Unity (Umoja)

Pronounced oo-mo’-ja

First of the Kwanzaa Seven Principles (Nguzo Saba)

Celebrated December 26th or Day 1 of the Kwanzaa Week

Kawanzaa Dagi Knot

Dagi Knot Symbol of Unity

“To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.”

In “Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture” Maulana Karenga (the creator of Kwanzaa) describes unity (umoja) as “a principle and practice of togetherness in all things good and of mutual benefit” and as “a principled and harmonious togetherness, not simply a being together.”  The author goes on to say that as a practice or activity, unity is “active solidarity” , “principled and harmonious togetherness“ and central to African ethics and all claims to ethical living”.  In other words, unity is not just a gathering of people and minds, it is a gathering based on purpose and ideals; and it matters greatly that we “walk the walk” and not just “talk the talk”.

Maulana Karenga also discusses different types of unity including the concepts of “family unity”, “generational unity”, “community unity” and “Pan-African unity” and makes it clear that these concepts are not just a “political slogan”. 

In his description of family unity, Karenga notes the importance of unity between a father and mother as the foundation and model for the children.  He describes the state of family unity as that of “principled and harmonious living with brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers – sharing and acting in unison”.  These ideals do not mean that all of the people agree on everything all of the time, or that the right of individuals is not recognized or valued.   In fact, Karenga emphasizes the point that family unity is based on human and social equality, reciprocity or giving among equals and friendship as a mechanism for achieving mutual respect and mutual benefit.

On the topic of generational unity, Karenga says “One of the most important expressions of family unity is the respect and collective concern and care for elders” and that based on wisdom gained from their long life experience, elders are given the active and meaningful role and respect of “judges and reconcilers”.

Karenga states that community unity “extends to organizational affiliation and then the unity of organizations”.  It starts with a focus on shared identify as people who have African living and ancestral family members, shared interests (especially interest in liberation) and shared objectives, and belonging to an organization.  And it is advanced further by organizations uniting based on shared identify, interests and objectives.

Pan-African unity, as described by Karenga, is the “ultimate level of unity”, the “unity of race” or the “world African community”.  He describes it as “the struggle to unite all Africans everywhere around common interests and make African cultural and political presence on the world stage both powerful and permanent”.  Achieving Pan-African unity requires us to view ourselves and act as belonging to a world community of African peoples.

More information and supplies that can be used to practice and celebrate Kwanzaa can be found at the My Daily Kwanzaa Store.

Harambee!  Let’s all work together!

Editor, My Daily Kwanzaa

Reference:  “Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture”, by Maulana Karenga,   University of Sankore Press, Los Angeles, California.  1998.   ISBN 0-943412-21-8.


One response to “Unity-Umoja

  1. mydailykwanzaa

    February 15, 2010 at 3:22 am

    It is important that African Americans also remember that belonging to the Pan-African community, and practicing family unity, community unity and Pan-African unity, does not mean that we must view ourselves as separate from North Americans, United States citizens, world citizens, and other communities to which we belong.

    The fact is that most communities, if not all, are diverse and varied in composition. And each individual is diverse in characteristics and interests and often has many different roles (parent, child, sibling, teacher, student, etc.) in life.

    The interests and objectives of various communities may seem to be in disharmony at times. This is just a fact of life and the nature of things.

    We must learn, and practice daily, the skill of not questioning our identities and relationships simply because we are members of various communities and must view things from a number of perspectives.

    If we focus on unity (umoja) as one of the principles of Kwanzaa then we can avoid wondering if an action appears “black enough” or “too black” to others, and avoid any of the other mental traps that can lead to self-doubt and lack of confidence, or even self-hatred, anxiety, and bad choices in life.

    Like all humans, we are complex beings. The more we understand and embrace the diversity in ourselves as individuals and as members of many communities, the more we learn and practice self-acceptance and self-love. Our family, local and national communities and Pan-African community benefit from members who have knowledge and love of self.

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