RE JENICE ARMSTRONG'S Dec. 21 column:

Jenice, Kwanzaa is not a true holiday! It was made up by a lady from California who had strong desires to have a black celebration of some kind in this country. Kwanzaa is a nice idea for those who share its creator's feelings, but it is not truly part of the black American culture. Most black people know nothing about Swahili!

Even though we have those who talk about slavery and how it stripped black Americans of their roots, we should not attempt to falsify ourselves into being what we are not. We are black Americans, and we have contributed to the American culture, in spite of the negatives of racism and slavery. Kwanzaa will never be adopted as a black American holiday. Yes, we are derived from Africa with our blackness, but we are also derived from the Europeans and the natives of America. This is our homeland, and we as black Americans need to take ownership of what is rightfully ours. America is ours as well as any American, and it is time for us all to step up and teach black American children and families that this country is ours, too. We need to stop thinking about Kwanzaas and start demanding education for our people so that we will be able to survive in this world.

Norman Wilson, Harrisburg

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Congress and kids

The next Congress must invest in children. He doesn't care whether you are liberal or conservative. She doesn't care whether help comes from the federal, state or city government - or from somewhere else. They only hope it comes.

They are two of the nearly 16 million kids living in poverty in this country, two of the almost 10 percent of southeastern Pennsylvania's children who are poor, two of the more than 25 percent of Philadelphia's kids who are waiting for the American dream to move them closer to their reality.

The current reality of their lives is one where failure visits often: in school, in the neighborhood, in the empty kitchen cabinets, in the house. The long-term effects of poverty are up close and personal for them: increased anger, neglect, poor health, risk-taking, violence and joblessness. The future doesn't look much better for them - or for us - unless we all work together to change these trends.

We can do this if we decide it's important enough.

Are our kids - all of them - important enough? Is our community's future important enough? Recent studies show the United States has fallen far below most other industrialized nations in almost every child well-being indicator. We can and must do better.

As the 112th Congress prepares to take the oath of office on Jan. 3, will they take seriously the serious condition of the children of the country? Or will they listen to the siren song of more cuts that in the end will only make us all bleed? It is time to invest in what matters, the children and families of the country.

Shelly Yanoff,

Executive Director

Public Citizens for Children

and Youth Philadelphia