Umoja Karamu- Giving thanks to Afrikan Culture

The cultural creativity of Afrakan people is ever redemptive. Afrakans in America continue in the ways of their continental ancestors in conceiving ongoing methods of institutionalizing our unique heritage. This is the time of the holiday tradition of Umoja Karamu. This celebration was initiated in 1971 by Brother Edward Simms, Jr. of Philadelphia, Pa. Umoja Karamu is a Swahili term that translates as “unity feast.” As practiced in The Temple of the Black Messiah, Umoja Karamu is held on the fourth Sunday in November.

Its purpose is to instill a sense of unity and appreciation of Afrakan heritage into Afrakan families. This is done through prayers to the traditional deities of Afraka, libations to honor our Afrakan ancestors, historical Afrakan centered readings and Afrakan centered films all of which culminates in a healthy, nutritious feast. In his own words Brother Edward Simms, Jr. states “[Umoja Karamu] injects new meaning and solidarity into the Black Family through ceremony and symbol. It is unique in that it bridges the gap between diverse religious persuasions through a ritual which is easily understood and appreciated by all the participants. Moreover, it draws on the collective Black experience with which most Black Folks are familiar.”

The Umoja Karamu celebration is based on five major epochs in the lives of Afrakans in America and each represented by a distinct color. The feast should include foods representing the color of each epoch.The prayers, libations, historical readings and films should also center around these events:

1st Epoch – Afrakans prior to the invasions and influence of Europeans and Arabs. The color Black, is used to delineate the unity of the Afrakan people.

2nd Epoch – Captivity of Afrakans during which the Maafa occurs. The color white symbolizes the adversary and their role in the attempted destruction of Afrakan culture.

3rd Epoch – Self Emancipation. The fight against forced labor and captivity in the United States of America through revolts, Civil Rights and the Black Power movements. The color red is used to represent those who lived and died in service of freeing captive Afrakans.

4th Epoch – National Liberation. The fight for decolonization of Afrakan countries the formation of the Organization for Afrakan Unity and the diasporac Afrakan liberation movements. The chosen color is green, symbolic of land and all that comes from it.

5th Epoch – The Future of Afraka and Afrakans. The Afrakan Union, The African Socialist International, The Sankofa Movement. Afrakan centered perspectives for the future. The color gold is chosen for the future is a most valuable asset.

Kwanzaa, Umoja Karamu, Odunde. Afrakans in America – earnestly engaged in the reclamation of their culture and its institutionalization.
Article by Pya Kule

22 thoughts on “Umoja Karamu- Giving thanks to Afrikan Culture

    • I first heard about it maybe twelve years ago. It seems a lot of people are not very familiar with it. Which is why I posted it. Each one,teach one,right? I can’t do the Thanksgiving mess anymore. It’s the celebration of genocide and land theft. People need to THINK about what they pay homage to.

      • I’m glad I could inform you about it. Be sure to pass the knowledge around. I don’t think the ancestors will smile upon us celebrating death,destruction and genocide. We have to free our minds and embrace our culture. We can’t be mislead anymore by these holidays.

  1. Pingback: Umoja Karamu- Giving thanks to Afrikan Culture | Kushite Kingdom « replace white supremacy with justice

  2. This is a positive alternative for those that don’t want to do the traditional Thanksgiving. Or maybe if i could do both. I like the idea.

    • Yeah it’s always good to try something different. We shouldn’t be afraid to step outside our comfort zone. We need to embrace our own culture and honor our traditions. Not tradititions someone else has given to us.

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    • Actually this was posted a year ago. But I think it’s something that’s very important. Which is why I sent an email to a few of my blogger pals regarding this post. We need to start embracing our own culture and heritage. I know it can be hard because you get resistance from family members. But sometimes you have to be brave. You have to step out in faith sometimes. I’ve been sending out Kwanzaa cards the last few years. My family members eventually learned to accept it and don’t give me grief about it anymore. I’m personally thinking about fasting this “thanksgiving”. We all have to do our part. It’s very empowers when you stand up and make a statement like that. Who knows,others may follow in your footsteps.

  5. It is interesting that you have posted this blog on festivities because just yesterday I was discussing with a brotha how we should celebrate our holidays when we are back in Africa.

    We were discussing the Four Seasons and having a festival to celebrate each of them, but in Africa the seasons are of course different. There are the long rains and the short rains… there is the Equinox and the Solstice, but what is very different in African celebration and European celebration is that in African tradition, festivals occurred after an event… but that is a whole other blog.

    Back to this blog ~ The Umoja Karamu Celebrations

    The 1st Epoch is about our GREATNESS and there is much cause for celebrating our great African civilisation. We have the longest and greatest history of any other race. The colour BLACK is perfect because BLACK represents MELANIN and that is much cause for celebration.

    The 2nd Epoch is about our DOWNFALL so how can we possibly celebrate it? The colour WHITE however is ideal in view that WHITE represents DEATH.

    The 3rd Epoch is about the AFRICAN-AMERICAN struggle. This is a selfish celebration. African-Americans have a habit of zoning in on Africans in America and dismissing Africans elsewhere and this “celebration” is a prime example of this diss. African-Americans need to stop splitting ways with the African race. Africans in America were not the only Africans to experience the Maafa, in fact Africans in America have the shortest history of slavery compared with Africans in Brazil and the Caribbean islands. The African RACE as a whole has been brutalised by Europeans. Whatever happens to Africans in one land happens to Africans in other lands. We are ONE people. The colour RED is PERFECT because RED represents BLOOD and we are bonded by our blood wherever we are on the planet.

    The 4th Epoch is about our LAND. We have much to celebrate here. We have the richest Continent on earth. It is the most fertile and yields the most precious and priceless resources of any other land. The colour GREEN is perfect because GREEN represents FERTILITY and GROWTH.

    The 5th Epoch is about our FUTURE. WOW ~ this is wonderful. In the past we were a people who looked ahead and planned for the future of our people. This is a celebration for the generations to come. The colour GOLD is perfect because GOLD represents WEALTH and PROSPERITY.

    So that my view on The Umoja Karamu Celebrations. I would love the opportunity to celebrate Epochs 1, 4 & 5 but I have absolutely no interest in celebrating Epochs 2 & 3.

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