Umoja Fest African Heritage Festival & Parade brings soul to Seafair. The three-day festival celebrates the African-American community and African Diaspora culture in in the Pacific Northwest through music, food, culture, and family fun.
Activities and entertainment include a variety of artists in dance, spoken word, and performances by children’s groups, along with national recording artists. There’s also a parade, marketplace, loads of family fun, and plenty of food choices. Festival highlights include the African Heritage Parade, African Drum & Dance, Jazz, Soul, Reggae, Spoken Word & Poetry, Hip-Hop Fest, and Gospel Fest.
Umoja Fest is a celebration that gives people across Washington State and around the Northwest an opportunity to experience the rich African heritage of our region. It highlights the history, culture, and contributions of African-Americans locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.
History of the Central District Festival
A Seattle Central District tradition since the 1940s, Umoja Fest was originally part of the International Festival & Parade and has been credited as the inspiration behind Seafair, which emerged in 1950. It was the first neighborhood event to agree to hold its festivities as an integral part of the Seattle Seafair celebration.
The International Festival was held in the Chinatown International District. Four different cultures combined to stage the event: Filipino, Black (then Negro), Chinese, and Japanese.
Each cultural group selected their own Queen and her court of four Princesses to reign over her community and ride in the International Parade on that community’s float. In addition to riding in the Parade through Chinatown, the Festival Queens and their courts rode in the Capital Hill Parades, Rainier Valley Parade, the University District Kiddies Parade, and the Seafair Grande Parade.
The International festival grew so big, the city decided to break up the event into individual festivals. Over the years, the Central District Festival would be known as the East Madison Mardi Gras and the Pacific Northwest Black Community Festival. Today, Umoja Fest is a Seafair-sanctioned event.
With the move toward individual festivals, came the East Madison – East Union Mardi Gras Festival, which managed the celebration into the 1960s.
When the Mardi Gras Festival disbanded, a new group of business and community leaders, including Pacific Northwest Bell, Central Area Motivation Program, and the Pacific Northwest Black Community Association carried the festival torch in the Central District for several decades.
About Umoja Fest
In 1997, the Umoja Fest African Heritage Festival & Parade was borne and today preserves the same festival spirit of her predecessors.
“Umoja” is a Swahili word which means “unity”, and evokes the main theme of the festival: an artistic and cultural extravaganza that uniquely touches the spirit of the community. It has been, and will continue to be, the most unifying celebration in the community, bringing people of all ethnic backgrounds together for a celebration of culture, diversity, education, social festivities, and networking.
2018 Umoja Fest Africatown Heritage Festival & Parade
The weekend festival is coordinated by a dedicated group of volunteers. If you wish to join the fun, sign up here: http://umojafamilyfest.com/volunteer/.
Where: In and around the historic Central District in Seattle, along 23rd Avenue and at Judkins Park.
When: August 3-5, 2018.
- Friday attractions: Children’s Day, Youth Talent Show, and Open Mic.
- Saturday Parade: Begins at 1:00pm. Mrches south on 23rd Avenue from Union Street to Judkins Park.
- Saturday-Sunday attractions: Family Fun Village & Vendor Marketplace. Enjoy all this along with delicious flavors of the African diaspora from restaurants and food trucks, plus three stages of entertainment: Soul N The Park, Afrobeat & Roots Stage, and Hip Hop 4 Peace.
More information: http://umojafamilyfest.com/