse in Janay’s Kwanzaa carol, I could see Sister Hunter’s heart breaking. I could see that she felt betrayed. And that was the last time I sang the Kwanzaa song, “We Are Celebrating Kwanzaa.” And from then on, like, nobody really saying “We Are Celebrating Kwanzaa.” And then one day, years later. After my sister was grown and had her first child. My sister used to make me take her children to the Kwanzaa celebration. And when she had her first child. Her child was sitting on my lap and she was just singing and yelling. I was just watching a football game. This is when you could watch the NFL. And I realize that she was just sitting there screaming, kind of not in tune, “We Are Celebrating Kwanzaa.” 

Michael Harriot [00:17:36] And I was like. Where did you learn that song from? She said Sister Hunter taught it to me. And I forgot Sister Hunter ain’t died. She still babysat all the kids in the neighborhood and she was still teaching kids the Kwanzaa song. The Kwanzaa song didn’t actually die. And just last year my mom sent me this video and it was a video of my niece singing the Kwanzaa song. But I thought it was my niece. And it wasn’t. It was my niece’s children. Third generation. Their children were singing the Kwanzaa song, “We Are Celebrating Kwanzaa.” 

Michael Harriot [00:18:31] And it wasn’t at our neighborhood Kwanzaa celebration. They had taken the song to their church in Charleston, South Carolina and those little kids had taught their children’s choir the Kwanzaa song, “We Are Celebrating Kwanzaa.” And so the Kwanzaa song is just like Bébé’s Kids. It will never die. In fact, it has multiplied. And that’s why. I want to thank you for listening to theGrio Daily. I want to thank you for subscribing. For telling a friend. For downloading that app. And I want to thank you for celebrating all seven days of Kwanzaa with us. And it’s always. We’re going to leave you with a Black saying and today’s Black saying is the traditional greeting of Kwanzaa Habari Gani? And always remember, we are celebrating Kwanzaa, and all the principles. 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 

[00:19:59] You are now listening to theGrio is Black Podcast Network. Black Culture Amplified.