Odunde’s Executive Director, Oshun Bumi Fernandez, Carries on Her Mother’s Legacy
Celebration, passion and persistence are the words that come to mind when describing the life of Oshun Bumi Fernandez, CEO of Odunde, Inc. Odunde is the longest running and largest African American street festival on the East Coast. The festival attracts up to 600,000 attendees, covers 12 city blocks, has more than 200 cultural vendors and has two stages of live entertainment. Odunde, which means “Happy New Year” in the Yoruba language of Nigeria, was founded in 1975 by Lois Fernandez as a street festival in South Philadelphia. Lois Fernandez, an educator and community activist, has now passed on the baton to her daughter, Oshun Bumi Fernandez, who is confident in her ability to take Odunde to the next level. –karimu abena hamilton
What is the Odunde mission?
It has always been to bring to the community a taste of Africa and provide a marketplace for vendors from all over the world to display and sell their goods. You can buy food from various regions of Africa. Odunde also functions as a place for community and family members to unite or regroup. Odunde started off as a one-block event and has expanded to 12 blocks. We have over 600,000 people attend this event every year. It brings in over $25.2 million to the Tri-State area. So, Odunde has evolved physically and financially, which allows us to expand and provide more services to our community. In fact, Odunde has just recently opened a senior citizens’ residence called Oshun Village, located in the South Philadelphia area.
What is your background and had you intended to become the executive director of Odunde?
Well, actually, I had intended to become a doctor and studied biology at Temple University. My mother became ill, and I chose to remain close to her, while being given more of a leadership role in the Odunde process. I also furthered my studies and received an MBA, which will give me the tools I need to lead Odunde into the future.
When Odunde was first established, it was before the Internet, fund development and sponsorship. It was a grassroots operation. You must have a great appreciation for your mother and her colleagues’ hard work, endurance and vision.
I feel very blessed and am thankful that I am my mother’s daughter. She always informed me of the strength of the women in our family. I am proud that she has left this legacy for me and our community. I embrace the position, I embrace the challenge, and I look forward to expanding the Odunde mission legacy for years to come.