Odunde is back after a two-year hiatus | Way of life


Odunde, one of the most anticipated festivals of the year, was postponed for two years due to the pandemic, but the gathering of folklore and community is back this year.

Founded in 1975 by Lois Fernandez, the festival draws approximately 500,000 people from across the region to South Street. The festival may be the biggest thing the organization is known for, but they do so much more.

“Odunde is more than just a festival. It’s Odunde 365 which includes African and African American cultural programs, in schools, community centers and public places,” which many are unaware of according to CEO Oshunbumi “Bumi” Fernandez-West.

The festival encompasses a 15-block radius and features over 100 arts, crafts and food vendors. It also has two stages for live entertainment.

The list of vendors includes people selling African art and artifacts such as masks, carvings and clothing.

In the words of Fernandez-West “We are bringing the continent to America.”

While the festival is the biggest draw, the celebrations begin on June 8 with the Odunde365 – After Work Poetry Slam. Other events include African Head Packing and Food Night, African Business Roundtable and VIP Reception, as well as Brunch with Bumi and a Caribbean Roundtable.

Fernandez-West shared what makes Odunde so special.

“Odunde is a sense of community, a sense of love, the enjoyment of clothes, ambiance and food,” she said.

Fernandez-West is proud of the variety of vendors who will be attending.

“We have over 100 suppliers, so almost everyone is new.” She added “they range from artisans, clothing and food spanning the black diaspora.”

The advantage of having such a wide range of suppliers is that there is something for everyone.

Odunde holds a special place in the hearts of Philadelphians and visitors to the city. She explained: “We remind people that we come from a line of kings and queens. I hope with all the violence going on in the city, when you come to the festival, you will feel a sense of love.

The other major component of the Odunde organization is that the leadership is predominantly female.

“I think it’s all God. I am the daughter of Lois Fernandez. I thank God every second for allowing me to be his daughter. Odunde is God’s will and that’s what keeps me focused. God just chose my mother and I to be the vessels,” were his sentiments.

While the festival attracts elements of good times, it is also a great economic boom for the city and the state. Fernandez-West revealed the magnitude of the impact in numbers.

“Odunde is an economic engine in Philadelphia. Odunde brings income to the town. Odudne has a $28 million impact on the city and a $30 million impact on the state of Pennsylvania. No other type of festival has this kind of economic impact. We feed families. We supply these businesses, including all auxiliary businesses from Broad Street.

One of the vendors returning to the festival is Casey Arts and Framing, LLC of Virginia.

Owner Hamilton Peoples shared what brought him to Odunde all these years.

“My father started dating Odunde around 29 years ago. My relationship started as a child. He created the bridge between me and Odunde,” he shared.

What keeps him coming back is “that Odunde created one of the best African-American festivals in the United States. Not just the presence, but what it represents. Most of the time when I’m in Odunde, I see everyone with a smile.

He added that on the business side, as Bumi recognizes in the economic impact “If I were to count, and I’m being modest, there’s well over a million dollars being earned. Bumi also made sure we had our previous location”

These personal touches are what keep vendors coming back to the festival. Odunde is a celebration of African heritage. It’s an opportunity for black people to come together and celebrate in a positive environment, but everyone is welcome.

For all information on the festival as well as the organization, go to odundefestival.org

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