If eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is supposed to bring good luck, then Oakland will be having a tremendous lucky day on Sept. 24, 2022, when it will host the 7th annual Oakland Black-Eyed Pea Festival.
Appealing to all ages, the free festival at Oakland Technical High School will feature African American traditional music from several genres including zydeco, blues, gospel, funk and avant garde jazz and poetry. Hand-made items by people of African descent and Afrocentric food — with black-eyed peas as part of the menu — will be sold as well.
This year, the festival’s sponsoring organization, Omnira Institute, is partnering with the Akoma Liberation Park’ s traveling group of artists and crafters and the Museum of Children’s Art (MOCHA) for a small arts and crafts tent for children.
Why a Black-Eyed Pea Festival?
“The black-eyed pea is a metaphor for what is resilient, creative, and collaborative about African-American culture,” said Wanda Ravernell, director of the Black-Eyed Pea Festival and founder of Omnira Institute.
“We are especially pleased to have a range of genres in this year’s line-up because it brings to mind the time when Oakland’s Seventh Street was the ‘Harlem of the West,’” Ravernell said. Gentrification has almost finished the job that the construction of the Grove Shafter Freeway, BART tracks and the Post Office did in dividing what had once been a thriving Black community.
The sound of the music, the scent of the food and the creativity of the artists invokes that time of prosperity. “Their work is entertaining, but it’s also a history lesson and a healing.”
This festival is unique because it focuses on the specific relationship between black-eyed peas and African American culture and history.
It is common knowledge that black-eyed peas have been a staple New Year’s Day dish for generations of African Americans. But to festival organizers, it’s important to know that the first domestication of the black-eyed pea was in West Africa and that George Washington Carver (African American biologist and inventor) promoted the planting of black-eyed peas because the crop enriched the soil and had high nutritional value.
“This festival brings our mission to life,” says Ravernell. “We want to highlight and preserve the cultural and spiritual traditions of African Americans and demonstrate how these traditions are connected to Africa and the African Diaspora.”
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