Philadelphia’s annual celebration of cultures from across the African diaspora, the Odunde Festival, returns Sunday, June 11 for its 42nd year.
Odunde means “Happy New Year” in the Nigerian Yoruba language, and the festival was inspired by the West African culture’s new year celebrations.
The festival even hosts its own practice or presenting a fruit and flower offering to the Yoruba goddess of the river, Oshun.
ODUNDE FAST FACTS
- The Odunde Festival is on Sunday, June 11 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- This year’s headlining performance is Whodini, the hip hop group behind “Freaks Come Out at Night.”
- Odunde takes up more than 10 blocks at 23rd and South streets and surrounding areas.
- Tens of thousands of people attend the festivities annually.
Started in 1975 by Lois Fernandez and Ruth Arthur, the Odunde Festival fills more than 10 blocks of South Street with music, dancing, food and vendors from African, Caribbean and Latin American cultures.
In addition to the Sunday, June 11 street festival, Odunde will kick off the month of June with events around the city including African Family Day at Liberty Place and a free African pottery class at Expressive Hand Art Studio, 622 S. 9th Street.
The Festival Layout
Odunde is one of the oldest and largest African festivals in America. Tents line the streets filled with vendors selling African, Caribbean and Afro-centric crafts, artifacts, clothes and jewelry at the main-event street festival, which begins with a procession to the Schuylkill River for offerings of fruit and flowers to the Yoruba river goddess Oshun.
The massive celebration, expecting many tens of thousands of attendees, will take over several South Philly blocks from 23rd and Lombard streets to Grays Ferry Avenue and Christian Street, and from 20th and South streets to 23rd and South streets.
Food and Drink
In addition to crafts, jewelry and clothes, vendors will also be on hand with an abundance of African, Caribbean and Soul food.
Enjoy classic African and Caribbean fare like jollof rice, meals made with goat and curry-based sauces, jerk chicken and more.
The food selection is truly diverse and amazing, so be sure to come hungry, bring cash and plan on sampling from multiple vendors.
For more eats before or after the festival, check out the visitphilly.com guide to the Best West African Dining in Philadelphia.
The “Freaks Come Out at Night” hip-hop trio the Whodini will headline this year’s Odunde on the Queen Lois Stage on South Street, one of the festival’s two main stages, at 6:30 pm.
Ahead of the group on the Queen Lois Stage, the African Heritage Dancers, Philadelphia Boppers Association and Illstyle and Peace Productions will be performing, among other acts.
On Gray’s Ferry Avenue, nine acts will take to the I AM B.U.M.I. Stage including the I AM B.U.M.I. Hip Hop Dance Program at 5 p.m. The Universal African Dance and Drum Ensemble will close out the B.U.M.I. stage lineup at 6 p.m.
The first of the day’s performances on both stages are expected to begin at 1:30 p.m.
More Odunde Events
Odunde365 hosts events leading up to the main event on Sunday, June 11. Starting Tuesday, June 6, visit Liberty Place, 1625 Chestnut Street, at noon for African Family Day. The Universal African Dance & Drum Ensemble will be performing in the Liberty Place Rotunda and the event is free.
On Friday, June 9, The African Business Round Table features H.E. Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao, African Union Ambassador to the United States and takes place at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s Boehne Auditorium, 100 N. 6th Street. The free event is from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. and requires registration here.
Immediately following the round table, the Mayor’s Commission on African and Caribbean Immigrant Affairs will host the VIP Diplomat Reception at the African American Museum in Philadelphia, 701 Arch Street.
There will also be a free African pottery-making class on Friday night and free yoga on Saturday morning. For more information, visit the Odunde Festival events page.
Getting There and Staying Over
South Philadelphia’s Odunde festival will shut down a more than 10 block radius around 23rd and South streets. It’s is easily accessible via walking, biking—try the Indego bike share service — or public transportation via SEPTA.
Take SEPTA’s Broad Street Line to the Lombard-South station and walk nine blocks up South Street to 23rd Street. The 7 bus travels up South Street, and the 40 bus stops at 23rd and Lombard Streets.
Make a weekend out of the festival and stay overnight in the city. Head to Visitphilly.com for hotel deals and check out the Visit Philly Overnight hotel package.