Odunde Festival carries on, brimming with African pride as its founder would have wanted

Freedom Reign, 5, rides along South Street on the shoulders of her father, Manani Akbar of Northeast Philadelphia, during the annual Odunde Street Festival along South Street Sunday.

Despite dreary and sometimes drippy skies, Philadelphia celebrated the 43rd annual Odunde Festival Sunday the way in which its late founder would have wanted: with unbridled enthusiasm for African culture.

Camera icon TOM GRALISH
Jennifer Mills traveled from Brooklyn, N.Y., to enjoy Odunde and some Jamaican food.

Lois Fernandez died last August at age 81. The street party she created, the nation’s largest and longest-running African American festival spanning 15 blocks in the Graduate Hospital area, is now a tradition carried forward by her daughter, Bumi Fernandez-West, who became its chief organizer 22 years ago. Drawing visitors from the region and beyond, its annual economic impact to the city is $28 million, according to EConsult Solutions Inc.

Camera icon CAMERON B. POLLACK
Gov. Wolf speaking with Lois Fernandez, the founder of the Odunde festival, last year.

A day before this year’s celebration — featuring food, dance and crafts — the city recognized Fernandez by renaming the 2300 block of South Street, the epicenter of Odunde, as “Lois Fernandez Way.”

Inspirational speaker, author and reality TV host Iyanla Vanzant was presented with the Oshun award, which recognizes those who have a positive impact on community. Performers included rapper KRS-One.

Camera icon TOM GRALISH
Cheyenne Barboza of South Philadelphia looks in the mirror as she tries on accessories created by Desiree Lanford (left) of Elkins Park, at her Nayaz Mobile Boutique, one of the vendors along South Street during Odunde.