A Kiswahili word meaning “unity.” Used to highlight the importance of unity and togetherness in the family, community and nation. Umoja is the first of seven principles (Nguzo Saba) celebrated during the Kwanzaa holiday celebration.

The Festival
Named for a Kiswahili word meaning “Unity,” The Portsmouth Umoja Festival is one of the oldest festivals celebrating African-American culture in the United States. Created and operated by the City of Portsmouth, Virginia, the Festival offers an exciting blend of ancient and contemporary art forms over three days on the downtown Portsmouth waterfront. Nationally acclaimed musical acts, children’s activities and a world of traditional foods, arts, crafts and entertainment abound, including the Heritage Tours, exhibitions, community information area, and a dazzling arts & crafts marketplace filled with sculptures, paintings, prints, baskets, quilts and other assorted hand-crafted wares.
The Culture
The Umoja Festival was created to link visitors to the sights, sounds, tastes and soul of the African continent, while symbolizing unity in the family, community and nation. The festival opens on Friday with a traditional African drum call and a blessing ceremony by the Council of Elders. In keeping with African tradition, permission from a community’s elders is sought for their wisdom, knowledge and experience before such a festival can begin – a tradition the Festival has always observed with elders of the Portsmouth community, The Festival then continues through Saturday with food, marketplace shopping and live music, and ends Sunday with a jubilee of traditional gospel music.
The Community
To further highlight the importance of unity in our community, the Umoja Festival invites a number of nonprofit and social service organizations to set up exhibits and spread awareness about available services to festival participants.
Meet The 2024 Umoja Festival Elders
Don Ray Johnson, Sr. and Rosa Hines
Meet The 2024 Umoja Festival Elders - Don Ray Johnson, Sr. and Rosa Hines

Mr. Don Ray Johnson, Sr. - Umoja King Elder 202

Mr. Johnson was born in Logan, West Virginia. He is the youngest of 13 children, a fraternal boy and girl twin which was rare during 1943. He moved to Huntington, WV where he was raised, attended, and graduated High School. He also met and married his high school sweetheart. He moved to Detroit Michigan where he worked in factories until 2008.

From their union they had one son, a devoted son who lives in the City of Portsmouth. After Mr. Johnson Sr wife of 55 years passed away December 2022, Mr. Johnson came to Portsmouth, VA to live with his son. He is a resident of the Cradock community. He attends Miracle of Faith Baptist Church, assisting with the food bank. Mr. Johnson also served as Head Basketball coach for his church in the early 70’s.

Since his membership at the Senior Station, Mr. Johnson has become very active and is loved by everyone he meets at the Station. He is a part of the Senior choir, avid pool player, dancer, and the social butterfly at the center. He assists his son coaching softball most afternoons.

Mr. Don Ray Johnson lights up the center everyday with his beautiful smile.

Mrs. Rosa Hines - Umoja Queen Elder

Mrs. Hines has lived in the Portsmouth Community for 26 years. Coming to the Portsmouth Community by way of her job. She later met and married Mr. Fred Hines. Together they have a blended family of 10 children, 16 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren.

Mrs. Hines worked at Norfolk Shipyard as an accountant for 26 years. She has been a true and faithful member of the following churches; Poplar Lawn Baptist Church, Church of New Hope God in Christ, United Full Gospel, Centennial Baptist Church. Her services in these churches are extensive such as, member of choirs, Pastor’s Aide, Missionary work, organizing many youth groups and so much more. Mrs. Hines volunteers at the Senior Station almost every day. Her first visit was with her mother-in-law almost 26 years ago.

Words to live by,
"God’s blessing upon you as you seek deeper debt and higher height in God and remember, no matter how high we get we still will be looking up to God.
I Love You to Life!”

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