Photo Essay: Abridged 2020 Umoja Fest Celebrates Black Life

by Susan Fried

Umoja Fest African Heritage Festival & Parade is one of the summer highlights of Seattle’s Central District. The festival, formerly known as the East Madison Mardi Gras and the Pacific Northwest Community Festival, has been an annual tradition uplifting Black Americans in the region for over six decades.

Thousands of people usually attend Umoja Fest’s three-day August celebration at Judkins Park. But this year, because of COVID-19 and to honor the global uprising for Black lives, Umoja Fest took place on one day, Saturday, August 1, as a combination March and Parade. Attendees marched from 23rd and Union to the Northwest African American Museum, where the celebration of Unity, Love, Healing and Justice continued with a variety of live performances. Performers included Josephine Howell and the alumni of the Total Experience Gospel Choir, Nu Black Arts West Theatre, Kutt’N’Up, and many more talented artists. Dozens of Black-owned businesses were also on hand to sell their products.

Despite being an abbreviated version of one of the Central District’s most popular events, hundreds of people enjoyed a great day of marching in solidarity with the BLM movement, rallying for economic and social justice in the CD, and celebrating the musical and artistic talents of Seattle’s Black Community.

Susan Fried is a Seattle-based photojournalist

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