UPDATE (5/27): On Friday afternoon, event organizers said the opening ceremony for the Umoja Festival and all of the free Friday activities are canceled. The ceremony will now take place at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 28.


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Grammy-winning artist Chaka Khan will headline this year’s UMOJA festival, which will be held from May 27-29 this year at Portsmouth’s Atlantic Union Bank Pavilion.

Khan will perform Friday night at 8 p.m.

The UMOJA festival combines entertainment from contemporary and ancient art forms to celebrate African American culture and heritage. UMOJA is Kiswahili for “unity.”

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IMGoing President Ken MacDonald said back in January during the announcement that he expects this to be one of the most successful years ever for the pavilion because there is a pent-up demand for concerts. The venue hasn’t had a full season since 2017 due to structural issues and the coronavirus pandemic.

City Council spent $4.4 million to complete the repairs to the venue, which included a new mast and canpoy, re-flooring and new paint, new curtains, electrical work, and more. 

There are also many free performances throughout the course of the weekend, as well as a ticketed event called 70s Soul Jam at the pavilion on Sunday. The Stylistics, The Legendary Blue Notes (formerly Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes under the late Harold Melvin) and Heatwave will perform.