Philly’s annual African American street festival Odunde canceled due to COVID-19

African heritage dancers perform at Philadelphia's Odunde Festival.

African heritage dancers perform at Philadelphia's Odunde Festival. (Brad Larrison for WHYY)

Odunde — Philly’s annual African American street festival — has canceled its 2020 event due to the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the largest festivals of its kind in the country, the massive market held on South Street from 20th to 24th streets often draws hundreds of thousands of people from the tri-state region.

It was founded in 1975 by Philly activist Lois Fernandez, who created the festival celebrating African and African American heritage with a $100 grant and a gathering of her neighbors.

“The health and well-being of our festival attendees, vendors and performers is paramount!” said Oshunbumi “Bumi” Fernandez-West, Odunde’s board president and CEO, in a statement.

Fernandez-West said they will skip this year and have set a tentative date of Sunday, June 13, 2021 for next year’s event.

The free festival — which brings traditions of the Yoruba people of Nigeria to its central ceremonies — features a variety of musicians and performers, vendors selling African-inspired goods, and food from the Caribbean and beyond.

The festival’s success over the years also spawned the Odunde 365, which provides year-round creative, educational programming and I AM B.U.M.I — a self-empowerment program for girls.

Donations to Odunde and its educational programming can be made on the organization’s website.

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