The Link to My Self-Identity Is ODUNDEMar 10, 2016 08:00AM ● By Lorenzo Pierce
As young black person who was born and raised in the city of Philadelphia, finding your identity can be one of the most unidentifiable challenges of your youth. The reason why I refer to it as an "unidentifiable challenge" is because most times in the lives of young black people, finding oneself is a struggle that can be difficult to articulate and pinpoint. Hopefully, this makes sense to you.
In the city though, it is not so much of a struggle to identify with the culture(s) and practices that are prevalent within Black communities throughout the Diaspora: Hip-Hop, dance, food, spirituality, etc.
Speaking of all these, there was a particular event that for me at least provided a spark in my heart and mind; the spark in my mind that aided me in identifying who I am and who I came from. When I was younger my mom and aunts would hit South Street in Philadelphia on each second Sunday in June. Back then I learned that this festival is the largest African festival on the east coast of the U.S.
Upon my first time attending, being surrounded by the vibes of the festival, I instantly fell in love. Since those days, I have attended the Odunde Festival almost every year. This past year, being the 40th anniversary, was probably my favorite one yet. There was just the perfect fusion of music, culture, beauty and food from the Diaspora, the Caribbean, South America and Africa. By coming in contact with all this since I was about 8, I always considered it to be a privilege to attend the festival. I consider it a privilege because there is an education that takes place when learning about one- self, or one's trail--the trail of our predecessors and the trail that we're on currently.
Attending the festival early on, I learned that it was perfectly fine for blackness to be celebrated. I mean, in our school systems we learn very little about ourselves. The things that we do learn aren't really all that accurate and the other things we learn can be very depressing. Meanwhile lessons on Black History probably don't even take up a whole class period these days. However, Odunde taught me that Blackness is to be celebrated, not unsung.
The Odunde Festival was the link to my self-identification as a youth. It seems the festival attracts more young people year after year every summer. This, I appreciate. It is our duty to welcome our youth into spaces in which their Blackness is extolled rather than it being assassinated.