Organizers look to calm worries over safety ahead of annual ODUNDE Festival

"ODUNDE has a $28 million economic impact on the City of Philadelphia," said Oshunbui Fernandez-West.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022
Festival organizers look to calm worries over safety in Philly
CEO Oshunbui Fernandez-West of ODUNDE says everyone should feel safe coming to this weekend's ODUNDE Festival.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The CEO of ODUNDE, the nation's largest African American cultural festival, says everyone should feel safe coming to this weekend's festivities in Philadelphia.

"Don't be scared. ODUNDE has always been a peaceful event," said Oshunbui Fernandez-West, who serves as CEO of the event which was created by her mother, Lois Fernandez, in 1975.

"During that time, there were a lot of gang wars going on here in Philadelphia," she said, telling the story of some people who were skeptical about holding the first ODUNDE (Festival.)

"When my mother created ODUNDE, people were like, 'Are you sure there's not going to be a problem?' And there were none for 47 years," she said.

But on Saturday, a mass shooting claimed the lives of three people and wounded 11 others.

It happened on South Street, about 1.5 miles from where ODUNDE will be take place.

Organizers assure the public that the ODUNDE Festival will remain a peaceful event. "We've been planning for this event way ahead of time, and we do have units in place in case we need to increase our presence," said Deputy Commissioner Joel Dales of the Philadelphia Police Department.

Philadelphia police won't be the only security on-hand for the festival Sunday.

"We have a private security firm that's also going to be here. But we've always had those protocols in place," said Fernandez-West.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said, "We have never had a problem at Odunde."

For the city, it's important things stay that way since ODUNDE is one of the first major events to make a comeback after COVID.

"ODUNDE has a $28 million economic impact on the City of Philadelphia and a $30 million on the state of Pennsylvania. No other cultural festival can do that," said Fernandez-West.

There's also the community impact with events like Lois' Lunches, a breakfast giveaway that took place Wednesday morning.

ODUNDE also operates year-round as a nonprofit to help the community.

"We just want to give back to our community. And we want people to know that we're more than just a festival," Fetnandez-West added.

Organizers say people can feel safe to bring the whole family out to the event. The festival starts at noon on Sunday with a procession that's rooted in the New Year tradition of the Yoruba people of Nigeria.

It will be followed by a full day of entertainment, vendors and food.

There are also events leading up to Sunday's celebration, including an African head wrapping demonstration on Thursday, and African business round table on Friday, and a Caribbean business round table on Saturday.

You can find more information HERE.