Odunde Festival begins Sunday at noon to celebrate African culture

In April 1975, Lois Fernandez leveraged a $100 gift from Philadelphia’s Southwest Center City Community, raised some neighborhood donations and started the Odunde Festival, a celebration that fosters pride and awareness of black history and culture.

Approximately 50 people, including co-founder Ruth Taylor, a friend who helped in the creation of Odunde, joined Fernandez in a procession that started in her South Philly community.

Odunde Festival events included music and dance presentations.(L.A. Parker/The Trentonian)

Sunday, June 9, just shy of 50 years later, an estimated 500,000 people are expected for an Odunde celebration, the largest African American street festival in North America, that spreads across 15 blocks jam packed with vendors, displays, international cuisine, drumming, and entertainment.

Odunde (meaning “Happy New Year” in Yoruba) Festival begins at noon.

Odunde derives from the tradition of the Yoruba people of Nigeriain celebration of the new year according to the Yoruba calendar or Kọ́jọ́dá, which usually falls on the first moon of June (Òkudù) on the Gregorian calendar.

The festival begins with a procession from 23rd and South Street to the Schuykill River. For this ceremony, gifts of fruit and flowers are brought to honor the Goddess Oshun – the deity of culture, civilization, art and love. The Odunde Festival celebrates the coming of another year for African Americans and Africanized people around the world.

The Festival exists as much about Black economics as culture with the event expected to deliver an estimated $28 million windfall for the City of Philadelphia. While Black Power may represent social, political and cultural mobility, in capitalist America, nothing says power like money, in this case, Black gold.

Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker (no relation) will join Odunde Festival leadership, City and community representatives, and festival attendees to celebrate the 49th annual Odunde Festival.

Ruth Arthur and Lois Fernandez were co-founders of Odunde festival. Ruth died at age 64 in 1997. While Lois died at age 81 in 2017.

Odunde Festival events included music and dance presentations.(L.A. Parker/The Trentonian)

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