The annual Odunde Festival in South Philadelphia has grown from a small gathering of African-Americans to celebrate their African heritage, to a destination of traditional African religion practitioners from around the world. The festival is the longest-running and largest African festival held in the United States.
Odunde is the brainchild of the late Lois Fernandez, who in the ’60’s met practitioners of the Yoruba spiritual tradition. In the early ’70’s, Fernandez traveled to Nigeria and witnessed up close the “Oun Ogba Festival” which honors the Yoruba deity. Upon returning to the states, Fernandez organized her own festival to honor Oshun, also spelled Osun, in April 1975.
Since its early inception, the festival has drawn thousands to South Philadelphia in a lavish processional steeped in the rich African traditions that spawned the concept. In addition, the festival serves as a hub of African fashion and items directly from or inspired by the continent’s vast culture. A great perk to this gathering is the businesses are Black-owned and small establishments. This year’s festival will honor Iyanla Vanzant and legendary rapper KRS One is scheduled to perform.
Today, Odunde is helmed by Lois’ daughter, Oshunbumi “Bumi” Fernandez West, who serves as the festival’s CEO.
Odunde roughly translates into “Happy New Year” from the Yoruba language. The festival is held on the second Sunday of June and takes place this Sunday, June 10.
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