Kwanzaa and the Art of Intimacy

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Harold Michael Harvey and Cynthia Marsh Harvey. Photo credits Herbert Dennard

Kwanzaa and the art of intimacy, what is it? How is it expressed? Can affection be communicated through conversation? Can it be shared through the nuances of the silent beat in between the rhythmic beat of life? What does Kwanzaa have to do with intimacy?

A recent social media post to my Facebook page stirred my interest in this topic. I posted a picture of our table setting before Christmas dinner this year. My wife and I are the proud parents of one child, a son, whose work requires that he live in Cincinnati, Ohio.

This year like Christmas last year, his job as a sports writer for a significant media outlet prevented him from coming home for Christmas. We have grown accustomed to the fact that once the professional football season begins, we are not likely to see him until after the Super Bowl. This year we flew to Cincinnati on Thanksgiving day to have dinner with him and some of his friends.

Usually, the wife and I will have an intimate dinner in the breakfast nook of our home with Christmas music in the background. This year we decided that although it was just the two of us, we would have Christmas dinner in the dining room, with linen napkins and our most delicate china. We had spent the day in prayer and meditation, developing an intimate connection to the source of our being. It was a delightful day.

Seating arrangement

In selecting our seating arrangement, we decided to sit as if we were surrounded by family members, as we had been in Christmases past. We would, in essence, invite the ancestors to dine with the two of us, as they had done when they were on this side. So, I sat at the head of the table. My wife sat at the other end of the table.

During our meal, we talked about the time various members of the family had gathered around the dining room table and shared Thanksgiving and Christmas cheer. We reflected on those who had transitioned before we built our home twenty-five years ago this month. With Kwanzaa following on the next day, we thought this was a perfect time to call upon the ancestors in the tradition of Kwanzaa.

It was as if we were sharing the intimacy of this year’s dinner with them. Family members like my Uncle Paul. He transitioned six months before he was to marry us, and with Lester Marsh, my father in the law, who did the same, the month before we moved into our abode. With my grandmother, who moved to the other side two months after we moved into our home; with my uncles, John and Heyward and Aunt Charlie Mae, who were present in our house the Year, we welcomed the 21st century into our lives.

Following this beautiful intimate dinner with my bride of thirty-four years, I checked out my Facebook post and was amazed to find that several people thought that just because it was the two of us, we should have been seated closer together.

“You should be close every chance you get,” one friend opined.

In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with their suggested seating arrangement, but we had a larger purpose in mind on this occasion. We wanted to enjoy the remainder of Christmas and to begin preparation for Kwanzaa observance.

Others talked about the missed opportunity at intimacy.

There are a time and place for everything under the sun, including a time to honor the ancestors who may choose to warm us with pleasant memories of themselves. What better time to reflect on the birth of the Messiah? The lessons He taught, and the interpretation of those lessons by the ancestors? God knows our contemporaries in the Gospel do not have a clue.

Cyn and I, being empty nesters for nearly a decade in a spacious home, often share intimate moments during a day. On days like today, when neither of us has to go out, I usually arise while she is still dreaming, make a pot of coffee and bring a cup of java back upstairs for her before she awakes. On days when she has to go out before I am awake, she will leave a fruit bowl for me in the refrigerator and will take my coffee cup from the cupboard and have it ready for me on the counter. Small things that mean a lot in daily living, much more than sitting next to each other at dinner time, especially when the ancestors may desire to pay a visit.

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Pictured are the grandparents of the writer Charles and Puella Coley Harvey. artist rendition by Coley Harvey

As we begin Kwanzaa observance this year, remember to make room for intimacy with the ancestors. They want to hear from you. Call their names. Layout your hopes and dreams listen to their instructions on how you can turn those hopes and dreams into reality. Call their names: Joseph Harvey, Paul Coley, Charles Harvey, Puella Coley Harvey, Dollie Harvey Dixon, Wayne Harvey, Frank, and Minnie Bell Johnson…

Harold Michael Harvey is the author of Freaknik Lawyer: A Memoir on the Craft of Resistance. He is a Past President of the Gate City Bar Association. He is the recipient of Gate City’s R. E. Thomas Civil Rights Award, which he received for his pro bono representation of Black college students arrested during Freaknik celebrations in the mid to late 1990s. An avid public speaker, contact him at hmharvey@haroldmichaelharvey.com.

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Harvey is Living Now Book Awards 2020 Bronze Medalist for his memoir Freaknik Lawyer: A Memoir on the Craft of Resistance. Available at haroldmichaelharvey.com

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