Posts Tagged ‘Kwanzaa’


In 2006, my wife and I moved to Los Angeles, so I could pursue my screenwriting career.

Thanks to the networking skills of my buddy David, I went to work right away writing a script.  It was a frightening tale about a serial killer with an odd sense of social justice.  (I’ll just leave it at that.)

Bringing my press secretary work ethic to Hollywood, I surprised many by completing a first draft in less than six months.

Soon, I was going from meeting to meeting.  Paramount Studios.  The William Morris Agency.  Life was exciting — but far from good.

Since I throw myself into my work, my wife noticed the nefarious storyline was slowly corrupting my soul and personality.

Finally, the holidays came. In an attempt to bring light back into my world, she started pitching story ideas to write about that were filled with good cheer.

Each one, I rudely rejected.

Nothing worked, but she kept on trying.  Finally, she said the words that would change the direction of our lives forever…

“Maybe you should write a Kwanzaa movie?” she said as we passed a store-front display.    It worked.

“Me? A Kwanzaa movie?” I said with a smile.  Not many people are as white as I am.  In fact, once someone jokingly asked me my street name and I literally gave them my home address.

“Yeah,” she continued. “You can call it Kwanzaa Klaus.”

By the time we finished our walk, I had the whole story outlined.  Likewise, my spirit was lifted.  Later that week, I pitched the idea to a life-long friend who was working with Adam Sandler.

“I’d read it,” he said, so I wrote it.

Several weeks later, I had a finished copy, and I sent it to one of the assistants I met at William Morris.    He was kind enough to give me a few notes.  With that, I sat down, completed the first rewrite, and resubmitted it.

Things move slowly in Hollywood, so I moved on to writing a new project.   During that time, I approached my good friend, John “Rusty” Proctor.

“Hey, would you mind reading a script I wrote?”

“No problem,” he said with a smile.  Rusty always smiles.  He read the title out loud. “‘TWAS? What’s it about, Christmas?”

“No.  It’s about Kwanzaa,” I added.   And so began the awkward reactions I would received since.

“Cool, cool,” Rusty added.  Rusty always adds “Cool, cool” — and he put the script under his arm and walked off.

While writing the script, I researched the Festival of Kwanzaa and became in enamored with its teachings and traditions.  So, I asked Rusty to read it because I didn’t want to write a script that offended people — African-Americans, to be specific.

I have many friends of many races and backgrounds, however, Rusty was the only one of my friends that was both African-American and a fellow struggling screenwriter — like me; and I wanted to see if his background could provide any insight that might be helpful.

I didn’t expect an immediate response.  So, I was surprised when he called me the next day.

“Hey, I just finished reading your script.  I couldn’t put it down,” he said.

“So, what did you think,” I asked with the constant insecurity every artist possesses.

“It pissed me off,” he added.  I was shocked into silence, then Rusty added,  “I’m pissed off that I didn’t write this.  I never told you, but I celebrate Kwanzaa each year when I get to go back to D.C.”

This may sound trite, but a life-long friendship began at that moment.  And, if you ask my wife, I am not good at close relationships.

Rusty brought the script to a friend who was a producer.  Meetings followed, and so did the awkwardness every time I was introduced as the writer.

The script was optioned.  Life was both exciting and good — then came the Writer’s Strike and just like that … it all ended.

To make ends meet, I started to teach, and soon discovered another calling.  Life, as they said, went on.

As my boys grew, I started putting them to bed by telling stories.  One night, I dusted off Kwanzaa Klaus and began reading it at night, minus the “INTeriors, EXTeriors and CUT TOs.”

Finally, I formatted the story as a book and published it.  My good friend Rusty wrote the Forward.

For me, Kwanzaa holds a special place in my life.

Kwanzaa drew me from darkness.  Kwanzaa saved my marriage.  Kwanzaa gave me a friend like no other. Kwanzaa drew me closer to my boys.

With that, for me, Kwanzaa means Light; Kwanzaa means Love;  Kwanzaa means Friendship;  Kwanzaa means Family.

All of these are the first fruits of life, are they not?

Because of all these things, every year, my family celebrates Kwanzaa.

We may not light a Kinara.  (However, my nine-year-old just took a book about Kwanzaa from the school library, so maybe we may start.) We do, though, celebrate the seven core principles of Kwanzaa in our hearts; the principles of Unity, Responsibility, Cooperation, Family, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith.

But, don’t we all?

Recently, I received a phone call from someone who was familiar with the project when it was still just a screenplay.

“We’d like to turn Kwanzaa Klaus into an audio-book and try to drum up interest in the screenplay again.  Can you think of anyone we should ask to narrate it.”

I could only think of one name … John “Rusty” Proctor.

In the end, Kwanzaa means Hope.


Heri za Kwanzaa.

K Klaus audio cover

James Henry is the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, Kwanzaa Klaus, Hail Mary series, and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL!  As a writer, James has been widely featured on Bob Salter (CBS Radio), Mike Siegel, Mancow, and more. Beyond writing, James worked with At-Risk youth in Southern California for over six years.  His contributions to the classroom where featured on local television and in the LA Daily News and Burbank Leader, and earned him the honors of “Teacher of the Year”.  James was also twice honored by a CASDA Scholar, as the teacher who most influenced their academic career.  He has also appeared twice, as an educator, on “America Live with Megyn Kelly”.

Today, James lives in New York where he continues to teach — and write.

To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.


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For me, nothing is more intriguing than the transformation of  Nicholas of Myra, a humble man of means who became a saint and then evolved into the legendary Santa Claus.

His legend was catapulted into iconic status after the Troy Sentinel published “A Night Before Christmas” in 1823, giving America its first real glimpse at a jolly old elf named St. Nick.

It’s hard to believe that Saint Nicholas’ status could grow any larger.

Now, almost two hundred years later, comes a story of a father and son who explored the saintly legend of Nicholas, the international Yuletide gift-giver, and discovered so much more.

You see, it doesn’t matter if your family celebrates Christmas; or even if your family, like so many others, celebrates more than one holiday during the season.  As long as one holds the spirit of giving in one’s heart, be it during Christmas, Kwanzaa or Hanukkah, there’s a gift-giver for YOU!

Soon, the father/son team unveil another well-guarded secret about the kindhearted figure is revealed.

Saint Nicholas not only delivers gifts worldwide but his appearance magically changes – albeit unknowingly, so that he looks and sounds identical to the people of that particular culture.

So, as he completes his nightly deliveries, he changes from Kris Kringle to Sheng Dan Lau Ren to Papa Noel to Chief Hobbythacco and back, depending on the region of the world he appears and reappears, earning the title:  KLAUS: THE GIFT-GIVER TO ALL!


James Dobkowski

James Henry is also the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul, ‘TwasHail Mary series, and two children’s books: The Second Prince and Klaus: The Gift-giver to ALL!  To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com.

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Getty Images | Connie Coleman

When I was in college, my housemate, Larry, was BSU president. For those who don’t know what that is: BSU stands for Black Student Union.

Larry introduced me to blood sausage and collard greens, Back bacon, the switch (in name only), Marvin Gaye and most of all, what it meant to be African in America.

In fact, he was the first person I ever met to use the term African to describe his ancestry — not Black, not Colored, nothing hyphenated — just African.

From listening to the stories of his father, I learned about the struggles of the African diaspora in America.

I cried when I discovered how, as a child, his father – a military man – watched a younger brother die from eating lye because the white hospital, in his small Texas community, would not admit this dying child because of his skin color

“The Black Hospital was just too far away,” I was told and they couldn’t make it in time and the child was left to die in his mother’s arms.

“How could you still serve a country that allowed that to happen to your little brother?” I remember thinking. But he did – and did so proudly.

In this man, I saw great strength and witnessed the respect he garnered from it. However, sadly, I also saw him bend to the point of breaking after describing how a police officer, in their small Montana town, called him “Boy” during a routine stop.

Though the officer was forced to publicly apologize for his ignorance, it wasn’t the apology that has stuck with me after all these years. It was the woeful words of a father to a son, sadly wondering, “When is it going to end?”

From these experiences, I learned about importance of the Black family, of Black unity, and the roots of Black culture — and how these three are so tightly woven into the fabric of America they often go unnoticed. Like the strands of our DNA, without these strong imperceptible threads, the fabric of our nation could not stay bound.

Gladly, not every experience was so melancholy. Many good memories were shared.

There were the BSU socials and parties. Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson and En Vogue were all hot back then. And since Larry was BSU president, our house on Higgins Avenue in Missoula, Montana was party central.

Then, there was the time I walked into the living room and discovered my housemate sitting in front of a roaring fire in the fireplace on a seasonably warm day. After a closer look, I saw that he was burning all of his Diana Ross albums.  She apparently married another white guy – and broke a young Black man’s heart.

All these experiences made me a better man.

My most memorable experience came on the day a Hollywood movie producer arrived in our college town searching for a “no name” child star for an upcoming film.

I went to the auditions not to be cast, but to talk to the producer. You see, I secretly had a dream of becoming a screenwriter – and I only shared that dream with one person: my housemate, Larry.

I was shy back then and not very assertive. So, Larry forced me to go to the auditions. And to make sure I went, he escorted me.

Now, if you’ve never attended a Hollywood audition, let me just tell you that they are very long and boring. However, Larry wouldn’t let me leave; and when it was finally over, he pushed me forward, like an overly aggressive stage mom, and made me introduce myself, which I did, though not very assertively.

To my surprise, the producer was warm and friendly. We talked for a long period of time. And at the end, the producer gave me the encouragement to follow my dream – along with his business card.

On cloud nine, I turned to share this experience with Larry, but he was gone. I found him outside, waiting. He silently listened to me recount the story, as we walked home. (Probably much like his father would have done.) Finally, when I was finished, he said something to me that I would never forget.

“Promise me, Dubba, when you make it to Hollywood, you won’t forget my people.”
“I promise,” I laughed, but Larry wasn’t joking.
“Promise me,” he repeated.
“I promise,” I wholeheartedly replied.

From that day on, I’ve kept my promise – or at least I’ve tried.

I did eventually wind up in Hollywood. And I wrote several scripts; most of them with African American characters and story lines.

Here’s what television icon Demond Wilson said about one of the scripts I co-wrote,  a screenplay titled Faith Ties.

My most popular script was an urban family-movie titled Twas.  The script was in option to be a major motion picture.  It was in the hands of a major African-American film studio – then the writer’s strike happened. Times got tough. And for the first time, it seemed that I would not be able to keep my promised to Larry after all.

So what’s this have to do with Dreaming of a “White” Kwanzaa?

Well, ‘Twas is warmhearted family-oriented story about a down-and-out dad, who screws up the Yuletide and then spends the days after Christmas trying to make it right.

And those days after Christmas are…?

You guessed it: Kwanzaa! Its working title was: Kwanzaa Klaus (though I preferred ‘Twas.)

I fought many battles to keep this project afloat, foremost, not to allow this story to become the next Soul Plane. To do that, I had to fight to keep myself attached to the project – which was difficult once people discovered that I was … well … White. (In fact, I’m so White, someone once asked me for my street name and I gave him my home address.) Finally, I had to fight to keep Kwanzaa in the story from the production company that had optioned it!

It was exhausting.

By the time the writer’s strike in Hollywood ended, my optioned had expired and I started teaching to make ends meet.

I’m not complaining.

I have a life that is better than I deserve. I married up. My children are bright and beautiful. Today, I live in a great small town with a great school. I can’t complain about my job. (Teaching really isn’t a job.) Most of my students enjoy my class and, so far, their parents seem to appreciate my efforts.

Though I stay in contact with some of my housemates from college, I haven’t spoken to Larry in years. From time-to-time, he pops into my life and then seems to disappear without a trace. Much like an angel one might say, but I spent a lot of time with Larry. He wasn’t an angel back then, and I doubt he is today.

A few years back, when I was at a loss of bedtime stories to tell, I dusted off ‘Twas and started reading it to my oldest. My son so enjoyed the story, he asked for me to continue doing so nightly. Soon, after tucking him in, I started sneaking into living room to turn on my iBook, and began rewriting ‘Twas as a book.

When I was finished, I asked Faith Ties co-creator (and close friend) John “Rusty” Proctor, to read it and, if he enjoyed it, to write the Forward — which he did.  Here’s just a slice of what he wrote:

John Rusty Proctor“This story is a multicultural romp through Los Angeles streets (and rooftops) that is set against the background and lessons of the celebration of Kwanzaa and it’s guiding principles (the Nguzo Saba). The reader gets to enjoy this story while at the same time learning a bit about other cultures (shhh, don’t tell your children they’ll be learning too).”

When I was done, I published it on Amazon under the title “Kwanzaa Klaus” at the suggestion of another good friend, a Public Relations manager. We started promoting the book and received some good feedback, and it felt good to be back in the game.

For most, that would be the end of the story. But remember, I had a promise to keep – and with that I’m asking you for help.

Go to the website, KwanzaaKlaus.com.

Simply read what the story is all ABOUT.  I promised, you’ll discover a story for all, and a Santa Claus who is magically re-imagined to match today’s multicultural norms.  Recreated and original, Saint Nick appears and reappears in many forms as he unknowingly morphs from “Compton Claus” to Kris Kringle to “Sheng Dan Lau Ren” to “Papai Noël” and back again, depending of who’s in the “Hood”.

Then imagine…

Kevin Hart or Jamie Foxx as the down-and-out dad…
Cedric the Entertainer or Ice Cube as “Compton Claus”.
Jackie Chan as Sheng Dan Lau Ren.
George Lopez as Papai Noël.


Can you imagine it?

If you can and you like what you see, follow us on facebook and twitter. You may also want to buy the book.

In the end, share this with someone else. You may know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone and maybe this story will make the silver screen, where it truly belongs.

You’ll be helping someone keep a promise long overdue.


James Henry is also the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul and the new book series Hail Mary. To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com


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chris-rock- #OscarsSoWhite

There’s great expectation to hear what Chris Rock will say at this year’s Academy Award ceremony given the lack of color among the 2016 nominees. The outrage over the exclusion of people of color from the nominee process, for the second straight year, has caused the #OscarsSoWhite to start trending on Twitter.

Well, here’s a story Chris Rock should be talking about. It’s about the first true Christmas movie of color. In fact, it’s just not a Christmas movie — it’s a complete holiday movie, as well. Originally a screenplay, the script’s writer converted his screenplay, titled ‘Twas, into a book because Hollywood just doesn’t think its time for a Kwanzaa movie.

In this story, the author has magically re-imagined Santa Claus to match today’s multicultural American.

What’s that mean?

Saint Nick appears and reappears in many forms as he unknowingly morphs from Kris Kringle to “Compton Claus” to “Sheng Dan Lau Ren” to “Papa Noël” and back again, depending of who’s in the “Hood”.

Maybe even Chris Rock could star as “Compton Claus”? How about Jackie Chan as an Asian Santa or George Lopez as Pancho Claus? Maybe even Cheech and Chong could play the role, respectively.

So, what’s ‘Twas about?

‘Twas is a warmhearted family-oriented multicultural novel, about a down-and-out dad, who screws up Christmas and tries to make it right — during the Festival of Kwanzaa.

Twas Kwanzaa Klaus


The story begins on Christmas Eve in Compton and Darryl Blueberry, down-and-out dad, swipes a bag of toys from a Santa to give to his son. Unfortunately, Darryl just robbed the real Santa Claus!

Unable to finish his Christmas deliveries, Ole Saint Nick pursues this holiday hood then prescribes a compromising cure for this Yuletide dilemma: Darryl must finish Santa’s missed L.A. area rounds — and do so during the Festival of Kwanzaa.

Discovering the reality of Santa, and then receiving the tools of success to complete such a magical task might be a humbling assignment for most — but not for Darryl Blueberry.

Instead, Darryl looks at this new challenge as an edge on his competition with his ex-wife’s boyfriend, Duane, an elementary school principal.

To regain the approval of his son and win back the love and loyalty of his ex-wife, Darryl redefines Kwanzaa then modifies his appointed task by turning Kwanzaa into a commercial celebration.

Soon, this plan backfires…

Commercialization not only destroys the spirit of Kwanzaa, but it corrupts his relationship with his son and ex-wife, Monica, as well! As life spins beyond his control, Darryl has a change of heart, then spends the last night of Kwanzaa trying to right the wrong he has created.

It’s a great story which would make an even better movie!

But don’t take my word that this is the right pix at the right time. Here’s what playwright/producer, John “Rusty” Proctor said about ‘Twas.
John Rusty Proctor

Over the past 10 years or so, I have had the pleasure of reading many of James Henry’s (I call him JDob) books, stories and screenplays and I always feel good after reading his work. He makes me laugh with his style and also always challenges me to think. He is extremely intelligent and I am always amazed by all that he knows and what a curious learner he is. So much so, that it didn’t surprise me at all to hear that he had merged together the age-old story of Santa Claus and the more recent tradition of Kwanzaa introduced into the African American culture by professor Maulana Karenga.

The two celebrations are very different in their expressions; Christmas is a one day celebration while Kwanzaa takes place over seven days. However, as the author points out in the story – “Christmas used to be twelve days long”. The two celebrations fit well together as you will see.

Perhaps the first words you will read are these and I therefore want to make sure that I emphasize the value of this story for you and for your family. Knowing how valuable this story that I am describing is makes me want to be sure that I treat the description as carefully as any of us would with any of the other items mentioned above. So, here it is…

This is a fabulous story of wonderment, surprises and the magic of the Christmas spirit for ALL. This story is a multicultural romp through Los Angeles streets (and rooftops) that is set against the background and lessons of the celebration of Kwanzaa and it’s guiding principles (the Nguzo Saba). The reader gets to enjoy this story while at the same time learning a bit about other cultures (shhh, don’t tell your children they’ll be learning too).

Whether you already celebrate Kwanzaa or have always been curious, this story will deliver fun, fantasy and some cultural education thrown in as well. Please turn the page and enjoy!

John Proctor
Story Creator and co-writer of FaithTies: A Christmas Play.

Next week, I’ll let you know what this television icon said about something I wrote, and how it changed the direction of my life.

Demond wilson Faith Ties




James Henry is also the author of Corporation YOU: A Business Plan for the Soul and the new book series Hail Mary. To contact James or book an interview, please contact Mark of Goldman/McCormick PR at (516) 639-0988 or Mark@goldmanmccormick.com

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