Story by Macha Rose, photos by Michael Santiago
On a warm Saturday afternoon, tucked away at Lowell Park in West Oakland, something magical happened. In a pioneer effort, the first inter-African festival for soccer was born in Oakland.
The event featured four competing teams made up of mostly West African local flag futbol players who competed on two fields while onlookers ate Taste of Africa and danced to various types of music.
Spearheaded by Baba Afolabi of SuRu clothing, a startup here in Oakland, the event was created under the term Umoja, a Swahili word for unity. He wanted to create a place where all Africans could come together under one common theme, the most obvious being soccer. There are competing soccer festivals in the Bay Area, but they are nationally-centric, like the annual Ethiopian soccer tournament in San Jose. This one is special because it brings Africans from everywhere together in Oakland, where such diversity is present.
The event included not only an adult soccer tournament, but a youth soccer clinic by My Yute Soccer, live DJs, performances by Jennifer Johns and Fresh is Life, an outdoor fashion show by Runway Style House, and various vendors hosted by Oakland In The Black.
The future of the festival is promising and is projected to become an annual event, attracting more vendors and athletes in the years to come.