JOHNSON CITY, Tenn - Despite gray skies, the 18th annual Umoja parade kicked off in Johnson City this morning.
The parade began at 10 a.m. at the Carver Park.
Umoja is Swahili for unity, which means to be in harmony with all, and parade director Ron Smith, hopes to accomplish that this weekend.
"It's all about unity and having a good time," said Smith. "Everybody getting together and learning more about different cultures and diversity."
The highlight of the parade is Shaka Zulu, a stilt walker who travels from New Orleans to be a part of the Umoja festivities. With him, Shaka brings dancers, big and small drummers and other performers decked out in African attire.
According to Glenn McCoy, President of the Tri-Cities Miata club, and participant in the parade, Umoja is about unity in the community.
"We just like to support things in the community, and we always enjoy showing our cars off," said McCoy. " It's a fun event for us and we really enjoy getting together and enjoy when we can do things for the community."
Smith says, Umoja is a time when people from all walks of life, can gather together and learn more about different customs.
"It's good to see different things," said Smith. "You know, and it helps you educationally, culturally and wise to all different races and religions"
Smith says that the mission of Umoja is simple.
"Be yourself, that's what were all about," said Smith. "Be yourself."
Saturday Umoja Events are listed below:
10am Parade beginning at Carver Recreation
3-4pm Open Mic
4-5pm Dancers / Drummers
5-5:30pm Open Mic
5:30- 6:15pm Amethysts
6:30- 7:30pm MJ Beck Band
8-9pm Casey McClintock
9:30-11:30pm Phaze II Band