One of the largest African American street festivals in the country makes its return to Philadelphia on Sunday.
The Odunde Festival, which draws up to 500,000 people annually to celebrate African culture, will fill the South Philadelphia streets with traditional music, handmade crafts, artworks and street and food vendors.
The annual gathering was created by Lois Fernandez, a former social worker who was inspired to put on an African-centered festival after embarking on a Yoruba pilgrimage during a trip to West Africa three years prior. In 1975, she received a $100 grant and started the first Odunde Festival.
After starting out as a gathering of 50 people, the Odunde Festival has expanded to a 15-block celebration, and has become a staple event in Philly even in the years following Fernandez’s death in 2017. This year’s event, helmed by CEO Oshunbumi Fernandez-West, will cap off the 48th celebration of African culture.
Here is everything you need to know about the free festival:
Main festival: Sunday, June 11
The main celebration will take place on Sunday. Guests will be welcomed from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
All the streets from 19th and South to 24th and South will be closed, along with blocks from 23rd Street and Grays Ferry Avenue to Christian Street. The main performance stage and the center of the festival will be at the intersection of 23rd and South.
Based on a faith pilgrimage, the Odunde Festival holds a procession at noon each year. Guests meet up and walk to the Schuylkill River to offer fruit and flowers to Oshun, the Yoruba goddess of the river. This year, the procession starts at 23rd and South.
R&B and Soul singer Chrisette Michele will headline this year’s slew of musical performers. Thirteen other acts were selected from a contest in May to play across the festival’s two entertainment stages.
Arts and crafts
Dozens of vendors selling jewelry, clothing and artwork will be sprawled across this year’s festival.
Food and Drink
Traditional African, Caribbean, Brazilian and soul food will be offered to guests throughout all 15 blocks of the festival.
African Business Roundtable
(Forum) This event is geared toward people interested in African business and the Africa-USA commerce relationship. Panelists include Elsie Kanza, the Tanzania ambassador, Robin Renee Sanders, Chair of US Exim Bank’s Africa Committee, and Henri Etoundi Essomba, the Cameroon ambassador.
The discussion will be hosted by state senator Sharif Street and will take place at the Charles Blockson Library on Temple University’s campus from 3-5 p.m. A reception will follow from 5-7 p.m. The event is free and RSVP is required. Guests can register at www.eventbrite.com.
Other events and activities
Leading up to Friday, there were programs throughout the festival week that included the “Keekee and Me” Yoga Class on Tuesday at LOVE Park and a t-shirt giveaway on Wednesday at 52nd and Market Street.
Odunde is a nonprofit organization that’s headed by CEO Oshunbumi Fernandez-West. The funds generated by the festival will go toward Odunde 365, which is at the center of yoga, dance, fashion, karate, fitness, videography and other programs for Philadelphia youth.