Odunde Festival draws thousands to a celebration of African culture

    A woman in a flowing yellow robe and head scarf leans over the South Street Bridge and flings a handful of fruit into the Schuylkill River. This is the beginning of the Odunde Festival, a 39-year tradition in Philadelphia.

    A woman in a flowing yellow robe and head scarf leans over the South Street Bridge and flings a handful of fruit into the Schuylkill River.

    Others join in. Bananas, apples, oranges, yams, and an array of colorful flowers sail down to the water below. Many pour honey into the river.

    This is the beginning of the Odunde Festival, a 39-year tradition in Philadelphia. Founded by Lois Fernandez, the event was built around the traditions of the Yoruba people of Nigeria.

    Each year, on the second Sunday in June, the festivities begin with a procession and offering to Oshun, the Yoruba goddess of the river.

    It is a celebration of the new year, said Kim Hopson. The offerings are a way of giving thanks for the blessings of the past year and a way of asking for more in the coming year.

    There follows a block party that is billed by its organizers as the largest African-American street festival in the country. Two stages and hundreds of vendors cover 12 blocks in southwestern Center City.

    The food, music and wares represent the many cultures of the African diaspora.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.