UPCOMING: Umoja festival will be a festival for everyone

Hannah Swayze • Sep 4, 2018 at 10:50 PM

What: Umoja Festival

Where: Various places in Downtown Johnson City

When: September 7-8. 

About Umoja

Starting as a community Unity picnic in 1978, the Umoja Festival has been a community event that in the past several years has grown stronger and stronger. The festival features a wide variety of demonstrations, performances and exhibits.

According to Angelitti Bradley, co-chair of the Umoja planning committee, the mission of Umoja is to bridge diverse cultures through arts and cultural presentations.

And why have the festival year after year?

“To enjoy the music, enjoy the food, enjoy company of others and have a good time,” said Angelitti.

New This Year

There will be several new activities and shows this year.

One new aspect of the festival will be the theme of the children’s area which, this year, is centered about STEAM, or science, technology, engineering, art and math, activities. There will be demonstrations and interactive projects set up from various organizations in the community like ETSU, Hands-On! Museum, the McKinney Center, Gray Fossil Site and more.

Also new this year is a hair show which will showcase many types of hairstyles. Each model will sport styles created by local barber shops and salons.


The music aspect of the Umoja festival is unique, with no other music festival in the area centered on soul, R&B and reggae.

Performers this weekend include The Umoja Band, DJ Sterl the Pearl, DJ Breeze, Xavier Lewis and the We Are One Tribute Band.

On Saturday, the Gospel Fest begins at noon, providing festival goers with an afternoon of gospel music.


An there’s even more on the agenda: Visitors can listen to storytellers, watch wrestling, attend the Calling of the Drums and watch a parade at the Umoja Festival.

The annual Umoja parade will start at Carver Park, the original home of the Umoja celebration, at 10 a.m. and end in downtown Johnson City. This year’s grand marshal of the parade is Nichole Collins, ETSU’s Department of Public Safety chief of police.

There will also be wrestling, dance performances, a 3-on-3 basketball tournament and many vendors to shop from. An array of food will also be available for purchase.

“We just want people to come join the festival. It’s family friendly and free to get in,” said Joe Bradley.


The We Are One Tribute Band Saturday night with be covering songs by Frankie Beverly and Maze and are asking audiences to dress in white in honor of them.

You don’t want to miss

• We Are One Tribute Band, Saturday at 9 p.m.

• Children’s area, Saturday 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.

• East Tennessee State University robotics demonstrations, children’s area.

• Hair show, Saturday at 6:15 p.m.

To Learn More

To find out more about the Umoja Festival, view a full schedule, or learn more about the organization’s other projects, visit Umojajc.org.

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