The Umoja Festival will celebrate its 20 year anniversary on Sept. 29 and 30 in downtown Johnson City.
Umoja’s mission statement is “to bridge and unify diverse cultures through education and artistic presentations of art, culture and heritage.” The two day event will go from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. the first day, followed by the Umoja concert from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. the following day.
Food, artisans, various activities, booths, music and entertainment will all be present at the festival. Performers at the concert include the Umoja Band, the Lou Jerome Band, the Jae Marie Project and DJ Ink.
The Grand Marshal at the event’s parade will be ETSU Men’s Basketball coach, Steve Forbes. He will be accompanied by the Women’s Basketball coach, Brittany Ezell. Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams, the university’s marching band and even Bucky will also participate.
Umoja, which is Swahili for unity, has been prominent in the area since the late 1990s. However, it actually began in the 1970s. The Umoja organization has its own website, and states that it began back in 1978 with an annual unity picnic that typically took place on Aug. 8 of each year.
Those who played a role included the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Concerned Citizens group, Herb Greenlee of Carver Recreation Center and other community members. These same original members teamed up to revive the annual event in 1997 with what is now the Umoja Festival.
The festival has been held at three different locations, including Carver Recreational Park, Freedom Hall and now downtown. According to the group’s website, it has attracted over 30,000 people in attendance to the festival in the past.
While the event is free to the public, donations are always welcome in support of the NAACP and the other organizations involved to make this festival possible.
For more information about the event, you can check out the event’s Facebook page, or go to their website at www.umojajc.org.