Joe W. Bowers Jr. | California Black Media
From 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. last Saturday, the 18th annual Taste of Soul family festival took place on Crenshaw Boulevard, known as the Mecca of Black culture and business in Los Angeles. This event is recognized as the largest one day ‘free’ street festival on the West Coast.
Founded in 2005 by civil rights activist and CEO/Executive Publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel, Danny Bakewell Sr., the Taste of Soul festival has grown from attracting 15,000 attendees to drawing crowds of nearly 350,000 visitors annually, including families, politicians, and celebrities.
U.S. Senate candidate, Congressmember Barbara Lee (D-CA-12) was among the local and state politicians at the Taste of Soul either campaigning or attending to constituents.
Reflecting on the festival’s evolution, Bakewell said, “This has far outreached my wildest dreams. I wanted a place in our community where Black people could come out and share all the things our culture represents.”
Bakewell emphasizes that while the event is rooted in the Black community, everyone is welcome.
The Taste of Soul festival has grown to be a significant economic catalyst for the local community, contributing to the revitalization of South Los Angeles by showcasing the very best the community has to offer.
This year’s Taste of Soul celebrity chair was the stand-up comedian and actress Tiffany Haddish. Joining her as event chairs were Mayor Karen Bass, LA County Supervisor Holly Mitchell, LA City Councilmembers Marqueece Harris Dawson (8th District), and Heather Hutt (10th District). Festival Co-Chairs were Councilmember Curren Price (9th District), Assemblymembers Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), Issac Bryan (D-Ladera Heights), and Mike Gipson (D-Carson), LAUSD Board Member George McKenna, CBS/KCAL 9 Anchor Pat Harvey, and the Law firm of Ivie, McNeil, Wyatt, Purcell, and Diggs.
At the festival, Bass said, “This is the best block party in town. It was a wonderful gathering and celebration of the community. It is peaceful. Everybody has a good time. We’re supporting local businesses, especially restaurants. So, it’s a boon to the economy.”
Food is a major attraction of the festival. Out of the 300 local, ethnic, and international vendors that took part in the festival, over 100 were food vendors. These included some of the finest chefs in the world, with soul food being the main attraction among the dishes being offered.
The event offered live performances on four stages dedicated to Gospel, R&B, Jazz, Dance, and local artists. Among featured musical acts were the Whispers, the Delfonics Experience, and Switch. A new addition to the festival was Tiffany Haddish’s ‘She Ready’ Comedy Lounge & Beer Garden. The proceeds from ticket sales go to Haddish’s ‘She Ready’ foundation for youth impacted by foster care and to sponsor Mother’s in Action to support their initiatives.
Additionally, the festival provided a platform for social & healthcare resources, fun pavilions promoting social awareness, exhibits showcasing local and international visual artists, and curated events for children.
The Taste of Soul festival stands as a vibrant celebration of Black culture in Los Angeles that brings people together from all walks of life.