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‘Kwanzaa, Actually’ comedy web series tackles criticisms to freshen up the holiday

HBO comedy writer Kerry Coddett, the force behind Brooklyn’s Kwanzaa Crawl, wrote and stars in the series.

Rob (Rob Haze) doesn't celebrate -- or understand -- Kwanzaa, but his girlfriend, Kerry (Kerry Coddett), clears up Rob's criticisms and misconceptions about the widely misunderstood celebration of black heritage in this humorous web series. (Credit: Kerry Coddett)

One Bed-Stuy resident is aiming to help people get “woke” about Kwanzaa.

Comedian Kerry Coddett, the producer of the Kwanzaa Crawl and a writer for a forthcoming late-night comedic docuseries on HBO produced by John Oliver, created a web series to clear up some misconceptions about Kwanzaa, including the allegation that it’s a “made up holiday.”

Four quickly paced YouTube videos, titled “Kwanzaa, Actually,” after the beloved Christmas film “Love Actually,” feature Coddett (Kerry) and Rob Haze (Rob) talking about the holiday in Coddett’s apartment and hilarity ensues.

“Aren’t all holidays made up?” Kerry tells Rob while they’re lying in bed. “Isn’t it crazy that people will celebrate a rodent [the Easter bunny] before they’ll celebrate black people?”

The two banter about Kwanzaa through all four episodes, like when Rob says the principles of the holiday — umoja (unity), kujuchagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity) and imani (faith) — sound like the cast of “The Lion King,” but notes he can get on board because Beyoncé is joining the cast.

Incredulous, Kerry tells him they sound like Swahili names because they actually are.

When Rob dismisses the entire holiday because the founder of Kwanzaa (Maulana Karenga) was convicted in 1971 of assault and false imprisonment, Kerry answered that his alleged crimes had nothing to do with the principles and purpose behind the holiday. Finding common ground, together they come up with a Kwanzaa mascot — Santa Kwan.

Everything Rob says in the series is something somebody has said online to Coddett since she started celebrating Kwanzaa two years ago, she said.

“I was disheartened by some people’s pushback about it,” she said. “There’s a lack of education and information about the holiday, and the stuff that was out there wasn’t catchy to me . . . it wasn’t inviting.”

To that end, she looked at critiques people had and messages people wrote to her when she put on the inaugural Kwanzaa Crawl last year and responded to it in the series.

As a stand-up comedian, Coddett, 30, felt she was able to clear up those misconceptions in a way that would hit — with millennials, especially.

“’Make Kwanzaa cool again,’ is our campaign,” she said. “People are talking about being ‘woke’ now, about unpacking and exploring things we dismissed or didn’t know anything about.”

That was also her hope when she kicked off Kwanzaa Crawl in Brooklyn, which found 1,600 people buying from and supporting black-owned bars in Bed-Stuy, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, Clinton Hill, Fort Greene and Harlem.

“It’s important now more than ever to re-invest in our community and become civically engaged and politically involved,” she said. “The energy of the crawl can’t be captured in pictures — I don’t think I’ve ever been in a place where I felt that much love for an entire day. It’s time to make Kwanzaa young and fresh again.”

The second annual Kwanzaa Crawl is set for Tuesday from noon to 11 p.m. Those who want to participate can register online for $20.

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