Umoja Karamu (oo-MOH-jah kah-RAH-moo) is a celebration of unity within the African-American family, community, and nation. Umoja Karamu is a Swahili term meaning “unity feast.” Many African Americans celebrate this day as an alternative to the national Thanksgiving Day holiday. The unity feast may also be observed during Kwanzaa celebrations in late December.
The concept of African and African-American unity is centuries old. But during the 1960s and 1970s, it was a major focus of black nationalists. During the 1980s and 1990s, Afrocentric scholars such as Ishakamusa Barashango, lecturer, author, and founder of Philadelphia’s Temple of the Black Messiah, drew further attention to the theme.
Barashango, who died in 2004, argued that African Americans and black people of the diaspora should reject such European-American holidays as Thanksgiving and concentrate instead on understanding Africa’s culture and values that are the distinctive heritage of black people.
In 1971 Brother Edward Simms Jr. of the Temple of the Black Messiah in Philadelphia developed Umoja Karamu to celebrate the African-American family and home. According to Barashango, Simms defined the purpose of Umoja Karamu as “an effort to inject new meaning and solidarity into the Black Family through ceremony and symbol.”
The date for the holiday, the fourth Sunday of November, was established by the Temple of the Black Messiah in Washington, D.C. African Americans in other cities, including Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Chicago, soon followed the example.
The celebration is based on five periods of African-American life, each represented by a color.
In the 16th century, Portuguese slave traders turned to the Congo and southwest Africa, after their stake in the slave trade was threatened by England and France in the northern part of the continent. Their most stubborn opposition came from an unexpected source: an Angolan queen who ruthlessly maneuvered her way into power, fought off the slavers for decades, and, rumor has it, immolated her lovers.
Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba, also known as Nzinga Mbandi, Anna Nzinga, and Rainha Ginga, was born in 1583 to the king of Ndongo, a kingdom of the Mbundu people in modern-day Angola. The story goes that Nzinga was so named because she was born with her mother’s umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, and the Mbundu word for “to twist” is kujinga (an alternate spelling of Nzinga is “Njinga”). This circumstance was believed to indicate that the child would grow to be proud and haughty.
The king, Ngola Kiluanji, allowed Nzinga and his son, Ngola Mbandi, to witness his governance of the kingdom, which included numerous guerrilla raids against Portuguese invaders who were trying to infiltrate the territory. His children, as a result, grew up with a sharp understanding of the horrific implications of Portuguese colonization, which depended on slavery to expand its reach and riches.
According to Joseph C. Miller’s Nzinga of Matamba in a New Perspective, Nzinga first appears in the historical record in 1622, when she arrived in Luanda as the emissary for her brother, the ruler at the time. He had been dedicating all of his efforts and forces to keeping the Portuguese out of the highlands east of Luanda. During her visit, Nzinga converted to Christianity, and was baptized as Ana de Souza, a fact that would help her in her later negotiations with the Portuguese. Within two years of his sister’s visit to Luanda, Ngola Mbandi had died under unknown circumstances, and Nzinga had staked her claim as ruler of the kingdom.
Though Nzinga was about to revolutionize diplomatic relations between the Portuguese and the Mbundu state, she seized her title with great opposition from the internal political factions in the kingdom. The 17th-century Mbundu kingdom was made up of a hierarchy of linked political titleholders each with their own followings. After Ngola Mbandi’s death, the king’s title would normally have gone to the leader with a combination of the most number of followers and the most deft political maneuvering.
“The scant evidence available on Nzinga’s place in this general structure indicates that her claim to the royal title of the ngola a kiluanje violated established Mbundu norms,” writes Miller. “The Mbundu harbored strong feelings against females assuming any political title and explicitly prohibited any woman from assuming the position of the ngola a kiluanje.”
Initially, the Portuguese did not recognize Nzinga as the rightful ruler of the Mbundu people, either; they suspected that she was somehow implicated in her brother’s death and refused to honor her right to succeed him. They instead assumed that the heir apparent to the Mbundu throne was Ngola Mbandi’s son.
As a result, Nzinga was forced to turn to support from outside the state: from a band of Imbangala warriors who inhabited the borders of the Mbundu kingdom and had expressed hostility against both Mbundu and Portuguese armies in the past. She also offered asylum to slaves escaping from Portuguese territories, eventually recruiting them as manpower.
The Imbangala in particular were crucial to increasing Nzinga’s position in domestic politics. Not only were they notorious for their fierce ways and highly effective war strategies, they did not have the same hierarchical structure as the Mbundu and frequently recognized women under the title of tembanza: a leader in both war and politics. Nzinga manipulated the Imbangala’s readiness to accept a kinless woman as their leader by assuming the tembanza position in a group of Imbangala lead by the kaza, one of the most powerful warlords in the region.
The Mbundu recognized Nzinga’s situation with the kaza as a marriage of sorts, and so did the Portuguese. According to Miller, Nzinga then used the kaza to help her kill her brother’s son, the heir apparent, in an effort to secure her position as the leader of the Mbundu. However, eventually the Imbangala left Nzinga and defected to the Portuguese due to her lack of Imbangala ancestry. By 1629, Nzinga was left without allies, with the Portuguese army in hot pursuit.
She fled to the old Mbundu kingdom of Matamba, a safeground that had in recent years been ravaged by Portuguese and Imbangala raids. In the 16th century, Matamba had flourished under the rule of several queens, although they had long since ceded rule to Nzinga’s father, Ngola Kiluanji, and later her brother. The disarray after his death and the various raids had created a political vacuum which Nzinga was quick to fill, using their willingness to accept female rulers to buttress her position as leader of the Mbundu.
Nzinga increased her wealth, her armies and her power by blocking Portuguese access to slave trade routes and diverting the slaves into Matamba. She continued to resist Portuguese troops well into her 60s, and it is said that she would wear male dress and lead her armies into battle herself.
Legends of Nzinga extend outside of her brilliant military tactics and political strategy. In Philosophy in the Boudoir, the Marquis de Sade wrote that Nzinga “immolated her lovers,” obtaining a large, all-male harem after she became queen and having each man she slept with killed after their carnal encounter. Though there is no way of knowing if there is truth to these rumors, there is no denying Nzinga was a ruthless ruler, unafraid of sacrificing men who came in her way.
In 1657, at the age of 74, Nzinga entered peace treaty talks with the Portuguese, after having fought and been worn down by colonial and slave raiding attacks for decades. After conceding much of her power, Nzinga devoted her efforts to rebuilding her war-torn nation. Following her death in 1663, the Portuguese lost their most valiant opposition and were able to accelerate their colonial occupation.
As Donald Burness points out in “Nzinga Mbandi” and Angolan Independence, up until the 20th century, not much had been written by African writers on historical African revolutionaries. But during Angola’s fight for independence from the Portuguese in the 1970s, an MPLA leader named Manual Pacavira wrote a novel about Nzinga called Nzinga Mbandi while imprisoned by the Portuguese, drawing many parallels between her fight and the ongoing civil war.
“The spirit of Rainha Ginga is not dead; it serves as a source of inspiration and pride to a people and its leaders who face new challenges and new opportunities,” writes Burness. Angola is now independent, and a statue dedicated to Nzinga in Luanda serves as a tribute to one of the first people to have fought for its freedom.
Article written by Urvija Banjeri
In ancient Africa the divine feminine principle was revered and respected. The African woman was always the standard of beauty and true representation of motherhood. It was that way since time immemorial. But here in America and abroad this belief is being destroyed. The mainstream media is very much Anti-African and anti-woman. These racist devils that control the media are doing their best to confuse the masses with this abnormal sexual behavior. Basically sexual perversion disguised as just another “lifestyle choice”. This is not the way of African people. All this talk of transgenders,lesbians and homosexuals is destroying the divine feminine principle. If a man can dress up like a woman..then what’s so unique about womanhood? What’s so special about being a woman if anyone can pretend to be one? The media is doing their best to create an asexual/androgynous society. If you’re a woman you should be very offended by what’s going on. Check out some of these videos and you’ll see what I mean.
This is the singing group AsiaSF. They have a reality show on Fuse TV. They are all men. Is this a representation of womanhood? I don’t think so. It’s obvious the mainstream meadia is doing everything to make the abnormal seem normal. They are trying to get the masses to accept this stuff by putting it on television dramas,sitcoms,films and reality shows. Black people should not be accepting this type of lifestyle. Transgender people are only 0.3 % of the population. So why are they so prevalent on television? This is issue is much bigger than just Bruce Jenner getting a sex change. That was just the beginning.
This is a great video by Bro Sanchez. He gives a great breakdown on how America is really a Greek/Roman society. The Greeks practiced homosexuality and lesbianism all the time. It was very normal in their culture. This is very different than African culture. This totally goes against the Divine Feminine Principle. Here’s a great post about the attack on the sacred feminine. It’s a very informative post on the Black Assassins blog.
And of course how could I forget Jazz Jennings. This is the transgender teenager. The little boy who always felt like a girl inside. Of course the media doesn’t want to leave out the children in their agenda. Jazz is being interviewed by homosexual gossip queen Perez Hilton. As you can see it’s all one big happy gay/transgender family. What has the world come to? We have he/she teenagers,gay tv hosts and homosexual athletes and rappers! This is what progress looks like in Amerikkka. We need to cleanse our minds and our souls. All this nonsense creates an imbalance in nature and the universe. There needs to be a balance between male and female energies to create the proper balance in the universe. The culture is changing because mainstream media is making it change. Culture is not self-propelled. There are people behind the scenes doing this on purpose to get rid of gender roles. This is a serious problem for people of African descent.
We need to get back to the natural way of things. We need to understand that both men and women have an important role in society. And our enemies want to destroy all of our ancient ways and traditions that have given our people strength and purpose. This abnormal sexuality they are forcing on us is not the righteous path for our people. We need to get back to the Holy Trinity of Black Man+Black Woman= Black Child. Anything other than that is not the righteous path and will send us to our condemnation.
Anyone who has followed me for any significant amount of time is fully cognizant of the fact that I am immensely passionate about empowering my people, and though my passion for my people encompasses addressing all of the enigmatic issues that are currently plaguing our people, there are certain areas in which I have invested myself with the focus of empowering my people in these specific areas, which include the mis-education and exploitation of our youth, black group economics practiced vertically and the restoration of the black family nucleus. This article will focus on the importance of restoring the black family to a point of functionality.
The current reality surrounding the black collective in America emphatically answers the question posed by Eleanor Holmes in her article, “Restoring the Traditional Black Family:” What would society be like if the family found it difficult to perform its most basic functions? What Eleanor Holmes was addressing in her 1985 article was the challenges associated with a black family that was literally breaking down, primarily through self-destruction that was externally agitated by the subtle machinations initiated by the white power structure in a systematic manner.
During the time that this article was written, the divorce rate in America was hovering around 50 percent and the number of single parent households was on the rise. Here we are 30 years later and the situation has been exacerbated by a number of different factors, but the bottom line is that the black family is in crisis. Blacks lead the nation in divorce rates. Black men have the highest rate of marrying outside of our race. Only one in four black women will ever be married. This means that the number of single-parent households will only increase as more black women embrace the fallible paradigm that they don’t need a man.
While highlighting this fallibility of the erroneous paradigm, it is important to understand that the black woman did not arrive at this position of hostility and indifference toward the black man on her own. She had a significant amount of help. It began with white slave masters who purposely turned her against her mate by ravaging her in front of him, revealing his inability to protect or provide for her. This ushered in contempt and distrust. Even 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation advised the black woman that she was free, the system was telling her that she had a new oppressor, the black man. She was offered solace in corporate America and refuge in social programs offered by the Government, such as welfare, AFDC, Section 8 housing and more. She could experience this pseudo-liberation and independence, but she would have to dismiss the man. This was not that hard to do with the already strained history between the black man and the black woman.
To exacerbate the matter, black men were losing jobs at an alarming rate as jobs were being shipped overseas, so black women saw very little value in his presence at the time.
Now, the black man was not without culpability in the breakdown of the black family nucleus, for many black men found it to be an acceptable course of action to procreate and then abandon their progeny. They assumed it to be appropriate to superficially engage the heart and emotions of the black woman with no intention of committing to a long-term relationship.
Even when the black man and the black woman did enter into the institution of marriage, they often found that their selfish nature would not allow them to invest in the marriage in lieu of self-preservation.
This ever-widening gulf between the black man and the black woman is about far more than lifelong companionship, for the black family is the institution through which the power of life is passed on to the subsequent generation. The black family is that secure environment in which our children are to be nurtured into a healthy understanding and awareness of “self.” It is where they develop their self-image and their sense of self-worth. Without a wholesome family environment, our children lack balance, and they suffer emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. They lack the capacity to effectively go out and compete.
Another alarming issue among blacks is that the birthrate has dropped dramatically, and this is important because the birthrate is indicative of the group’s ability to sustain its current representation among the general population.
It is important to point out that many of the struggles of the black family, such as divorce, single parent households and more, are actually an exaggerated microcosm of the larger struggle to hold together the family nucleus in America. No group, including whites, has been able to escape the cultural assault on the traditional family; however, due to specific issues that are unique to the black collective, the disintegration of the family has had a much more emphasized toll on blacks.
The lack of economic potency limits the mobility of any person or group, and it is substantially more difficult to overcome the economic hurdle standing alone, or attempting to split incomes between homes.
One factor that has served to exacerbate the issues that are plaguing the black family has been the unwillingness to admit that there is a problem. For many blacks, the destruction of the family is a powerful reminder of the nefarious attack of racism on the black family and the black experience in general. Instead of seeing the discussions about the black family as an opportunity to address the enigmatic issues that we are facing the possibility of healing long-standing wounds, many blacks view it as an insult and they fight vehemently against it.
The problem with the current state of the black family is that the consequences and repercussions associated with this reality, only seem to drive a wedge deeper between the black man and the black woman. A significant amount of the discussions surrounding the issue are nothing more than finger-pointing contests. There is no attempt to resolve the issues, only a desire to play the victim. Unfortunately, blacks have become perpetual victims, and playing the victim card is almost second nature. Owning our own mess is a little too uncomfortable for the vast majority of us. It is simply easier to blame others for our failures, than it is to admit that we played a significant role in the causation of our current predicament.
How do we begin the healing process? I believe it begins with men who understand the responsibility of leadership. We have no shortage of men who want to declare themselves to be leaders, kings and rulers, but very few understand the immense responsibility associated with these titles. As black men, we must be willing to love a woman free of the deadness of her contempt for us. We must be willing to brazen the minefield of her hostility in order to excavate and discard each and every mine, being prepared to engage her hostility with patience and honorable intent. We must see our women as our most valuable asset, and we must look to protect them from the destructive forces in this world that will leave them barren in their spiritual womb. We must nurture them with our love and protection, so that they can use their spiritual womb to house, incubate and birth our visions.
Our women, must be willing to allow the men to operate in their design, with opposition and hostility. They must be willing to trust the men to lead, provide and protect. It is important for our women to understand that respect and affirmation are a man’s greatest yearning, and they must become determined to not be the source of the black man’s destruction.
It is clear, without the restoration of the black family nucleus, without the apprehension of the knowledge that there can be no advancement of the black collective without the black family, we are ultimately doomed to continue our descent into the abyss of unbridled oppression and self-inflicted devastation. The healing has to start now.
Article by Dr Rick Wallace