The rain blessed us, despite a hesitancy this year. The festival designed to honor the orishas of the water, doing spiritual battle against the global warming that flooded barrios down the bottom near Drexel and the University of Pennsylvania, started with the threat of exodus. What would the drum circle griots have done if everyone who looked a slight bit underwhelmed at 3pm when the torrent rains fell, just vacated south street after the months of planning. Iyanla Vanzant inspired to many great-grandmothers now to not get her 15 minutes of gratitude. Too many ancestors (Mama Russie, Gamond Jackson, Loius Gernades, Brotha Ibo) were crying rivers for us, to stay for KRS1 majestic benediction. If we had failed to listen to spirit, failed to trust the call, Odunde, Odunde, Odundeeee, the loss would have been felt for generations to come. We came to give and to get spiritual surgery.
The Perelman Building of the Art Museum was open. The University of Pennsylvania’s Museum basement vault, closed except by appointment to offer the artifacts, the material culture we could savoir in our home; if exchanged in love commerce or in our minds eye through memory forever. Too many lives at stake. Those who feel god who know on good days the best of us still stray, we blessed the space and were blessed in return. For 43 years Odunde has been the only African diasporic street festival in Philadelphia. This was the first year that the Fernandez family grieved as they celebrated the moment. City Mother Louis did not attend in flesh as we mark the one-year anniversary of transition. Sista Bumi took the reins, with her dynamic team, and Odunde was the best it has ever been. Odunde life, African center path for all of humanity to adopt.
The impact co-founder of Odunde Lois Fernandez has had on so many is limitless. She identified with the struggle of numerous cultures in the city including the Asian and Latino communities. Councilwoman Helen Gym reflected on how Queen Lois stood with the Asian community as they faced multiple projects that threatened their communities including the development of highways and the Convention Center. At the dedication of 23rd and South Streets as Lois Fernandez Way, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson stated he grew up coming to Odunde with his family, and it was a tradition to learn about his African culture. Odunde has had such a significant impact on his entire family, that Councilman Johnson pledged to stand with Bumi Fernandez and the Odunde organization for as long as he is in office.
Our preacher teacher set it plain. Rule #1: be civilization, it is your nature and responsibility to correct those some complain as being evil or racist of materialist. In some ways the mini tropical storm laid to rest the notion that the thousands who showed up to pray and vision for the best health and family and peace, came just to shop. This field reporter invested 90 dollars in food transportation and supporting vendors and a man who was too hungry to realize that he was bartering some more valuable than the 20 dollars he needed for essentials. It’s cold without the right layer at the right time of spring. The necessary water Sunday made those of us who chose to stay, huddle around each other’s highest vision for themselves and our collective future.
“You are my tribe, that is why you stayed…I am from Philly y’all. Born in Queens but who was the sista who let me play my first hit single on the radio at WDAS 1976?”, blared KRS1 during the fourth mike check. Brotha Parker is very sensitive to everyone’s eyes and ears. The music was loud at first, then perfect because the scientist of sound chimed in to compliment Kris message. And oh, what a message it was. Study, forgive, love yourself and by consequence god by blessing your divine mate, by gift your family, by spiritual opportunity your home as a microcosm of our love for our planet. As original people it is our moral duty to live righteous lives. Use what you got to get what you want. You want peace, vibrate harmony peacefully. What would you do if you saw a world misaligned morally?
KRS1 the teacher spit what Odunde emotes: Give your gift!