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Umoja Festival

Umoja Festival

Johnson City embraces people from all cultures, backgrounds, and walks of life, and that unity is celebrated at the Umoja Festival, held annually since 1997. “The whole idea of the Festival is to show the diversity that we have in this region,” says Umoja chairman Ralph Davis. “For all of us to come together as one and show people that we have more in common than we do differences.” At this two-day event, more than 20,000 area residents gather to teach and learn about other cultures’ traditions and customs through a sharing of music, food, storytelling, and dance. No story better represents the universal love expressed at the Umoja Festival than the story of Shaka Zulu, a stilt walker from New Orleans who attends the Festival every year to perform with his band of drummers and dancers. After he returned from the Festival in 2005, his home in New Orleans was badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina. “Our group [of Umoja organizers and attendees] dipped into our pockets and were able to help him out,” Davis explains. “He said he would never forget the kindness Johnson City has shown him, and he’s never missed a festival.” Umoja organizers make special arrangements every year so elderly citizens and citizens with disabilities can make it to the Festival. The 2017 Umoja Festival will be held in downtown Johnson City on September 28th and 29th.

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