Umoja Karamu, meaning “unity feast” in Swahili, is an African-American celebration begun in 1971 by Dr. Edward Sims, Jr. Celebrated in a manner similar to Thanksgiving, Umoja Karamu is held on the fourth Sunday in November. Its purpose is to instill solidarity, black values, and appreciation of black heritage into black families. Prayers, libations to honor ancestors, historical readings, and feasts mark observances.
The celebration is based on five periods of African-American life, each represented by a color.
Prior to Slavery – the color black, represents black families before slavery
In Slavery – the color white, symbolizes the scattering blacks families during slavery
Upon Emancipation – the color red, marks blacks’ liberation from slavery
Struggle for Liberation – the color green, significances the struggle for civil rights and equality
Looking to the Future – the color gold, points celebrants to hope for the future
Umoja Karamu is said to be growing in popularity.
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.