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Significance of Umoja Karamu Celebration Tradition

Nov 15, 2022 10:00AM ● By Anand Subramanian

Umoja Karamu (pronounced You-mo-ja Care-a-moo) means "unity feast" in Kiswahili. It is a unification service held on the fourth Sunday of November that celebrates events and times impacting the African American family. 

Black depicts African-American families before slavery. 

White represents the dispersal of Black families under enslavement. 

The color red represents freedom from slavery. 

Green represents the fight for civil equality. 

Gold represents future optimism.

Umoja Karamu is comparable to a Thanksgiving feast. Prayer, a libation poured to commemorate ancestors, historical readings, and the passing and sharing of delicacies in the five colors are some of its observances. These cuisines may reflect various periods in African American history.

In Umoja Karamu custom, the host of the feast is the head of the home. The dinner table, draped in an African textile, is set with dishes. It is customary for the celebrant to use a basin of water and a clean towel during a particular purification ceremony in order to clean their hands and maintain the sanitary conditions of the delicacies being served. Members of the extended family take an active role in Umoja by bringing dishes they've made themselves. Wooden bowls and cloth napkins are given to each diner. The drinks are served in earthenware. There should be no paper goods around. Lighting candles and burning incense helps set the mood for quiet contemplation. Prayer is spoken at the start of every single ceremony. To show respect for one's ancestors, a libation of water is poured into a potted plant. The kids get involved by reading stories from each era as the food of that time is served around the table. The food is passed around and sampled after each story is told. For each epoch, this procedure is repeated. At the conclusion of the ritual, the oldest or most wise person offers a blessing that ushers in the feast proper.

With Umoja Karamu, African American families can come together to honor their shared ancestry, history, and culture while also honoring the commitment each member of the family has to the others. The African American Thanksgiving is gaining momentum as a nationwide celebration of gratitude and appreciation for one's family's heritage and history among African Americans.

 Anand Subramanian is a freelance photographer and content writer based out of Tamil Nadu, India. Having a background in Engineering always made him curious about life on the other side of the spectrum. He leapt forward towards the Photography life and never looked back. Specializing in Documentary and  Portrait photography gave him an up-close and personal view into the complexities of human beings and those experiences helped him branch out from visual to words. Today he is mentoring passionate photographers and writing about the different dimensions of the art world.

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