“If you won the Kuumba day talent show, you were basically a celebrity for the next 364 days.” Kuumba Day is meant to spark creativity as you celebrate Kwanzaa and for a young Michael Harriot that meant participating in his local talent show but one year his highly anticipated performance almost didn’t happen. Michael wraps up his special holiday stories with a hilarious family remedy that saved his big performance.
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Michael Harriot [00:00:15] Habari Gani? And welcome to our Kwanzaa edition of theGrio Daily, where I just sit here and basically tell you stories about growing up celebrating Kwanzaa in my memories. One of my favorite memories about Kwanzaa is about Kuumba Day. Kuumba is the day of Kwanzaa, where we celebrate creativity. Now, you could do this in all kinds of ways. For instance, one year we did a project where everyone created a mural on the wall. All the kids got together and we kind of each had a little section and we did a big mural for Kuumba Day. Art teacher would come and take the little kids and give little art lessons and everybody would get in front. And I know you’re not going to believe this because, you know, this kind of symbolizes a lot of privilege. And I want to brag about my childhood, but because I celebrated Kwanzaa, I had one of the most, most wanted items that a child could have in their life. Yep. Because of Kuumba I had the 64 box Crayola. I’m telling you, I’m talking about the big spending one. That’s like that’s like the $64 bottle of Hennessy, right? Like when you get that box of Crayola crayons that has the pencil sharpener on the box, bruh, you balling. That is probably, I’m not sure because I never talk to them, but I think that’s what Cash Money Records was talking about when they made that song Bling Bling, like the 64 black box of Crayola.
Michael Harriot [00:02:20] Like because they had, like, about 17 different shades of yellow in it. Like, I’m telling you. 64 crayon box of Crayola is the childhood equivalent of like PlayStation 5. Like now, that would be like getting a VR virtual reality headset for Christmas. I’m telling you, that 64 box of Crayola was was crucial and I got one because of Kuumba Day. And another thing that we do on Kuumba Day every Kuumba Day, this was a big Kuumba Day celebration. We’d have a talent show and the talent show would be filled with people who knew they were going to be stars. If you won the Kuumba Day talent show, like you were basically a celebrity for the next 364 days. 365 if it was a leap year. You were basically the neighborhood celebrity. Like everyone knew that you might just get signed to Motown. Usually the winner was somebody who sang acapella. It was one group that used to dominate the Kuumba Day celebration. But. There was one year where I was determined to take them down. Now, the thing about the Kuumba Day celebration is you had to recruit, right? Like you just couldn’t go out there by yourself because you’ve got to be facing like real stiff competition. It was kind of like like Star Search.
Michael Harriot [00:04:23] It was the Kwanzaa version of American Idol, basically or Kwanzaa got talent. It was probably like that. Right. So you had to recruit like, you know, the best group of singers. They were interchangeable because everybody wanted to be in that group. Right. First of all, it was two staples, that dude named Eric Lucky and a dude named Lariats Bird. Lariats Bird and Eric Lucky. Like Eric Lucky was kind of like the Ralph Tresvant of that time. I mean, that boy sang. He had a voice like El DeBarge, like a nice falsetto that was clear as a bell. And Lariats Bird, he was like, Lariats Bird had a beard when he was like in the third grade. He had a deep voice and he sang all the bass parts while Lariats Bird and Eric Lucky, all they had to do was just fill in the middle with somebody who could hold a note. And it was almost guaranteed to win the Kuumba Day talent show. And. I wanted to win that Kuumba Day talen show so bad that I had to form my own rap group.
[00:05:43] Now, I was already in a well-known rap group because again, I was one of the highest rated rappers in the PD area. I probably should have been on the cover of my neighborhood’s version of The Source magazine. But, you know, we didn’t have a Xerox copier back then. But my rap group couldn’t make it to Kuumba Day that year because the partner in my rap group, the deejay, you know, his grandmother lived in Baltimore, so they visited her. So I had to form my own rap group. So me and my friend Gino Hawkins, we created a group called The Fresh Force Rock. So me and Gino, Gino, who had already had a Kuumba Day trophy for when he sang with Lariats and Eric, he decided to be in my group because we was best friends and Gino could sing too. So we were going to surprise and wow the crowd with our rendition of our own self-made rap. And he was going to sing in the middle.
Michael Harriot [00:06:59] There was just one problem. A couple of days before Kuumba Day I got the flu. My goodness. I mean, it was probably like more than the flu was probably like COVID-12 or COVID-13. It was probably an early version of COVID. Boy, I could not breathe. I coughed every time I took a breath. But I just had to make it to that Kuumba Day talent show. And there was only one thing that I could do call on Jesus. And by Jesus, I meant my grandma, because my grandmother had, like, special Holy Ghost powers that could heal you. And my grandmother also was very, like she didn’t practice witchcraft or anything, so that’s not where her powers came from the Lord on high. But she also had a bunch of home remedies in the African tradition. So this is what my grandmother told me to do to get rid of my cold. I had to pee in a cup. And then she was going to pray over the court. And I was going to have to drink my own pee. Turn the club upside down. And she promised by the next morning, my cold would be gone. And I thought my grandma was crazy. Oh, hell, no. I’m not peeing in a cup.
Michael Harriot [00:08:32] My sisters were laughing because it’s like, if you want to win the Kuumba Day parade, I mean Kuumba Day show, you going to have to pee in the cup and drink your own pee. So grandmother sat that cup on that table. And said, like, when you ready, just let me know. And so I peed in the cup. My grandmother prayed over it. Turned the cup upside down. And lo and behold, I woke up the next morning, and I swear to ya’ll that cold was gone. And me and Gino we went to that Kuumba Day show and we won first place. As a matter of fact, it’s like you could probably look it up in the Guinness Book of World Records. We were the first hip hop group to win the Heartsville, South Carolina Kuumba Day show. I’m sure that’s at least in the newspapers somewhere. Like if you look through the archives and we won a hundred dollars for that Kuumba Day talent show and a gift certificate to Po’boy’s Restaurant, which was owned by my friends parents and I could probably eat it for free any way, but just like balling out with like a whole plate of a shrimp for my Kuumba day winnings. It was like one of the best feelings in my life.
Michael Harriot [00:10:01] Now, from then on, whenever my sisters and I got in a roasting session they would always roast me about the time that I drank my own pee. And you know, I have to admit that prayer works. I have to admit that my grandmother does have superpowers. But I also have to admit that I lied to my grandmother and I lied to the world. Because I took that cup of pee after my grandmother prayed over it and poured it in the toilet stole, too, because ain’t no way. And I poured it into toilet stole, because. I mean, I love Kwanzaa, but not enough to drink my own pee. And that’s why Kuumba is important because you have to be creative if you want to eat shrimp. And that’s also why you have to download theGrio app. That’s why you have to subscribe to this podcast, and that’s why you got to tell a friend about Kwanzaa and this particular podcast. And that’s also why we leave you with the traditional saying of Kwanzaa, Habari Gani? 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 dot com.
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