Photo Essay: Umoja Fest Celebrates Unity Through Performance and Fashion

by Susan Fried

Thousands of people attended this year’s Umoja Festival at Judkins Park, a three-day festival during Seafair weekend that continues a long history of festivals and celebrations held in Seattle’s vibrant Black community. The celebrations started over 60 years ago with the Black community participating in the International Festival in Chinatown. In the late 1940s, the East Madison Mardi Gras Celebration began, followed by the Pacific Northwest Black Community Festival and finally continuing the tradition with the Umoja Fest.

The event is packed with a variety of events including a parade, live music, football and basketball tournaments, a fashion show, and amazing food and vendors all designed to bring unity (Umoja means unity in Swahili) to the community.

Umoja Fest was incredible this year! Black, beautiful and full of love,” said Nikkita Oliver, community activist and past candidate for Mayor of Seattle. “Spaces to uplift and celebrate Black community and the African diaspora are essential for our children and families to know who we are, where we come from, and what it means to be supported, loved, and cared for in community. I feel full and happy in a way I have not felt in Seattle for a long time. Much love for and respect to Africatown, Sadiqa Sakin, Wyking Garrett, and all of the volunteers and vendors who made this weekend so wonderful. I cannot wait until next year!”

Hilmae, 2, colors a chicken at the Farm Co-op booth during Umoja Fest. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Artist LeShawn Gamble paints body art on model Stephano Musa before the Umoja Fest Fashion Show. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Buffalos Soldiers of Seattle participated in Umoja Fest this year. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Federal Express and Swift Picks play each other in a semi final game of the annual Umoja Fest Basketball tournament. (Photo: Susan Fried)
The CD Panthers chant during the Umoja Fest Parade. (Photo: Susan Fried)
MYJestie marches with the Elegance Drill team in the Umoja Fest Parade. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Huge crowds attended this years Umoja Festival. (Photo: Susan Fried)
A model stops on the runway during the Umoja Fest Fashion Show. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Diamonds Drill team performs for the Umoja Fest parade watchers along 23rd Avenue. (Photo: Susan Fried)
The Elegance Drill Team stops for a team shot at the end of the Umoja Fest Parade. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Artist Devona Roy paints a piece on a jean jacket during Umoja Fest. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Vilaizjah makes some cotton candy at Umoja Fest. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Olu Dixon & Eyoub Enbris sell t-shirts during Umoja Fest. (Photo: Susan Fried)
A young model raises a fist during the Umoja Fest Fashion Show. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Two Renton football players watch the Blue Angels fly overhead at Umoja Fest. (Photo: Susan Fried)

Featured photo: A model stops on the runway during the Umoja Fest Fashion Show. (Photo: Susan Fried)