by Susan Fried
The 2021 Umoja Fest Day of Unity parade and festival drew hundreds of people to Jimi Hendrix Park on Aug. 7 for a day of celebrating Black entrepreneurship, music, and art. For more than 50 years Seattle’s Black community has held a summer festival. Starting in 1952, it was called the East Madison Mardi Gras, later transforming into the Pacific Northwest Black Community Festival, and in 1997 it became the Umoja Fest African Heritage Festival.
This year’s event featured a Black Unity march from 23rd Avenue and East Union Street to Jimi Hendrix Park; a children’s village; and dozens of music and dance performances by artists like Zach Bruce, April Shantae, Johnny Grant, Kutt ’N’ Up, and Skye Dior. Vendors sold food, beverages, art, household items, and clothing. Local nonprofits such as the Harriet Tubman Center for Health and Freedom, the African Americans Reach and Teach Health Ministry (AARTH), Feed the People, and the A. Philip Randolph Institute had booths to spread the word about their organization’s missions in the community.
Wyking Garrett, the president and CEO of Africatown Community Land Trust, grew up in the Central District and remembers the Black community festivals through the years and how important they were. He spoke to the crowd this year about celebrating Black love: “What I need us to really do is change the vibration; we got to change the frequency we have to tune in and unify with Black love in our community,” he said. “Tupac said Thug Life stood for ‘the hate u give little infants f***s everybody.’ The opposite of that is, if we give the love to our children properly, we got to put our families back together because that’s where it starts. Then we put our communities, which is just a family of families, and then we put the love back in it, that’s what I want to focus on.”
Susan Fried is a 40-year veteran photographer. Her early career included weddings, portraits, commercial work — plus she’s been The Skanner’s Seattle photographer for 25 years. Her images have appeared in the University of Washington Daily, the Seattle Globalist, Crosscut, and many more. She’s been an Emerald contributor since 2015. Follow her on Instagram @fried.susan.
📸 Featured Image: The Buffalo Soldiers of Seattle lead the 2021 Umoja Day of Unity Black Love Parade on Aug. 7, 2021. (Photo: Susan Fried)
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