History of Umoja
Umoja Fest honors Seattle’s Black community’s rich and historic heritage. The festival and parade celebrates our collective ability to make ourselves, our families, community, city, state, nation and world a better place for our future generations.
The spirit of the Umoja Fest African Heritage Festival & Parade is one that spans more than six decades. A tradition since the 1940s, Seattle has hosted the annual African American community festival and parade as a custom writing celebration of the city’s ethnic diversity. Originally part of the International Festival, it would be known over the years as the East Madison Mardi Gras and the Pacific Northwest Black Community Festival. It not only has been credited as the inspiration behind SEAFAIR (which emerged during the early 1950’s) but also continues to be held during SEAFAIR’s annually activities.
The purpose of the festival and parade is to highlight the history and countless contributions of African-Americans locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. It is a celebration that gives people for all over Washington and the northwest an opportunity to experience the rich African heritage and culture of the region.
The festival and parade,which is coordinated by volunteers, is a three-day festival includes musical entertainment of all varieties,children’s group performances, dance, oration national recording artists, food, bargains, and plenty of fun.
“Umoja” is a Swahili word which means “unity”, is the main theme of the festival. An artistic and cultural extravaganza that uniquely touches the spirit of the community, the Umoja Fest has historically been the most unifying celebration in the community, bringing people of all ethnic backgrounds together for a celebration of culture, education, social festivities and networking. Event highlights include the African Heritage Parade, Children’s Day, African Drum & Dance, Jazz, Soul, Reggae, Spoken Word & Poetry, Hip-Hop Fest, Basketball Tournament, Fitness Demonstrations, Gospel Fest, Voter Registration, Vendor Marketplace & Community Resource Fair.