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Black Arts and Culture

May 22-24: Portsmouth Hosts 25th Annual Umoja Festival

By Randy Singleton

Community Affairs Correspondent

New Journal and guide


The City of Portsmouth celebrated its 25th annual African American Culture and Heritage Festival this past weekend (May 22-24) at the nTelos Wireless Pavilion and Festival Park. The festival’s purpose was to promote cultural diversity and unity.

The festival opened Friday afternoon under sunny and breezy skies which lasted all week-end long. The word “Umoja” is the first day of the African American cultural holiday Kwanzaa and means unity.

The opening ceremony featured the traditional African drum call, a processional of local dignitaries, including Congressman Bobby Scott-D-3rd district, and permission from the elders of the Portsmouth community, Marlene Randall and Horace Savage. While the event’s highlight was a ticketed concert Saturday (May 23) night at the nTelos Wireless Pavilion featuring Peabo Bryan, Jazmine Sullivan, and Portsmouth’s own CaReam, local and regional R&B and jazz bands took to the outdoor festival stage Friday and Saturday to keep the crowds entertained. Vendors provided an abundance of food and retail items.

Residents and visitors to the city enjoyed free admission to all of the festivities except Saturday night’s ticketed concert. This included continuous live music on the festival stage, a meet and greet with actress Bernadette Stanis from the sitcom “Good Times,”and children’s activities.

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An added cultural feature to this year’s lineup were guided tours to the Portsmouth Community Colored Library Museum and the Emanuel A.M.E. Underground Railroad.

The festival closed out on Sunday with a children’s village and gospel music concert, featuring Portsmouth’s own Peggy Brit and gospel superstar Vickie Winans. The event was sponsored by the City of Portsmouth, Optima Health, Metro PCS, and McDonalds.

Portsmouth Mayor Kenneth Wright thanked the New Journal and Guide for providing coverage of the event. For more information, please visit:

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