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The BET & Taste of Soul Community Stage showcases up-and-coming community acts at L.A. Live.
Throughout the weekend, energy poured through the BET & Taste of Soul Community Stage at L.A. Live. With great food and performances, this stage brought Los Angeles culture to the BET Experience.
BET & Taste of Soul Community Stage Host, Jonathan Slocumb.
The host of the BET & Taste of Soul Community Stage, Jonathan Slocumb, kept the crowd engaged with laughter. Slocumb joked about his good friend Danny Bakewell Sr. and their father – son relationship all weekend. No stranger to the stage, Slocumb has also hosted the Essence Music Festival for the past eight years.
“I love doing this,” Slocumb said. “I am for uplifting the Black community.”
Two performances that brought the crowd to their feet on Friday were Music Executive Kerry Gordy’s latest protégé Jadagrace and Kidz Crewe from the legendary Debbie Allen Dance Academy. As the sounds of pop, rap, and R&B blew through the speakers, these two acts brought a youthful flavor to the stage.
Kidz Crewe posing for the cameras after an amazing performance.
Kidz Crewe, a group of young children, had the crowd up and dancing with their energy. Dance Coordinator Debbie Allen danced along in the crowd with excitement as she watched her young dancers perform.
“It’s amazing,” Debbie Allen acknowledged. “I have been teaching them since they were five years old.”
As a former dancer for Debbie Allen’s Dance Academy, Jadagrace, now 13 years old, has become a triple threat. With a flair for singing, dancing and acting, Jadagrace has always wanted to be on stage. The crowd was out of their seats and dancing along as she performed her latest single, “Run Dat Back.”
“It felt great being on stage,” said Jadagrace. “I danced with my best friends and it was so much fun.”
Another great performance on Friday was the Crenshaw Elite Choir. They nearly brought the crowd to tears with their performance of “Joyful” and “Amazing Grace.” With all of their talent, Hollywood even decided to make a movie about the choir in 1993, Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. Since the movie, they have traveled all over the world. The choir members think of it as a family and attribute much of their success to choir director, Iris Stevenson.
“She takes students who have never sung before and brings out their talent,” said Goward Horton II, chaperon for Crenshaw Elite Choir and former Starquest contestant. “She helps young people transform no matter what situation they’ve grown up in.”
Along with these amazing acts, Starquest winner Beau Williams performed his hit “The Greatest Gift.” With idols such as The Soul Stirrers and Sam Cooke, Beau Williams knows soul music.
“I like music that you feel down in your bones” the gospel singer stated.
His song gained so much success that it was featured on Robert Tilton’s Success-N-Life television program on BET.
Among other talents were The LAUSD Beyond the Bell All-City Jazz Big Band lead by Anthony White, the Spiritual Hi-Tones, a group radio jocks refer to as the gospel Temptations and Adrian Battle Starquest winner, who hit the stage with a sultry and soulful sound. The Northern California native was thrilled to perform at the BET Experience at L.A. Live.
“This is just another step closer to me becoming a big artist,” said Battle. “I am getting to do what I love to do. “
A unique Friday presentation was the Messobi Ethiopian Restaurant in Little Ethiopia Association performing a traditional coffee ceremony. Audience members were engaged in the ceremony as they came to the stage to taste the coffee.
Gospel ran right into Saturday as Marquise Brown and Gifted performed. While they are a relatively new choir, they have already sung for the Democratic Convention and Toni Braxton.
“We started as a high school choir about four years ago,” said Brown. “…and we just want to share our gift with the world.”
Some of the other performances on Saturday included Lula Washington’s Dance Company, spoken word by Aaron White and R&B singers Dejuan Turrentine and Jennifer Johnson. Starquest finalists Tanek Montgomery, Tasha Rogers and Lamarr Deuce Lubin performed as well.
Lubin started off in R&B group called DRS, which had a platinum hit back in 1993 called ‘Gangsta Lean,’ inspired by the death of one of their friends. The group has since used the song to bring awareness to gun violence and they plan on re-releasing it with a few changes and a video this year.
“Twenty years ago, the song was about my homie dying from senseless violence and we still haven’t learned yet,” said Lubin. “We need to get out there and push to get unity in the streets.”
Rounding out Saturday’s line-up were Fox 11 News Anchor Christine Devine’s protégé Sean Christian Jackson aka Lotis, the Sparkids and performers from the California African American Museum (CAAM) featuring actor Jeffrey Anderson-Gunter.
The BET & Taste of Soul Community Stage was not only filled with performances, but with activities for the audience. People filled the area doing the Cha Cha Slide and the Cupid Shuffle. Some even won food vouchers for the Taste of Soul vendors.
“[A Taste of Soul] has been a really nice experience,” said Steven Coleman, 56. “It’s where young and old meet and have togetherness on one accord. It’s a beautiful thing.”
There wouldn’t be a BET & Taste of Soul Community Stage without food. There was competition for best barbecue in which Cynthia Daniel from Our Place Bar-B-Que, Shawn Black from Big Ronnie’s Barbecue and Grandma’s House Catering won Taste of Soul gift bags, tickets to the Grammy Museum, with Our Place and Big Ronnie’s tying for the 1st place title of the best barbecue at ‘A Taste of a Taste of Soul.’
Judges and Contestants for The Best Barbecue Competition.
Pamela Bakewell of COO Bakewell Media, Christine Devine, artist Lotis and one lucky fanfest were judges of the best barbecue. People raved about the Taste of Soul vendors all weekend. Some of the fan favorites were Harold and Belle’s, Bourbon Street Fish and Chicken Hut.
“Chicken Hut has the best chicken ever,” said Valerie Bowden from Atlanta as she sat with her daughter and friends. “We’re all from Atlanta and this is the best chicken in the world.”
A Taste of a Taste of Soul did its job in bringing Los Angeles flavor to the BET Experience. With great performances and great food, everyone received a taste of soul.