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

Umoja Festival Culture

Ethnic foods such as jambalaya and larderbout, and a marketplace of sculptures, paintings, prints, baskets, quilts and other assorted hand-crafted wares contribute to the ambiance of the Festival. The Umoja Festival entertainment is a unique combination of contemporary and ancient art forms. Nationally acclaimed musical guests perform jazz, reggae, gospel, rhythm and blues. Children’s activities are a specialty at the festival. The Festival’s closing activity features a gospel jubilee of musical talents from throughout Hampton Roads. Storytelling, games and crafts with origins in several African countries are all participatory.

Umoja Festival Community

A Community Forum on issues facing African-Americans is hosted by leading community experts and gives citizens a chance to dialogue pertinent concerns. 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.


Umoja Festival Portsmouth VIP Reception

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 2016 Elders

Ms. Carolyn N. Ward

Ms. Carolyn N. Ward

D.O.B. 5/2/1944 Portsmouth,VA.
Marital Status: Single
Mother of 3, Eugene, Lynnette, Edward
She attended Girl High HighSchool in Boston, Mass.
She retired after many years of employment with Portsmouth Public School system in Oct.2014
She’s extremely active as Missionary and Sunday School Superintendent at St. Paul AME Methodlist Church
Also very active and volunteer at the Portsmouth Senior Station

Mr. Fred L. Hines

Mr. Fred L. Hines

D.O.B. 10/28/1945 Portsmouth, VA.
Marital Status: Married Rosa M. Hines
Father of 9 ( 5-Girls & 4-Boys)
He attended Crestwood High School & Graduate of West Va. State in Electronics
He retire after many years of employment with Chesapeake Product Inc.
He’s an active member of Bibleway Baptist Church where he serve as Deacon and Sunday School Superintendent
In his spear time he does Lawn Care & Car Detailing Services
Also very active and volunteer at the Portsmouth Senior Station

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