by Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
While a festival with 350,000 people on Crenshaw Boulevard isn’t in the cards because of the coronavirus pandemic, Bakewell Media and the Los Angeles Sentinel have found a new way to bring even more people together.
The 15th annual Taste of Soul, the largest one-day street festival in Southern California, will take place virtually on Saturday, Oct. 17.
The annual event, which begins at 6 p.m. PST., routinely draws well over a quarter of a million people on the third Saturday in October. Peak attendance has been about 350,000.
The event features local and international cuisine and merchandise from vendors, live entertainment on at least four stages, and various organizations’ information.
The Taste of Soul stands out as a community event that highlights the region’s Black cultural experience fused with diverse cultures and traditions.
“It’s our Essence Festival,” pronounced Pamela Bakewell, the executive vice president and COO of The Bakewell Company.
“It’s become a national treasure and, locally, it’s one of the biggest things that happens each year. The Black community has a lot of pride in Taste of Soul, and people come from everywhere, and many plan their family reunions around the event.”
Danny Bakewell, Sr., the chairman and CEO of The Bakewell Company and Publisher Emeritus of the Los Angeles Sentinel, noted that Hyundai played a large role in making the virtual event possible this year.
“We couldn’t do it without them,” Bakewell, Sr., declared about the partnership with Hyundai.
“They believe so much in Taste of Soul, and they wanted to make sure it would live even though the circumstances with the pandemic wouldn’t allow us to have an on-the-ground event.”
When initially conceiving of the event, Bakewell added that he never thought it would become such a global sensation that attracts superstars as much as it does neighbors.
This year’s lineup of performers includes: Host Kym Whitley and features Anthony Hamilton, Doug E. Fresh, After 7, En Vogue, Montell Jordan, Fred Hammond, Jade Novah, and Deborah Joy Winans.
Celebrities scheduled to appear include Wendy Raquel Robinson, Loni Love, Kim Fields, Faithe C. Herman, Lamman Rucker, Dr. Bobby Jones, and Darrin DeWitt Henson.
DJ Mal-Ski will provide the music for Taste of Soul, which Bakewell Media will live stream at www.TasteofSoul.org.
“I had a vision, but Taste of Soul has outlasted and become bigger than I ever dreamed,” Danny Bakewell stated.
“This belongs to the community, and the nation has allowed Taste of Soul to multiple. It has all the ingredients we talk about in terms of being good and wholesome for our community.”
“When we started, it was all about making sure that we did something in our community for our community. We always believed in our community, and if you give us a quality event, the community will embrace it. It’s remarkable the way the community has responded. Taste of Soul has entertainment, commerce, good public relations, good imagery. It has all of those things and, of course, magnificent food, which is the fundamental foundation of what we’re doing.”
The food at Taste of Soul comes from individuals who work in so-called greasy spoons and hole-in-the-walls, Bakewell added.
“That’s how some people refer to them,” he demurred. “We call them our neighborhood chefs.”
Most of all, Bakewell was emphatic that Taste of Soul is proof of what the Black Press of America and African Americans as a whole can accomplish by showing confidence in and relying on each other.
“When we first started, the basic take was that we couldn’t do this, that there would be gang violence and people won’t respond,” Bakewell recalled.
“These are our children, our grandchildren, our nieces, and nephews in our community. They come with their mothers and fathers and cousins, and we know how to behave, and our parents know how to make us behave. We’ve never had an incident, and that speaks volumes to how other people view us. It’s a wonderful thing for us to come out of our houses and find something of a quality nature in our own community.”
Bakewell encouraged the Black Press members to support Taste of Soul, crediting the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) with much of its success.
“We’d love to take Taste of Soul national, but it takes a lot of money, hard work, and sponsors,” Bakewell said.
“We could bring Taste of Soul near you tomorrow with enough sponsors. Thanks to the NNPA publishers throughout the country because many people know about Taste of Soul because of the Black Press, which again amplifies the Black Press’s importance.
“I am so grateful to my brothers and sister publishers and to [NNPA President and CEO] Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. I thank him for the remarkable job and leadership he’s providing the NNPA.
“He is a tireless worker and always has been a brother who is on the frontlines. He takes time and knows about Taste of Soul and recognizes its value. I take my hat off to him and all of our publishers.”
Participants can access the Taste of Soul event live at tasteofsoul.org.