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African-American Umoja Fest is set to kick off on Friday

from today’s PI –

African-American Umoja Fest is set to kick off on Friday

High school basketball players will shoot hoops in the Central Area this weekend to promote peace.

Northwest African-American families will hold reunions at Judkins Park, as dancers, musicians and drill teams perform.

African-Americans from throughout the Northwest will meet Friday through Sunday in Seattle for the annual Umoja Fest. Organizers say the event, named after the Swahili word for unity, is the region’s largest and oldest black festival.

“It’s an opportunity for African-Americans to gather and celebrate, but it also provides an opportunity for the greater community to experience and learn,” said K. Wyking Garrett, event president.

“The festival promotes peace and the productivity of the community.”

The free event, started in 1948, is expected to attract 10,000 to 15,000 people.

A parade, which includes floats, drill teams, fraternities and sororities, will start at noon Saturday at 23rd Avenue and East Union Street. It heads south and ends at Judkins Park.

Vocalist Amanda Diva is scheduled to perform at the park at 6 p.m. Saturday. She is known for blending hip-hop, humor and black history into her poetry and music.

Before her, soul musicians, including Seattle-area residents Tiffany Wilson and Darius Willrich, will take the stage at 3 p.m. Saturday as part of the “Umoja Soul of The City Awards.”

The awards, Garrett said, will honor people who have made outstanding contributions to the city’s African-American community.

Festival supporters say the meeting of so many people in one location over the weekend will serve a purpose.

“It’s to promote unity through cultural awareness, social justice and economic empowerment,” said Sara-anne Gates, an event spokeswoman.

Events start at 10 a.m. Friday with more than 20 activities for children, including a tie-dye T-shirt booth and drumming demonstrations.

A youth hip-hop rally called “Life Over Death” is from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday.

“It’s to empower the youth and bring up questions concerning our society today,” Gates said.

Organizers are calling the basketball tournament, “Heal the Hood.” The Rucker Tournament, created in New York City in the 1950s, is the inspiration for the Seattle hoops festival.

The East Coast tournament has produced stellar basketball players and has been a venue for professionals and unknowns to compete against one another.

The Seattle tournament starts at 1 p.m. Saturday, with the finals taking place at noon Sunday. The tournament, Gates said, is designed to give young people a positive outlet.


Expect heavy traffic around Judkins Park and Playfield, 2150 S. Norman St., from Friday through Sunday. Visit for more event information.

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