It was beautiful. It was buttery. It was black. Held every year on South Street, the Odunde Festival is a celebration of blackness and the largest African American festival held in the country. It’s one of my most favorite events in Philly so I had to hit up the city of brotherly love for a second weekend in a row and get my life.
The Odunde Festival was established in 1975 by Lois Fernandez and Ruth Arthur. With a mere $100 grant, these two started a movement. Annually, Odunde attracts over 500,000 attendees. The festival includes blocks on blocks of vendors selling any and everything you need to be black & beautiful. If you’re looking to stay moisturized, they got shea and cocoa butters are on deck. If you’re looking for your smell goods, incents and oils are sold at almost every other stand (if I don’t bring my sister back some oil I am not allowed to return home). If you want to make a statement, you have your choice of t-shirts or posters with pro-black messages and prominent figures in black history. If you want it, somebody out there has it.
In addition to vendors, there are also live performances. There’s 2 stages that showcase African dancing, hip-hop dancing, musical acts and more. In true festival fashion, performances happen right on the street too. Walking through the crowd down South Street you can see people dancing (both African and hip hop), performing spoken word, playing instruments, etc. If you get hungry, there’s numerous soul food stands selling fried chicken, fried fish, collards greens, mac and cheese, corn bread, teas and lemonades. If you’re not in the mood for that, there’s a few different food trucks available with other options.
Overall, the Odunde Festival just has great energy. It’s a wonderful time to be out and celebrate the culture. The weather this year was great. In the past, it’s usually fallen on a day that is extremely hot. When a bunch of black folks get together it’s already hot, so when you combine that with the heat, it get’s real out there. The wind was kind of on fleek this year which I think helped maintain a really good temperature. Everyone’s different fashions and styles always adds a lively mix to the day. The combination of all these things is why I love the Odunde Festival so much.
If you have never been, I would highly recommend you make your way to Philly for the experience. For more information on the Odunde Festival, check here. Also, look out for my next post on the rest of my trip to Costa Rica!