Monday, August 10, 2020

Examples Of' Rhymes, Chants, & Cheers From The United States That Include The Word "Ungawa"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post presents some examples of children's and teens' rhymes, chants, and cheers that include the word "ungawa"(oon-GAH-wah).

The Addendum to this post presents an example of a high school recreational game that includes/included the word "ungawa".

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, recreational, and cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

Many of these examples were either cited in the August 13, 2015 pancocojams post entitled "The REAL Origin Of The Word "Ungawa" & Various Ways That Word Has Been Used In The USA" or were found in that pancocojam's post's comment section.


examples of the children's rhymes that include the word "ungawa" begin with the line  "Ah Beep Beep" walkin down the street".

Some of the rhymes that include the word "ungawa" express Black pride, and may 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 (or who presently recite those rhymes) without playing much attention to what the words in the rhymes really meant/mean.

With regard to the inclusion of  the words "Black power" in most of these rhymes, I strongly disagree with the belief that the phrase "Black power" is racist.  In some ways, the phrase "Black power" is similar to the slogan "Black Lives Matter" because the word "also" or "too"  should be understood as being part of both those phrases 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).

**Some of the rhymes and cheers that include the word "ugawa" document how Black creative content was (or is) appropriated by non-Black people who use it perhaps without any negative intent, but without any awareness of that content's Black origin, purposes, or meanings.


These examples are given in chronological order with the oldest examples given first (with "oldest" based on the example's publishing date and not the date that the person sharing that rhyme/cheer remembers reciting or hearing it. 

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 Tracey S. 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"...

4. "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,

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

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.

Note: Read the comment that is included with the example given as #- below which also refers to this rhyme being chanted while jumping double dutch.

5. "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.

6. "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."-Unknown, August 10, 2020; [comment]


1. "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!"

From “ungawa”
aldiboronti, Jul 21, 2004
"The Boogaloo" is the name of a United States Latin/Rythmn & Blues music & dance genre that was popular for a brief time in the 1960s.

2. "
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.
Jenn, 02-24-2012-snip-
Several other commenters in that discussion thread 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.

3. ..."
Folks chanted it at my high school in '67 and '68 often at basketball games. 'Hut Ungawa Shortridge got the (black) Power!

In Indianapolis."
Jonathan Hawkins, September 22, 2016; [comment]

4. "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"
-Anonymous, December 3, 2016; [comment]

 "I remember "Hut, Ungawa, Shortridge got the Power" at basketball games against Lawrence Central. Thanks for the memory jog."
-Unknown,  February 18, 2017; [comment]

6. 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."-Anonymous, March 21, 2018; [comment]

"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!"
-Anonymous, July 22, 2019; [comment]

. "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)."
-toubab, September 23, 2019; [comment]

"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!"-Unknown, June 28, 2020; [comment]

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
-Yasmin Hernandez, New York City, private email to Azizi, 2004

Here's a comment about a game that included the word "ungawa". This comment was posted 
by Mark Burstein, January 10, 2019 in the discussion thread for the pancocojams post entitled "The REAL Origin Of The Word "Ungawa" & Various Ways That Word Has Been Used In The USA" 

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.)
In a subsequent comment Mark Burstein wrote that "
Danny just referred to it as "a kissing game." [in his book.]

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  1. I originally commented on August 10, 2020 and the page has remained open since then (don't usually use this laptop for more than email and it had just remained in sleep mode). There must be more than 15 open windows (!!) and was closing them down, in the process saw this site still open. That's why I am only finding out today (August 18) that you replied that day. Thank you so much and thank you for the link, your blog and biographical thumbnail sketch was fascinating. Amazing to see such similar threads in different places in the northeast! I had said the hood NYC 1968 but let me narrow it down: Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, a few blocks away from the Marcy Projects (years later would be home to Jay-Z but in those days they were infamous/violent in their own right). Had not heard of pancocojams before that day, it was a random encounter. Am going to read much more - and what a valuable resource! Thank you so much. So very important, how wonderful to feel "seen" and what a profound feeling to have this heritage curated and validated!

    1. Thanks Anonymous.

      And you're welcome.

      I appreciate you sharing that information. When I was in college way back in the late 1960s, I happened upon a book that was written in 1922 on African American songs. That book reinforced my belief about the importance of collecting and sharing songs and rhymes for present day audiences and for people in the future.

      I'm glad you happened upon pancocojams. Perhaps it was meant to be. :o)