Umoja Karamu (Thanksgiving Celebration)

Umoja Karamu is celebrated on Thanksgiving Day by some African-American families. Usually held on the fourth Sunday in November, this celebration was created in 1971 to inject new meaning and solidarity into the black family through ceremony and symbol.

Umoja Karamu means “unity feast” in the African language Swahili. Its originator was Edward Simms Jr. and it is growing in popularity. The feast is based around five colors, which represent five historical periods in African-American history. Black represents black families before slavery, White symbolizes the scattering of black families during slavery, Red denotes the liberation from slavery, Green signifies the struggle for civil equality and Gold implies hope for the future.

As Asali Solomon explained in an article for the Paris Review:

“Black families who celebrated Umoja Karamu (Kiswahili for “unity feast”)—and we were the only one I knew of—were to trade in the ritual of senselessly stuffing ourselves for one in which we used food and words to reflect on the grim, glorious trajectory of black people in America, to recall the crimes of the “greedy one-eyed giant” white man, and to keep the “Black Nation” energized and focused, struggling toward liberation from racism.”


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