Enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of Africa. And maybe some of its soul.

Umoja Festival Culture

The Umoja Festival entertainment is a unique combination of contemporary and ancient art forms. In African tradition, permission from the elders of the village is sought because of their wisdom, knowledge and experience. The Umoja Festival has always observed this tradition in seeking permission to begin the festival from the elders of the Portsmouth community.

Nationally acclaimed musical guests perform jazz, reggae, gospel, and rhythm and blues. Children’s area contains games, crafts, and workshops with origins in several African countries. The Festival’s closing activity features a gospel jubilee of musical talents from throughout Hampton Roads.

Ethnic foods, a marketplace of sculptures, paintings, prints, baskets, quilts and other assorted hand-crafted wares contribute to the ambiance of the Festival.

Umoja Festival Community

 The Red Cross, Sickle Cell Anemia, PRIDE in Parenting and other social service organizations set-up exhibits to educate Festival participants about programs available in the community.

drummer

The Umoja Festival links the citizenry of Portsmouth to the continent of Africa by a common thread of rhythm, culture and values, and shares this experience with thousands of Festival participants from diverse communities across the nation, thus providing true to the Festival’s theme of unity in the family, community, and nation. The Umoja Festival is a superb example of a community’s dedication and commitment to insuring an understanding of cultural diversity through a Festival “representing” the Kiswahili word UMOJA . . . UNITY in the family, community and the nation.

 

kenya_eldoretUmoja Festival History

In 1991, the City Council of Portsmouth, Virginia affirmed its commitment to understanding cultural diversity. It was most appropriate that the City of Portsmouth selected the Kiswahili word UMOJA as the name of its African-American Festival. Umoja, a Kiswahili word meaning unity, is the first principal of Kwanzaa, an African-American cultural holiday celebrated from December 26th through January 1st. This principal emulates unity in the family, community and nation. Umoja Processional – “Drums of Africa” Group – The UMOJA Festival opens with a traditional African drum call sending polyrhythms through the air, a ceremonial processional and the blessing of the elders, are all facets of ancient tribal cultures, customs and traditions. For two and one-half days, the beautiful waterfront of Portsmouth is transformed into an image of its Sister City Eldoret, Kenya.

The Festival begins with permission from the elders: In African tradition, permission from the elders of the village is often sought because of their wisdom, knowledge and experience. The Umoja Festival has always observed this tradition in seeking permission from the elders of the Portsmouth community.

Meet the 2017 Elders

Esther White Mrs. Esther White born and raised, receiving her education, in the City of Portsmouth graduating from I.C. Norcom. She later went on to attend Norfolk State University. She worked as a pediatric nurse for 21 years and also in the Portsmouth School system for 15 years. One of nine siblings, and the mother of 3 children, 6 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren. Mrs. White is a lifelong member of St. Paul AME Church in Portsmouth where she serves on the Missionary Board, the Lays Organization, Stewardee Board and many other organizations. She is also a member of RSVP (Retired Seniors Volunteer Program), Eastern Star and the Red Hatters. In her spare time she enjoys visiting the sick, helping to feed the hungry and giving a helping hand where one is needed.  Mrs. White is one of nine siblings, and the mother of 3 children, 6 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren. Her words to live by are, “God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can and Wisdom to know the difference”……
Phillip Finch Mr. Phillip Finch was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina were he completed the 4th grade, and has educated himself through many life experiences. One of 14 siblings, Philip has 1 daughter, 4 grandchildren, and 5 great grands. Mr. Finch worked in the City of Portsmouth as a sanitation worker and at Star Band. Phillip has been a member of The Garden of Prayer in Norfolk for 66 years. Serving on the Male Usher Board and assisting with anything needed at his church, just as he does at the Senior Station. His hobbies include painting and landscaping and he is always helpful with looking out for our seniors. His words to live by are found in, Psalms 122:1 I was glad when they said unto me; Let us go into the house of the Lord.