The Odunde Festival, one of the largest celebrations of African cultures in the nation, returns to Philadelphia this Sunday, June 10.
Drawing up to 500,000 people each year, the fest — which takes over 10 blocks of Philly’s Graduate Hospital neighborhood for its 43rd year — brings together arts and traditions from across the African diaspora.
On tap at the East Coast’s largest and the country’s longest, continuously running African-American street festival: live music, street and stage performances — including a set by KRS-One — food from African, Caribbean and American cultures and vendors selling clothing, jewelry, artisan crafts and much more.
ODUNDE FESTIVAL FAST FACTS
- The Odunde Festival in Philly’s Graduate Hospital neighborhood takes place Sunday, June 10, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
- The fest is the East Coast’s largest and the country’s longest, continuously running African-American street festival.
- Attendees can expect live music and dance, 100 arts and craft and food vendors and more.
- Attendance is free, with pay-as-you-go food and shopping.
The Odunde Festival, which is inspired by Nigerian Yoruba culture and the Yoruba religion, begins at 10 a.m. and commences in earnest with a procession at noon from 23rd & South streets to the Schuylkill River to honor the Yoruba goddess of the river, Oshun, with offerings of fruit and flowers.
From there, festival attendees head back to South Street for the fest, which runs on South Street from 20th Street to 23rd Street and from 23rd & Lombard streets to Grays Ferry Avenue.
Attendees can look forward to blocks and blocks of colorful tent-lined streets filled with local and national vendors selling traditional African waist beads, African clothing and vibrant crafts.
And festival-goers should keep an eye out for diverse street performers, drawing crowds with mini-magic shows and acrobatics throughout the festival grounds.
What to Eat and Drink
Perusing blocks and blocks of things to see and do can work up quite the appetite, so it’s a good thing that there will be plenty of food vendors offering up African, Caribbean and soul food throughout the fest.
Try Jamaican oxtails with rice and peas and plantain (pronounced “plan-tin” in Caribbean culture), African jollof rice, curry dishes and spicy, barbecue-like jerk chicken.
For more cultural eats before or after the festival, check out VISIT PHILADELPHIA’s guide to West African dining.
Performances and More
The 2018 fest features two stages: the I AM B.U.M.I. Stage at Grays Ferry Avenue and Fitzwater Street and the Queen Lois Stage at South Street and S. 23rd Street.
Both stages are packed with cultural performances going on throughout the day, kicking off at 1:30 p.m. on both stages.
Stand-out performers include the I AM B.U.M.I. Hip Hop Dance program (5:45 p.m. on the B.U.M.I. Stage), local singing group Brotherly Love (3:30 p.m. on the Queen Lois Stage at 3:30 p.m.) and the Universal African Dance & Drum Ensemble (6 p.m. on the B.U.M.I. Stage).
Legendary hip-hop artist KRS-One, known for such songs as Sound of da Police, and MC’s Act Like They Don’t Know, headlines the Odunde Festival this year. Catch his electrifying performance on the Queen Lois Stage at 6 p.m.
In addition to the day-long performance program, renowned speaker, author, television host and spiritual counselor Iyanla Vanzant will be honored with the Osun Award at 4 p.m. on the Queen Lois Stage during the Community Visionary Awards.
Other festival awardees include City Council President Darrell L. Clarke and Philadelphia Eagles player Malcolm Jenkins.
More African-Inspired Events and Entertainment
Odunde offers much more than the main event celebration on Sunday.
Following a week’s worth of events, Odunde hosts local government officials and African diplomats at a free-to-attend African Business Roundtable at the Federal Reserve Bank on Friday, followed by a reception for the dignitaries at the African American Museum in Philadelphia.
Started by Lois Fernandez and Ruth Arthur in 1975, Odunde was inspired by the Nigerian Yoruba new year celebrations. In fact, the word “Odunde” means “Happy New Year” in the Yoruba language.
This year, the festival is even more special as it’s the first year since the passing of founder Lois Fernandez in August 2017. Odunde will hold a street renaming ceremony for Fernandez on Saturday, June 9 at 11 a.m. at 23rd & South streets. Organizer Bumi Fernandez — Lois’ daughter — is at the helm for the 2018 fest.
Getting There and Staying Over
Centered around 23rd and South streets, the Odunde Festival is easily accessible from anywhere in Center City via walking or biking. (Try the Indego bike share service.)
Folks looking to take public transportation can hop on SEPTA’s Broad Street Line to the Lombard-South station and walk nine blocks west on South Street to 23rd Street. Bus and regional rail service will also be available.
Make a weekend out of the festival with the Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package, which is offering $195 in free perks, including free hotel parking and restaurant gift cards to We ♥ 13th Street restaurants, CHeU Noodle restaurants gift card, R2L and more.
Don’t miss this major annual summer fest in Philadelphia!