An African-American friend of mine requested that I ask your opinion on whether or not it is appropriate for black Catholics to celebrate Kwanzaa. Is it permitted?
To my knowledge, the Church has been silent on whether or not Kwanzaa is appropriate for Catholics to celebrate. Until the Church speaks on the issue, I can only advise that you use your prudential judgment based on what is known about the origins and intent of the holiday.
Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by the black activist, Dr. Maulana Karenga. According to columnist Tony Snow (see link below), Kwanzaa was originally created as an alternative to Christmas. The official Kwanzaa web site currently states that Kwanzaa is now considered to be a cultural celebration of African identity and not an alternative to a religious holiday.
If Kwanzaa is an authentic cultural holiday and not an alternative to Christmas, it would not be wrong for African-American Catholics to celebrate it, just as it is not wrong for Chinese Catholics to celebrate the Chinese New Year. But if, after study and reflection, a Catholic were to find that Kwanzaa was intended to undermine Christmas, it would be problematic to celebrate a holiday created for that purpose. For further information, please see the links listed below. Please note that the articles linked are opinion pieces; for help in verifying the claims that the authors make, I recommend contacting a research librarian at your local city or university library.