Thursday, August 13, 2015

The REAL Origin Of The Word "Ungawa" & Various Ways That Word Has Been Used In The USA

Edited by Azizi Powell

Latest Update - July 31, 2022

This pancocojams post shares information about the origin and examples of the use of the word "ungawa"(oon-GAH-wah).

The content of this post is presented for etymological, historical and cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to those who contributed rhyme examples that are included in this post. Thanks also to the publishers of the videos that are mentioned in this post or that are featured in this post.

From KiSwahili To Hollywood
[Pancocojams' Editor's summary]
In the KiSwahili language of East Africa and Central Africa "umgawa" means "entangled". But in 1932 MGM screenwriter Cyril Hume lifted the word "umgawa" from the Swahili language for the Tarzan movies. Those movies were being adapted from books written by Edgar Rice Burrough books.

In the Tarzan movies "ungawa" was the way that Tarzan communicated with animals and with Black people who lived in the near where Tarzan found himself. That word could mean whatever the screenwriters wanted it to mean.

Here's a video clip that provides information about the Hollywood origin of the Swahili word "umgawa":


pwgr2000 Uploaded on Dec 8, 2007

...This short excerpt is from the documentary, "Tarzan: Silver Screen King of the Jungle", which was the main bonus feature that accompanied the DVD set, The Tarzan Collection, Vol. 1.
My transcription of that video:
Scott Tracy Griffin [White male], [identified as] Edgar Eice Burrough’s historian:
“The films used a combination of Swahili and made up words. One of my favorites is “Umgawa” which can mean anything we want it to mean. [smiling] It means “stop”, "go away", "come here", "danger", or “Elephant, carry boy to safety.” [laughing]. “Umgawa” is a terrific word and is another one of our cultural touchstones. [.27]

[another speaker, a White male]- “Originally, it meant “Get down”. But as time progressed, as the movies went on, it seemed to have a multiple layer of meaning. [chuckling]

[scenes from Tarzan movie: Tarzan talking to animals and to Black people in movies]

[same White male speaker] “And it became, you know, “Umgawa!” and everybody just rose to the occasion. [laughing] And they went into action.

[Video clip ends with a scene of Tarzan and Jane talking in a made up language].
Notice that those speakers consider the word "umgawa" to be humorous. Yet, I find their humor off-putting since it seems to me that the writers portrayed the White Tarzan as being superhuman and the Black natives as being on the same level or lower than the animals, since both of those groups instinctively understood the different commands that Tarzan gave when he used the word "umgawa" or "ungawa".
Added November 13, 2017
Hat tip to Anonymous, November 12, 2017 at 11:53 PM for mentioning the 1959 Dizzy Gillespie composition entitled "Ungawa". Here's a link to a YouTube sound file of that Jazz compositon:

As a member of a Black cultural nationalist organization, The Committee For Unified Newark (CFUN), I remember chanting "Ungawa! Black Power!" around 1967 or 1968 (Newark, New Jersey). I'm not sure if I thought that "ungawa" was a real African word. I certainly didn't know that it was based on the Swahili word "umgawa".

To my knowledge, I've never read any definition of ungawa besides the line "Ungawa - that means "Black power" which is a core part the children's rhyme "Ah Beep Beep". (Some examples of that rhyme are given below). But, I wonder if "ungawa"'s meaning was conflated for us with the Black pride and Black determination that was conveyed by the KiSwahili word "Uhuru!" (meaning "Freedom"). "Uhuru" (ooh-HOO-roo") was one of the few Swahili words that CFUN members knew and used as a chant.

Most of the examples of the children's rhyme which I've titled "Ah Beep Beep" (based on their first line) and other children's rhymes and chants that include the word "ungawa" not only express Black pride, but also appear to express antagonism toward White people. However, as is the case with other confrontational children's rhymes, some children may have recited these rhymes without playing much attention to what the words in the rhymes really meant.

1. [no title given]
I'll be I'll be
Walking down the street,
Ten times a week.
Un-gah-wah, un-gah-wah (baby)
This is my power.
What is the story?
What is the strike?
I said it, I meant it,
I really represent it.
Take a cool, cool Black to knock me down.
Take a cool, cool Black to knock me down.
I'm sweet, I'm kind.
I'm soul sister number nine.
Don't like my apples,
Don't shake my tree.
I'm a Castle Square Black.
Don't miss with me.
-John Langstaff and Carol Langstaff, editors Shimmy Shimmy Coke -Ca-Pop!: A Collection Of City Children's Street Games And Rhymes (New York, Doubleday & Company, 1973, p. 57)
Notice the very close similarity with the beginning of this rhyme and the rhyme that was featured in the 1988 movie Big.

Click Sources Of The Movie Big's Rap Shimmy Shimmy Coco Pop, Part 3 for more discussion about the possible sources for that featured rhyme.

"Ah Beep Beep
Walkin down the street
Ugawa. Ugawa
That means Black power.
White boy.
I said it. I meant it
And I'm here to represent it.
Soul sister number 9
Sock it to me one more time.
Uh hun! Uh Hun!"
-Tracey S.,(African American female}; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; childhood remembrance,1968); collected by Azizi Powell, 2000
Comments that the informant shared with me about that rhyme can be found on this Mudcat thread that I started: Number Nine In Songs & Rhymes

..."it wasn't until recently that I remembered playing a clapping game with my friend in Kindergarten in our school yard. Together we sang:

"Ah beep beep, walking down the street
10 times a week
Ungawa, black power, Puerto Rican power
I said it, I meant it and now I represent it"

I've heard similar references in old school popular songs, but have never been able to track the origin of this game. Obviously it has some roots in the 1960s civil rights movement with black power and the neighboring Puerto Rican rights movement that developed like that of he Young Lords Party."...
-Yasmin Hernadez, memories of childhood in a mixed Latina/o and African American neighborhood of New York City, 1980s (sent by email February 24, 2004
In that same email Yasmin Hernadez included two examples of "Tweeleelee", one of which was quite risque. Hernadez wrote "my interest came about in how adult themes manifest in children's games....They are with looking into as they do serve as part of our children's early impressions of gender roles in their community"...

"OMG i'm finally remembering it...

ahh beep beep walkin down the street
10 times a week...

ungawa, ungawa this is black power
white boy

i said it
i meant it
i really represent it

i'm a soul soul sista from a soul soul town

aint too many sista gonna keep me down.

if you don't like my apples
don't shake my tree

cuz i'm a soul soul sista named... Ja-nie

again i'm not black.
-Guest, janie (Guest, duh) Downtown Baby; 2/29/2009

Note: This blogger posted two examples of this chant in that discussion thread. The first example was incomplete.

There are several other very similar examples of this rhyme in that discussion thread, including one with the "n word". All of those examples "happen" to be from New York City. This may be an interesting coincidence or it may be because the New York City area is where that rhyme originated.

From [given hereafter as "urbandictionary:ungawa"]
Like the other guy said, it seems to originate in Tarzan movies but it was co-opted by Black teens in Oakland during the 70s (I'm okay about being corrected here - earlier?) as a slang power-grunt.

I'd love to see someone provide additional words to my example. It's been a LONG time...

Foot-stomping chant (by late 70s it was used by cheerleaders and double-dutch):

Ungh, ungawa
Momma's got the powa
I said it, I meant it
I'm here to represent it
My back is achin', My belt's too tight
My hips are shakin' from left to right...""
-by Suzy from Oakland June 03, 2008
I wonder if that blogger got the term "foot stomping chant" from my now inactive website. I coined the term "foot stomping cheers" around 2002 and used it extensively on tht website as a referent for synchronized, choreographed, call & response group cheers that were (are?) mostly performed by African American girls 5-12 years old. ("Shabooya Roll Call" is a relatively well known example of these cheers, although the performance of that cheer in the 2005 movie Bring It On: All Or nothing is quite exagerrated. I've never known "Ungawa" cheers to be used in Double Dutch jump rope, but that certainly is possible.

The verse beginning with the line "my back is achin" is lifted from the widely known "Bang Bang Choo Choo Train" children's rhyme.

By at least the mid 1970s, the word "ungawa" is documented to have been used as an exclamation in certain children's and teenagers' cheerleader cheers. This use was apart from that word's Black power connotations.

From “ungawa”
aldiboronti, Jul 21 04
A variation [of a brief clip of this rhyme given by an earlier blogger] from 1976:

Unnh, Ungawa! Soul powah!
Whuh choo gonna do?
Cut the boogaloo!
C stands for cut, B stands for boogaloo --
The mighty, mighty Tigers gonna sock it to you!
Cause when you're up, you're up,
An' when you're down, you're down,
But when you're up against the Tigers,
You're UPside DOWN!
"Boogaloo" was the name of a United States Latin/Rhymn & Blues music & dance genre that was popular for a brief time in the 1960s
Also, read these comment and chant for an example of how Black creative content is appropriated by White people who use it without any awareness of that content's Black origin, purpose, or meaning:
Jenn, 02-24-2012
"I was a member of the Alpha Gamma Tau society at BJU [Bob Jones University]. We had a cheer that went like this:

Honk, Beep Beep, Walkin' down the street
sayin' ten times a week that the Eagles can't be beat
sayin' Ooo Ungawa Eagles got the Power
sayin' Ooo Ungawa Eagles got the Power

Now I never knew what the heck is Ungawa or ever heard it anywhere else, until just now watching a movie on Netflix about inequality in the South and after a funeral the angry black people start marching and chanting:

Ungawa! Black Power! Ungawa! Black Power!

I go online searching for this and I find...

Ah Beep Beep
Walkin down the street
Ungawa. Ungawa
That means Black power.


If only the Bob Joneses had known the origin of our chant.
Several other commenters wrote that that fact that BJU [Bob Jones University used a chant that they felt originated as a black power rallying cry was “all kinds of ironic and amusing.” That is because Bob Jones University has a public reputation of being intolerant. For instance, that university prohibited (still prohibits?) interracial dating.

"We Have the Power

This is a great morning cheer, because of the aches and pains we all get from a lack of sleep at three day :)

My back is achin'

My belt’s too tight

My hips are shakin' from left to right

Say OOH! Ungawa! We have the power!
Notice that the original phrase “black power” is changed to “we have the power” in this rhyme. The replacement of “we” for “black” significantly changes the meaning of that cheer. Instead of “black power!” being a response to injustices experienced by Black people, the word “power” is defined as the energy that everyone needs to have to make it through each day.

Update: July 31, 2022: Ungawa in a children's rhyme and in a children's cheer

language hat
Jul 21, 2004
"Shortly after my move to NYC (at the start of '81) I was introduced to a ditty of which I now remember only the beginning:

Ungawa! Black powah!
White boy: destroy!
I said it, I meant it,
I'm here to represent it...

(If only I could remember the rest, I could bask in my lost hipness...)

Jul 21, 2004

A variation of lh's rhyme, from 1976:

Unnh, Ungawa! Soul powah!
Whuh choo gonna do?
Cut the boogaloo!
C stands for cut, B stands for boogaloo --
The mighty, mighty Tigers gonna sock it to you!
Cause when you're up, you're up,
An' when you're down, you're down,
But when you're up against the Tigers,
You're UPside DOWN!



Here's an example of the word "ungawa" used in a Boy Scout camp song:
Peaceful Valley Songbook - Denver Area Council
[boy scout camp songs, page 32]

We are men from Nairobi and our team’s a good one
We play the Watusi, they’re seven feet tall
Oh the cannibals they eat us, but they’ll never beat us
Cause we’re from Nairobi, the best of them all

Ungawa-wa –wa

They sent fifty men down from Kilamanjaro
But they didn’t have what it takes NO! NO!
We took all the losers out to the jungle
And we tied them up for the snakes WHAT A BITE!


Remember the pygmies they came from Zambezie
We played them round this time last year LAST YEAR
Their number one player was disqualified
When he fell on a Nairobi shaft WHAT A SHAFT GET THE POINT?

Although this camp song was probably created and sung just for fun, I consider its words to be problematic because they reinforce an American and Western cultural image of Africans as being cannibals and people who still fight with spears. The song also conflates African physical locations and ethnic groups. In doing so, it may contribute to misinformation about Africa and the idea that Africa is one country instead of a continent made up of fifty four nations.

Here's information about the African references found in this song:
"Nairobi" is the capital of Kenya, East Africa.

"Watusi" is a referent for the "Tutsi" ethnic group that primarily come from the African nations of Rwanda and Burundi. Significant populations of Tutsis are also found in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania. Note that the Tutsi ethnic group aren't from Kenya.

Tutsis are considered to be the tallest people in the world.

"Kilamanjaro"- Mount Kilamanjaro, located in Tanzania, East Africa, is the tallest mountain in Africa.

"A pygmy is a member of an ethnic group whose average height is unusually short...

The term is most associated with peoples of Central Africa, such as the Aka, Efé and Mbuti.[3] ...If the term pygmy is defined as a group's men having an average height below 1.55 meters (5 feet 1 inch), then there are also pygmies in Australia, Thailand, Malaysia, the Andaman Islands,[4] Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Bolivia, and Brazil,[5] including some Negritos of Southeast Asia."

The term pygmy is sometimes considered pejorative. However, there is no single term to replace it.[7] Many prefer to be identified by their ethnicity, such as the Aka (Mbenga), Baka, Mbuti, and Twa.[8] The term Bayaka, the plural form of the Aka/Yaka, is sometimes used in the Central African Republic to refer to all local pygmies. Likewise, the Kongo word Bambenga is used in Congo."

"The Zambezi (also spelled Zambeze and Zambesi) is the fourth-longest river in Africa, the longest east flowing river in Africa and the largest flowing into the Indian Ocean from Africa... The 2,574-kilometre-long river (1,599 mi) rises in Zambia and flows through eastern Angola, along the eastern border of Namibia and the northern border of Botswana, then along the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe to Mozambique, where it crosses that country to empty into the Indian Ocean."

From "urbandictionary:ungawa"
The word Tarzan used to communicate to the animals; Also used by Dave Chappelle in the racial draft episode as a parody for how white people address other races.
"Ungawa! There's a white man talking here! "
by hellyea August 30, 2005
Dave Chapelle's racial draft os a comic sketch that was based on the idea that specific races could draft African American individuals or groups (such as the Wu Tang Clan Hip Hop group) the same way that foot ball players are drafted by professional football teams. The White man saying "Ungawa" and expecting everyone else to be silent is similar to Tarzan saying "Ungawa" and animals and Black people immediately responding to that word by doing what Tarzan wanted them to do.

From Ungowah": from where? [hereafter given as ungawah"]
"Ungawah, ungawah, ungawah... heh!
Ungawah, ungawah, ungawah... heh!"

This the rousing cheer of Young United Nations Conference (as recited by an "African" Eddie Murphy and a "Jamaican" Dan Akroyd in Trading Places)..."

03-22-2000, Ophanim
"I heard it as "Honk Honk Ungawaa Black Power!" On the old Showtime sitcom Sherman Oaks. I think it was the one with the racist parrot."
Here's information about the American sitcom Sherman Oaks from
"Sherman Oaks (1995–1997)
Plot Summary
A comedy about a wealthy plastic surgeon living with his family in Sherman Oaks, California. Dr. Baker, the plastic surgeon and his family are the subject of a documentary being made by a young filmmaker who has moved in with them and tapes their every move. The doctor's wife, a yoga loving, new ager; his daughter, the slutty bimbo; his son who thinks he's black, even though he's not; and his other son who is an NRA card carrying Republican. The show follows their superficial lives as the documentary filmmaker tapes all of it with hilarious results.
Although the blogger -and others-might have considered the phrase "Black power" to be racist, I don't agree. In some ways, that phrase is similar to the recently coined slogan and movement "Black Lives Matter" because the word "also" or "too" should be understood, i.e. "Black people should also have power" and "Black Lives Matter, too" (as well as the lives of White people and the lives of any other racial or ethnic population).

Update: July 31, 2022
From <a href=""></a>


Jul 21, 2004

"And of course these fine lyrics from "Leilani" by Oz band The Hoodoo Gurus, circa 1984:

Katoomba, Hey! Macumbah, Ho!
Umgawah! Hey! Ho! Hey-eh! Ah...
Leilani - crula-bula-ulladulla-wok-a-tai
Aba-laba-laba, Hut!

I believe it was popular on American college radio."
Google search confirms that The Hoodoo Gurus are an Australian rock band.

I don't know if those lyrics were popular in Australia or in the United States (on American college radio or otherwise) around 1984. I didn't know those lyrics until reading that discussion thread entry.

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Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. No comments? That's just weird because This is a great article. Folks chanted it at my high school in '67 and '68 often at basketball games. 'Hut Ungawa Shortridge got the (black) Power!
    In Indianapolis.

    1. Thanks, Jonathan for your compliment about this article and for sharing your memories of an "ungawa" chant.

      Your example from an Indianapolis, Indiana high school in 1967-1968 is one of the earlier examples that I've found to date. The other 1967-1968 chants that I collected are from Newark, New Jersey and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I wonder whether people from other states remember this chant from the late 1960s or early 1970s.

      Hopefully, more people will share their memories of "ungawa" chants along with demographic information (year, location, when/where it was chanted.)

      Thanks again!

    2. This IS a great article and I couldn't stop reading it. I remember "Hut, Ungawa, Shortridge got the Power" at basketball games against Lawrence Central. Thanks for the memory jog.

    3. Thanks for your compliment, Gary Cunningham.

      I appreciate you sharing your memory of "Ungawa" as a high school basketball cheer.

  2. Great piece. The mostly black cheerleaders at my integrated LA high school in the very late 70s also sang a version like the ones above. I just looked up the word when I came upon it in Paul Beatty's novel The Sellout

    1. Thanks for your comment, Anonymous.

      It's interesting that that Ungawa cheer was known in Los Angeles, California in the late 1970s.

      And I'll have to look up the book that you mentioned.

      Thanks again!

  3. I was listening to Dizzy Gillespie's composition Ungawa tonight, which also made me think of Amiri Baraka chanting "Ungawa! Black Power!" on a NY Art Quartet album, which made me go online to do some research, and of course brought me to your blog and corresponds to your Newark experiences...

    1. Greetings, Anonymous.

      Thanks for your comment.

      I wasn't aware of Dizzy Gillespie's composition Ungawa. Here's a link to a YouTube sound file that I found According to that cover photo and Wikipedia Dizzy Gillespie composed and first recorded
      this tune in 1959.

      I also wasn't aware that Amiri Baraka chanted "Ungawa! Black Power!" on a New York Art Quartet album (and I confess, I didn't know about that group until your comment prompted me to google that group).

      As a result of that google search, I found this sound file:
      Is this the tune you are referring to. New York Art Quartet / Amiri Baraka - Black Dada Nihilismus

      When I was a member of that Newark group, I focused on the cultural heritage aspects of the group and I don't recall the "murder all the White people sentiments when I belonged to that group. I cringe with aversion when I read such statements coming from that poet or any other person...

      On second thought I do recall chanting "Who will survive America?/ very few Negroes/no crackers at all."

      My heartfelt apologies for those sentiments.

    2. I added that link to Dizzy Gillespie's 1959 composition "Ungawa" in the content of this post.

      Thanks again!

  4. Recollecting a chant from my southern Louisiana private high school in the early '70s led me to your excellent article:

    "Bang, bang! Ungawa! 'Saders got the power!"

    I had a black classmate; he may have been the only black student at that time.

    1. Thanks for sharing your recollection of this chant with us Anonymous.

      I appreciate your example, and thanks also for the compliment.

      I suppose it's likely that the Black student you mentioned might have been the source of that Ungawa chant, but the way chants travel, other students in your school might have picked it up elsewhere.

      One love!

  5. I will share this knowledge UM GAWA BLACK POWER is OK 50 years later in our Human Condition To Day. Be Smart. Black Lives Matter vs the Culture of Violence. Um GAWA.BLACK POWER

  6. Not to be confused with uNgawa, UMgawa is a made up word from the Johnny Weissmuller “Tarzan” movies made in the 1930’s. It was used in the movies as a word that could mean just about anything depending on the context it is said in. Given the lack of investigative resources from that timeframe, similarity to ungawa appears entirely coincidental.

    Umgawa has also been used in the same “a word for any situation” with the University of Illinois Marching Ilini since the 1980’s (possibly earlier), usually as a response to commands from the band director e.g “Are you ready, Band?” or “Band, Dismissed!” followed by “Umgawa!” in unison. It can also be used as a form of greeting, celebration or recognition amongst band members and alumni.

    1. Thanks, Eric for your comment.

      I believe that "umgawa" and "ungawa" are from the same source with "umgawa" (spelled with a m) probably being the earliest spelling of those words.

      Thanks for sharing that information about the University of Illinois Marching band's customs of using "umgawa".

  7. Replies
    1. My guess is that "we're" = were.

      If so, my response is that some people were indeed racist in 1932 and any other year you can cite.

  8. This is a wonderful article! We watched Blackkklansman last night, and wondered what Ungawa meant, and Google brought me here.

    I agree with you on what the meaning of Black Lives Matter and Black Power needs to be - add the "also" and "too". I even agree with "blue lives matter" ... BUT people need to recognize our current context. Between cops and blacks, the current power balance is so horrible, that whites must understand that the cops don't generally need any extra protection or benifit of doubt.

    Back to Blackkklansman, I thought it was really interesting near the final scenes, where Spike Lee juxtaposed the scenes of people chanting Black Power and White Power.

    (Minor spoiler) I also loved the joy it brought everyone when Ron Stallworth revealed who he really was, on the phone, to Duke.

    I'm white, born in 1962, but I picked up a lot of the idealism and hope of those years. I am so upset at the regression we've had in public discourse in current times.

    These attitudes have been festering all along ... I want to believe this is all a precursor to (esp. white) people realizing that we need to go even deeper than the gains made last century. One last quote from the movie (Frome Kwame Ture) - All power to all the people.

    Thanks again for satisfying my curiousity, and showing how powerful language and ideas spread. Even when some folks like BJU don't recognize it! :-)


    1. Greetings, Kristi.

      Thanks for the compliment and for sharing your thoughts about the Blackkklasman movie.

      I keep believing that we are slower but surely moving toward a better world for all living beings.

      Best wishes and keep on keeping on!

  9. In the spring of 1967, I recall a game my proto-hippie high-school friends and I played (we were mostly, but not all, white). We'd meet in Central Park (NYC) and would stand in a circle. One at a time, each of us would get up and go around the circle. If a boy met a girl, a girl met a boy, or a girl met a girl, they'd kiss. If a boy met a boy, they'd link arms and yell, "Ungawa!" (Yes, I know, sexist and silly, but we were kids.) I have no idea where this game came from. One day a pretty brunette and her male companion were walking by, watched us for a spell, and asked if they could join in. They did for a few rounds, and only when they were walking away did we acknowledge to each other that it was Joan Baez. (One of our "circle," music executive Danny Goldberg, wrote about it in his book "In Search of the Lost Chord" [Akashic Books, 2018, p. 166], but didn't mention the "Ungawa" factor.)

  10. I don't suppose this story adds much to the canon, but it does show how universal that phrase was at the time.

    1. Greetings, Mark Burstein.

      Thanks for your comments.

      Your sharing that story does add to documentation about the ways that the word "Ungawa" was used in the United States.

      I suppose males yelling "Ungawa!" was an expression of "macho-ness".

      I never heard of that game before. Thanks for adding demographics and how neat was it that Joan Baez and her friend joined in playing this game.

      Too bad that Danny Goldberg didn't add the Ungawa word. Now I'll have to read that book to find out how he referred to that game.

      Here's a link to a few reviews of Danny Goldberg's book In Search of the Lost Chord: 1967 and the Hippie Idea -

  11. Thank you, Azizi. Danny just referred to it as "a kissing game."

    1. You're welcome Mark. I look forward to reading Danny Goldberg's book "In Search Of The Lost Chord: 1967 and the Hippie Idea".

      I remember 1967, but I wasn't a hippie :o)

  12. I was searching for this chant, because I vaguely remember doing at chant at a (mostly white) northern Wisconsin Lutheran Bible camp called Lake Wapogasset in the late 80's early 90's. My head hurts, my back's too tight, my body moves from left to right, Ooh Umgawa, Jesus' got the power. How interesting no one ever really explained Umgawa/Ungawa - if my memory is correct!

    1. Thanks for sharing that example, Anonymous.

      Also, thanks for adding demographic information.

      I'm not surprised to see examples of children's rhymes references to Jesus and I'm not surprised that the word "umgawa"/"ungawa" wasn't explained. If it had been explained. someone would have probably said that it was a nonsense word, and no mention would have been made of any racial aspects to that word. In the 1980s and 1990s (if not still now in some places in the USA), particularly in mostly White communities, people were supposed to be "color blind". The problem with that is that being blind to color (race/ethnicity such as Latinx) means that institutional racism and personal racism can still exist and flourish.

    2. If I were writing this comment one year later, I wouldn't use the referent "Latinx" as I've learned this:
      " In fact, recent national surveys of Hispanics/Latinos show that the term Latinx is highly unpopular. Influential media and advocacy groups have started dropping the term or even arguing against its use to avoid offending those who dislike it. It might have been intended to be more inclusive, but it actually can feel exclusionary to everyday people."...

  13. I really enjoyed reading this it was very informative & straight forward clear defining the words ungawa & umgawa. Remember Tarzan using this term/terms for just about everything. Thank you for a very enlightening explanation/education. I wanted to know hunted it down I was lost but now I'm found so much Umgawa! Umgawa! now thanks to ungawa! ungawa! to know is power! Love Is Power! ~mjt~

    1. You're welcome, Unknown (mjt) August 12, 2019.

      I love your adaptation of this chant:
      >>>I was lost but now I'm found
      So much Ungawa!
      Now thanks to ungawa!
      To know is power!
      Love is power!"

  14. My father, a sociology professor at an HBCU from the late 60s to the mid 70s, always uses ungawa to mean right on or power to the people. But growing up, I'd never heard anyone else using it. Then one night in high school in the mid-80s, I was watching a documentary film on local tv (in DC, so it was probably Howard's station WHUT) about the Civil Right movement, and they were describing the Miss Howard Pageant when the woman who won had a natural/afro for the first time and not processed hair. One of the voices described that the audience started shouting out, "Ungawa! Black Power!" I sat bolt upright because it was the first time I'd heard anyone besides my father use the term. I have no idea what documentary it was (Maybe it was Parting the Waters? I don't know).

    1. toubab, thanks for sharing your experiences with the word "ungawa".

      I appreciate it.

  15. We used to cheer a similar chant at football games in 1972 In Marcus Hook PA
    Ah we meet walkin down the street
    Ten times a week
    Ungawa black power
    The story white boy,
    I said it, I meant it, I really represent it.
    Soul sister 69
    Sock it to me one more time. Whoo!

    1. Hello, Unknown June 29, 2020.

      Thanks for sharing your memories of that chant which include the word "Ungawa".

      I appreciate it.

      Keep on keeping on!

  16. A white friend from college wrote that when her power came back on she chanted "ungawa, ungawa, ___'s got the power" saying she remembered this as a high school chant of mine. Actually, it was a street chant we did as kids in the hood in NYC around 1968. Was really interesting to read hear about it, and want to add our verion. We either started with:
    ah, beep beep
    walkin' down the street
    10 times a week
    with your funky feet

    OR we started with:

    my dress too long, my belt's too tight
    my booty shakes from left to right

    either version ended with:

    ungawa, black power
    destroy, white boy
    i said it, i meant it
    i'm here to represent it
    i'm soul sister number 9
    sock it to me one more time

    Someone elsewhere in this thread had said they never heard of these chants associated with double dutch, but in our neighborhood it was indeed often chanted during double dutch - or just marching down the street, snapping our fingers and with hand gestures to demonstrate the long dress then hands up to the 'tight belt' then swaying our bottoms back and forth rhythmically to demonstrate the 'booty shaking from left to right'. Tremendous fun, also a sense of solidarity and new sense of pride to be able to chant in unison "black power" but to those of us who were very young, part of the fun and games and thrill of being included with the group of older kids chanting with us.

    1. Unknown, thank you for sharing those memories.

      I appreciate your inclusion of demographics (year and geographic location) and descriptions of the accompanying movements that were performed with the versions of this chant that you remember.

      This is a great addition to the folkloric record about the "Ungawa" chant.

      Best wishes and stay safe!

    2. Unknown, your comment inspired me to publish this updated version of this post: Examples Of' Rhymes, Chants, & Cheers From The United States That Include The Word "Ungawa".

      Thanks again!

    3. Click that pancocojams link given immediately above for a another comment from Unknown August 10 2020. That comment gives more demographic information.

      Thanks, Unknown!

  17. During 1971, us students were given a chant to recite while walking the corriders. We also had walk-outs demanding something for teachers. I recall mainly it got us out of class. Anyways, it went like this:
    Ungawa, black-power,
    Vikings are the best
    beat-em in the chest
    Watcha gonna do
    Dance the boogaloo
    M stands for man
    D stands for dude
    Us mother f....ers gonna sock it to you
    Not sure of meaning, I just felt cool. I was an 80lb white, blonde curly haired, blue eye girl. Haha.

    1. Anonymous, thanks for sharing that chant. It's one I hadn't come across before.

      Thanks also for the information you included about the year you remember this chant and its use in walkouts.
      I'm glad you added information about when and how it was chanted. I hope you can add where this was chanted (what city/state you lived in when you chanted this.)
      I'm assuming that "Vikings" were your teams name. That's a rather common team name in the USA. My high school football team were the Vikings. I assume that is still the team's name.
      I really like the "Vikings are the best/beat-em in the chest" and "watcha gonna do/dance the boogaloo" words to this version of "Ungawa".

      The other lines don't rhyme as well, but I suppose they were "cool"to say, but wasn't it risky to say that whole mother word in school?

      Was this in high school? And if so, did the school have African American students? Does that school have the initials MDU or was that just how the chant went?

      Also, I'm assuming that it wasn't only girls who said this chant. Was it mostly boys though?

      I suppose you know that "sock it to you" means "give it to you" and not necessarily "hit you" or "fight you."

      Thanks again and I hope you add some more information for the folkloric record.

  18. I apologize for not using my name but i was unable to change old wrong email address. My name is Karen. The school was Forest Grove Jr. High (7th & 8th grades), Worcester, MA. We had a diverse group of students, rich, poor, black, white. Hispanics not so much back then. The "Vikings" I thought of the people, not a team. I also thought "sock it to you" was to hit.  The Black Panthers were active and I associated the chant with this group. Thinking of myself as a "hippie" my attire was bells attached to my jean bell bottoms and cleats to the bottoms of my platform shoes.  To say I was a spectacle is an understatement. LOL.  I believe while walking the corriders chanting the entire MF phrase was partially said.

    Also, I came across your blog by accident. I was responding to a fb comment on BLM,  comparing the unrest/rioting, by uninformed young people just following without understanding, like when I chanted this back as a child. I didn't know the correct spelling of Ungawa and found you.

    1. Hi Karen. I'm glad that you just happened upon this blog while looking for that specific rhyme. That's how most people find these posts on rhymes.

      Thanks also for sharing that demographic information and more information about how you remember chanting this rhyme in your school. I can understand why you might have thought that "Ungawa Black Power" was associated with the Black Panthers, but I don't know of any documentation that credits that organization with originating that chant.

      Here's one entry from about the saying "sock it to me":
      "Sock it to me":
      Expression from the late 1960s until the early 1970s. Literally means "give it to me," but generally had a underlying sexual connotation. Could also mean just give me your best.
      Goldie Hawn would say "Sock it to me, " on the TV show Rowan and Martin's Laugh-in, while wearing a flowered bikini. The Isely Brothers sang, "I can't tell you who to sock it to." A person could say, "I have an idea," and the response would be.."OK. Sock it to me." "
      by ambrozia June 30, 2009

      Thanks again, Karen. Best wishes and be safe during these crazy times!

  19. I was 12 and 13 so yes, too young. Thank you for responding. I always enjoy speaking to our older generation. We're losing such valuable knowledge. I have no elders around as I age to ask questions. Thank you again. Karen

    1. You're welcome, Karen.

      I'm 72 years old so I definitely fit the age definition of "older generation" and an "elder", but sometimes it seems jarring to me to think of myself in those terms.

      However, my age is one of the reasons why I feel compelled to document and share cultural information and perspectives and ask others to also do so because I've learned that information that we now take for granted may not be known or understood in the future. And that future could be as little as less than five years from now or much longer than that.

      Best wishes!

  20. I found your page while researching William Peter Blatty's usage of the word in his 1965 novella "I, Billy Shakespeare" and since the text is rife with Shakespearean terms hoped that it emanated from him. Nos uch luck as yet though I did find a few interesting uses from the 19th and 20th centuries.

    1. the (screen name), thanks for sharing that information.

      I appreciate it.

      Here's one quote from your website:
      While the popular usage of the word ungawa (or umgawa) is oft claimed to originate with Edgar Rice Burroughs and his series of Tarzan books--and subsequently in the Hollywood movies--from a Swahili origin it was seemingly used by the French and possibly Inuit dating back to at least 1811 in regards to the Ungava Bay on the Hudson Strait in Quebec:

      [portion given in French]

      Journal de l'Unité des frères from the Moravian Church, 1860

      Google translates the pertinent information as follows:

      "I was called to make in 1811, with Brother Kohlmeister a voyage of exploration on the northern coast of Labrador, beyond Cape Chudleigh in the Ungawa (ungawa or ungatane means on the other side) to the river of Koksoak" "
      -end of quote-

      I also was particularly interested in the information in your website about the 1973 Ebony magazine article that quotes "Ungawa!" being chanted by Kenyans in 1973 during a visit to that nation by then vice-President Spiro Agnew. "in which a awaiting crowd chanted Ungawa! in response to his calling out the recklessness of American black leaders".

      Thanks again!

  21. It makes no sense that Tarzan would know or speak Swahili when according to the lore he lived in the African jungle which would place him somewhere in the Congo rainforest. It just goes to show that the Tarzan series was nothing but pure escapist pulp fantasy adventure based on dated western ideas of Africa as being "exotic" with very little effort to do actual research put into the series. I wonder if Tarzan were remade into the modern era and accompanied with appropriate research of the customs and people of the African continent what the series would look like today?

    Ungawa may be a nonsense word but it's a wonderfully American word in that as a culture we always adapt to the circumstances, just like the word itself changed over time from the Tarzan films, to Black Power, to street rhyme, to high school chant. Its connotation with the civil rights struggle means that perhaps the time is right in the present to begin using it again as the struggle has been picking up an urgency not seen in quite a while over these past few years.

    1. Thanks for your comment, bluepegasus.

      I agree with you regarding your Swahili/Congo points and your points about the escapism/pulp fantasy adventure that Tarzan was to the mainstream Western societies.

      Regarding remaking Tarzan movies today, please don't give the movie industry any ideas...

      Regading your comment that perhaps the time is right to use Ungawa again, in my opinion, even though it was used a bit in chants during the 1970s or so (African American) Black Power struggle, "Ungawa" has too many negative connotations (i.e. Tarzan associations) to be used nowadays.


  22. Well done, and thank you! I woke up this morning remembering a camp song you quoted and realizing it was rather perjorative. Thank you!

    1. Thanks and you're welcome, Dyspneadoc.

      For the folkloric record, I'm interested in the words to the campe song you remembered (with the perjorative words not completely spelled). I'd also love it if you would share when (year or decade) and where (city or state) you learned this song.

      Thanks again!

  23. Ok, I may break this rather old blog, but I found it doing some other research. I grew up in Ocala (Silver Springs), where they filmed the old Tarzan movies. That jungle (complete with monkeys freed by a hurricane) was my back yard.

    There was a story that the movie studio brought over some folk from Africa to film, help wrangle the animals and such. They called Johnny Weissmuller "um-gawa".

    Johnny asked one of the translators what it meant, was it "chief" or "star" or something similar?

    The translator laughed and said, while pointing "Do not step in elephant um-gawa!"

    1. Greetings, Jay.

      Thanks for sharing.

      I hadn't heard that one before.

      I'm assuming that you forgot the sarcastic symbol.

  24. The word is Japanese, and essentially means porch, or sun room. My guess is someone along the way misconstrued the word to mean fortress wall or something similar. See

    1. Stephen K, thanks for your comment.

      I appreciate the information that engawa is a Japanese word for "porch" or "sun room". Here's that link in case other pancocojams readers want to read that page:

      I believe that the Japanese word "engawa" has no connection to the Swahili word (or the made up word) "ungawa" except that they are spelled very similarly.

      These two words could be added to online discussion threads/tweetss about how some Japanese words (including some Japanese names) are spelled the same or similarly to some Swahili, or Yoruba, or Igbo words (including names) but have different meanings.

      Here's a link to one of those online pages: "Is there a mysterious ancient link between Nigerians and the Japanese?"

      Also, thanks Stephen K for reminding me of this post. As a result of your comment, I looked up the word "ungawa" online and found a few more examples of rhymes/cheers with that word which I added to this post.