How can two people walk together unless they agree? They can’t. Have you ever done the three legged race? One of your legs is tied to another person, in order to get to the finish line you must work as a team. During the race there is no time to discuss08-08-12-umoja.gif strategy or to go through a long discussion about a teammate’s weaknesses or strengths. You just get together and work with what you have to successfully complete the race. It’s not about the individual but about the group, it’s about Umoja! Umoja is a Swahili word that means unity. The focus is on building communities that stand together with mutual respect and cooperation.

On Aug. 18, 2012 the Umoja Festival will be held at Seabrook Park at 1520 Slater Ave. in Fayetteville. The Umoja Festival is an African-American cultural, family and community festival. The event is from noon until 7 p.m. It is free and open to the public. The festival is sponsored by Umoja Group, Inc. of Fayetteville, a nonprofit organization whose mission initiates and supports African, African-American and Caribbean positive history, art and culture.

The event is truly festive and includes: storytellers, cultural displays, music, ethnic food, a fish fry and vendors. The Fayetteville State University and E.E. Smith bands will be present along with the Delta Steppers. Radio station107.7 Jamz, 3rd World Soundz, Fayetteville/Cumberland Parks & Recreation, the African-American Education & Research Organization, as well as Cape Fear Valley Health will also be participating in the festival. According to the project director, Isabella Effon, you don’t want to miss the good food. “If you are on a diet that day, take a day off and enjoy the food.”

Although the crowds will be delighted with the food Effon states that the festival is really about bringing families together. “The festival is more family oriented; the elders of the African-American community come out in great numbers. They look forward to it,” says Effon. Many of the elderly come out to talk about their history. Some of them have been interviewed by the Umoja groups’ presidential director Dorothy Fielder. During the festival you will have an opportunity to converse with these “treasures of heritage.” They are walking books of culture and heritage.

This festival has been held since the inception of the Umoja group. This year marks the 22nd year of Umoja Festival. The Umoja group has hosted other events in the past twenty years as well including Kwanza, the Malcolm X Forum, and it’s first Women’s Conference, which was held February of this year.

The group also holds international exhibits. In the coming year they will hold a music exhibit from the West Africa Department of Performing and Fine Arts, so mark the calendar and plan to attend. And while celebrating Umoja, take some time to look at the Fayetteville State University mural on Seabrook Dr. This mural is painted and cared for by the Umoja group, partners in both the community and education.

As a partner in the community the group is offering free health screenings. The health screenings are sponsored by Cape fear Valley Health and the African Physicians Association of Fayetteville. These spectacular screenings are the highlight of the festival. The screenings provide many on site services, such as glucose & blood pressure screenings, rapid HIV testing, one on one doctor consultations, EKGs, BMI ( body mass index ) screenings and the opportunity to sign up for a mammogram. So while you are there be sure to go by and get a free health screening, just do some dancing before the screenings and eat after your BMI check.

It’s a family affair. It’s about coming together. It’s about linking up. It’s about sharing and moving forward as a unit, as a community; mutual respect, mutual effort, mutual support and lots of fun.

In case of rain the Umoja festival will be held on Aug. 25 instead of Aug. 18. For more information call 910-483-6152. Vendors please call 910-488-7130.

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