Odunde Festival goes virtual for 46th anniversary

African Heritage Dancers and Drummers performer Kofi Hunt, 11, plays during the 42nd Annual Odunde Festival in Philadelphia. The dance group has performed at every festival since 1975.

African Heritage Dancers and Drummers performer Kofi Hunt, 11, plays during the 42nd Annual Odunde Festival in Philadelphia. The dance group has performed at every festival since 1975. (Emily Cohen for WHYY)

This story originally appeared in The Philadelphia Tribune.

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This year’s Odunde Festival is being held virtually because of the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

The African-American street festival typically draws thousands to South Philadelphia, but due to city government pandemic restrictions, the traditional event cannot be held.

“We know that people miss the festival,” said Odunde CEO Oshunbumi “Bumi” Fernandez-West. “I miss the festival but we have to be safe. I have to protect my mother’s legacy, so the board of directors and I came to the consensus that we had to go virtually this year, like we did last year.”

The virtual festival will be held June 6-13 and will feature 46th anniversary pop-up t-shirt and mask giveaways; an African head wrapping demonstration; I AM BUMI “Love Me, Some Me” wellness program; an African diplomatic business roundtable; an Odunde365 yoga class and a Caribbean business roundtable.

“We’re staying true to our core values,” Fernandez-West said in reference to the programming. “We still want to give people a feel of Odunde, so that’s why we are providing all these different virtual events.”

The virtual events will be live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube at OdundeFestival.

Fernandez-West said last year’s virtual event received a wonderful response from the community.

“People really tuned in,” she said. “We’re going to take it to another level. We’re trying to use our social media platform to get to more people.”

Her mother, Lois Fernandez, co-founded Odunde in 1975 after witnessing the Eli Efi festival in Nigeria honoring the Yoruba goddess. The concept originates from the Yoruba people of Nigeria, West Africa, and celebrates the coming of another year for African Americans and Africanized people around the world. The celebration traditionally began with a spiritual procession to the Schuylkill River and ended with a lively street fair.

The event evolved throughout the years to become one of the nation’s largest African-American street festivals. The festival previously attracted more than 500,000 people annually and had an estimated economic impact of $28 million for Philadelphia.

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