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 Afrikan people is ever redemptive. Afrikans 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 Afrikan heritage into Afrikan families. This is done through prayers to the traditional deities of Afrika, libations to honor our Afrikan ancestors, historical Afrikan centered readings and Afrikan 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 Afrikans 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 – Afrikans prior to the invasions and influence of Europeans and Arabs. The color Black, is used to delineate the unity of the Afrikan people.

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

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

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

Kwanzaa, Umoja Karamu, Odunde. Afrikans in America – earnestly engaged in the reclamation of their culture and its institutionalization.
Article by Pya Kuleimg_0392 img_0393 img_0394

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