18th Annual UMOJA Festival

Umoja is Unity

Festival History

In 1991, the City Council of Portsmouth, Virginia affirmed its commitment to understanding cultural diversity. It was most appropriate that the City of Portsmouth selected the Kiswahili word UMOJA as the name of its African-American Festival. Umoja, a Kiswahili word meaning unity, is the first principal of Kwanzaa, an African-American cultural holiday celebrated from December 26th through January 1st. This principal emulates unity in the family, community and nation.

Umoja Processional - "Drums of Africa" Group - The UMOJA Festival opens with a traditional African drum call sending polyrhythms through the air, a ceremonial processional and the blessing of the elders, are all facets of ancient tribal cultures, customs and traditions. For two and one-half days, the beautiful waterfront of Portsmouth is transformed into an image of its Sister City Eldoret, Kenya.

It begins with permission from the elders: In African tradition, permission from the elders of the village is often sought because of their wisdom, knowledge and experience. The Umoja Festival has always observed this tradition in seeking permission from the elders of the Portsmouth community.

2015 Umoja Festival Elders:

Mrs. Marlene W. RandallMrs. Marlene W. Randall
Born and raised in the Berkley neighborhood
of Norfolk, VA
DOB: 10/18/34 Age: 80

Married to the love of her life, Mr. Vernon L. Randall, they are the proud parents of three children. Mrs. Randall is a graduate of Virginia State University, and was employed with the Portsmouth Public Schools as educator/administrator for 38 years. She also served on the Portsmouth City Council for 12 years and has received numerous awards and citations for her work in the City of Portsmouth and throughout the Hampton Roads area. She and her husband attends New Bethel Baptist Church in Portsmouth, VA.

Mr. Horace S. Savage, Jr.Mr. Horace S. Savage, Jr.
Born and raised in the Truxtun neighborhood
of Portsmouth, VA
DOB: 7/01/1925 Age: 89

Married to the former Adeline West, they are proud parents of one daughter. Mr. Savage is a graduate of Hampton Institute, and was drafted into the army during World War II. Having been described as a professional volunteer, he has been extremely active in the community and is revered throughout the region as the ultimate teacher, coach, administrator, and community leader. He and his wife of 62 years attend St. James’ Episcopal Church in Portsmouth, VA.

2014 Umoja Festival Elders:

Mrs. Mildred S. Harding
Born here in Portsmouth, Va
DOB: 09/15/1928 Age:85
Married to the love of her life the late Mr. Arthur Harding for 56 yrs
Family: 9 children, 29 Grand, 2 Great Great Grand
What Mrs. Harding like about the Senior Station is the socialization, the trips, arts & crafts, and the one thing that she enjoy the most is the Gospel Sing program in which she take part in the Senior Station Choir

Mr. Frank G. Taylor
Born in Providence, RI
DOB: 12-25-1942 Age:72
Married to Mrs. Carolyn Taylor for 27 yrs
No Children
Hobbies are Line Dancing, Reading & Ping Pong
What Mr. Taylor like about the Senior Station is the trips and programs that's offered and the socialization but the one thing that he really enjoy the most is the Senior Aerobics class that's held at J.E. Parker Recreation Gym..


2013 Umoja Festival Elders:

Ms. Mildred Moffatt Umoja Festival Elder Ms. Mildred Moffatt
Ms. Mildred Moffatt is originally from Chester, South Carolina. She comes from a family of sixteen children, seven boys and nine girls. Her father was a contractor and taught his sons the trade. Her mother was a homemaker. Ms. Moffatt graduated from Finley High School in South Carolina. She was married to Mr. Johnnie Moffatt and they shared fifty two years of married life. Ms. Moffatt took care of fifteen children in her neighborhood everyday. What a way to help nurture a village. Ms. Moffatt attends Fair Foundation Church where she has been on the Pastors Aid and continues to assist wherever needed in her church. What makes the City of Portsmouth special place to her is being able to come to the "Senior Station" to enjoy the many activities, such as the Mystery trips, Senior Prom and holiday gatherings.

Mr. Willie T. Lindsey  Umoja Festival Elder Mr. Willie T. Lindsey
Mr. Willie T. Lindsey is originally from Charlotte, North Carolina. He is the father of two daughters and two sons. He attends Noble Street Baptist Church, where he serves as Deacon, sings in the Male Choir and attends the Monday and Wednesday noon prayer service. In his spare time Mr. Lindsey enjoys staying up to date on world and local news. What makes the City of Portsmouth a wonderful place to him is having a place to come to everyday to enjoy meeting and socializing with his friends at the 'Senior Station".

2012 Umoja Festival Elders:

Sharon E. MunfordSharon E. Munford
Portsmouth Native (Brighton/Douglass Park)
Mother of four (3 girls, 1 boy)
Hobbies: Playing Cards, Bowling and visiting Portsmouth Senior Station



Edward Crosson - 2012 Umoja Festival Elder Edward Crosson
· Resident of Portsmouth
· Married to Ruth Crosson
· 15 Grandchildren 5 Great Grandchildren
· Birthday April 7, 83 years old
· Hobbies: Church, Time with family, bowling, Traveling Eating and serving people


2011 Umoja Festival Elders:

Evoria Moring - 2011 Umoja Festival Elder Evoria Moring
· Age: 87 (11-23-1923)
· Born and raised in Portsmouth Va.
· One daughter and three grandchildren
· Enjoys sewing, painting and spending times with friends at Portsmouth Sr. Station


Evoria Moring - 2011 Umoja Festival Elder Percy White
· Age: 87 (1-27-1924)
· Born in Warren County Ridgeway, NC.
· Four daughters and four grandchildren
· Retired Clergy, enjoys volunteer work and Sr. Station activity.



Elders for 2010 Umoja Festival:

Ella WilliamsElla Williams
Age: 80, Born 11-12-1929
Born in Rocky Mountain, NC
Currently lives in Portsmouth (and has for the past 30 years)
She used to be a clerk
She has 5 children and 9 grandchildren
Her favorite hobbies include coming to the senior station,
singing, and crocheting.

Matthew GoodlyMatthew Goodly
Age: 90, born 9-14-1920
Born in Florida
Lived in VA since 1950
Was in the Navy for 30 years, the navy supply center for 20 years,
and Wachovia Bank for 11 years.
He has been married for 53 years
He has 1 daughter and 1 granddaughter
His favorite activities include Helping people at the food bank.
He enjoys people, talking, and trying to help the needy.

Festival visitors are introduced to Africa through sights, sounds and smells. Ethnic foods such as jambalaya and larderbout, and a marketplace of sculptures, paintings, prints, baskets, quilts and other assorted hand-crafted wares contribute to the ambiance of the Festival. Entertainment is a unique combination of contemporary and ancient art forms. Nationally acclaimed musical guests perform jazz, reggae, gospel, rhythm and blues. Children's activities are a specialty at the festival. Storytelling, games and crafts with origins in several African countries are all participatory.

A Community Forum on issues facing African-Americans is hosted by leading community experts and gives citizens a chance to dialogue pertinent concerns. The Red Cross, Sickle Cell Anemia, PRIDE in Parenting and other social service organizations set-up exhibits to educate Festival participants about programs available in the community.

The Festival's closing activity features a gospel jubilee of musical talents from throughout Hampton Roads.

Umoja VIP Reception - The Umoja Festival links the citizenry of Portsmouth to the continent of Africa by a common thread of rhythm, culture and values, and shares this experience with thousands of Festival participants from diverse communities across the nation, thus providing true to the Festival's theme of unity in the family, community, and nation. The Umoja Festival is a superb example of a community's dedication and commitment to insuring an understanding of cultural diversity through a Festival "representing" the Kiswahili word UMOJA . . . UNITY in the family, community and the nation.

A Great Location - Portsmouth, Virginia

An historic seaport city in southeastern Virginia, the City of Portsmouth is located on ones of the world's deepest, natural harbors. Over 29 sqaure miles in size, we are centrally located within the Norfolk - Virginia Beach - Newport News Metroplitian Statistical Area (MSA). This MSA ranks as the 27th largest population of over 1.4 million, and we're growing fast.

Portsmouth is in the heart of the region referred to as South Hampton Roads; we're bordered by 4 neighboring cities: Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach. In relation to the rest of the country, Portsmouth is within 750 miles, or one day's drive, of two-thirds of the nation's population and industrial activity.