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Danny Bakewell really did it this time. Not that he hasn't done it real big before, but the 6th Annual Taste of Soul food and music festival last Saturday on Crenshaw was an experience to behold. Just walking, or trying to, was a path unto itself.
Say what you will about Brother Bakewell. His years as head of the Brotherhood Crusade committed to bringing people together and getting things done well prepared him for accomplishments of this magnitude. And at the helm of the Sentinel his latest move further signals change, empowering voices through opportunities and choices, becoming sources to create resources. Taking chances. Making alliances. Investing in institutions, schools and businesses.
Bigger in scope, if not in depth, than ever before, The Taste of Soul according to Danny Bakewell, was a collaborative effort--a community triumph.
But perhaps without even realizing it, Bakewell in his effort to bring people together to have a good time and enjoy themselves, has taken it a step further by creating a platform for people to come together to be themselves, see themselves and ultimately heal themselves. Revolutionary? Could be. A spiritual awakening in the Black community regarding each other? Why not?
I grew up here in L.A. and in my lifetime I have never witnessed or attended an event of this magnitude... meaning a free-to-the-public event held in a Black neighborhood... featuring top Black industry as well as local talent... and patronized and supported primarily by the attendance of Black people. And get this. Here's the revolutionary part. No fights. No violence. No problems. No arrests. It's unheard of.
In all my days, I have never seen so many Black people all together in one place get along and have a good time without any problems or negativity.
Elders as well as youngsters compared it to a Black family reunion. As far as the eye could see, people were enjoying themselves, reconnecting with friends, strolling together as a family, basking in the good mood, and good music in the sunshine of a good day.
The numbers were staggering. Even the mayor of Los Angeles made an appearance and confessed that he had never seen anything like it, figuring the numbers in attendance by his estimation to be a quarter of a million.
Be serious. That many Black people all together in the middle of Crenshaw with no hassles, no incidents? This kind of thing isn't done anymore, if ever. The nerve of a brother from New Orleans trying to bring Black people together.
94.7 The Wave had a stage, with smooth jazz flowing live throughout the day. But the force of kindness Joy Love and Happiness held the foundation of the event down in a big way. What else can be said of music legend Stevie Wonder, and his commitment to inspire and inform through his radio station KJLH 102.3 FM... always in the middle of what's going on bringing the music, and the message to the people from the main stage. Johnny Gill serenaded the ladies. Mark Woods from Lakeside took the crowd on a Fantastic Voyage. Lenny Williams begged a woman like no man can. Johnnie Taylor's daughter sang the blues. Doug E. got Fresh and Denise Williams got down (but not before a small highly-opinionated Black woman in a cowboy hat defiantly placed her substantial rear end on the end of her car LOL).
Hip-hop recording artist YoYo was throwing down in a booth, rhyming over tracks and reaching out to include young people of all ages to become part of her youth camp that develops kids in performance and rap.
Florence LaRue from the Fifth Dimension stopped by. Don Cornelius talked to me backstage about how he, back in the day, brought the reggae group Third World to Soul Train. So many encounters, so many stories. From Betty Price and friends enjoying the gospel music radiating from the stage in front of The Sentinel... to Queen Latifah... just radiating.
As a member of the Black public at large, I believe we owe it to ourselves to take a bow for being a part of an event that will go down in history.
Thank you Danny Bakewell for The Taste of Soul. When haters talked, he shut up, and put up. Then he got the musical, culinary and performing artists to set up. Then, to complete the final piece of the puzzle, he got the Black public to show up.
Yeah I said it. The Black public. You know and I know what happened in Africa long ago is also what happened on the UCLA college campus between the Black Panthers and Us, and then later on continuing through the actions of our offspring at the tribal hip-hip Source Awards ceremony. Is it up to us to reverse history this time, and set Black America on a new course?
The Taste of Soul reminded me of something that happened, yet has never happened. It has overtones of the historic Bandung Conference... without the conference.
Adam Clayton Powell would have been proud. Malcolm X, I believe would have had to shout it out. And you know King would have smiled. Anyone who knows Black history knows what I'm talking about. The industries that usually broadcasts and magnifies our differences were there in support, namely the Fox 11 Morning News team of Steve Edwards, Jillian and Dorothy, who enjoy a large African-American fan base of support. They were there without media coverage of their own station, signing autographs and greeting an enthusiastic public, having a blast. Ironically, they hosted a segment last week featuring Tavis Smiley and Cornel West making for great television and great conversation.
The greatest roar of approval Mayor Villaraigosa received that afternoon was when he asked the crowed for their support of President Obama. During his closing remarks at The Taste of Soul celebration on the main stage before multitudes of thousands, Danny Bakewell told the people "I did it for you." He was right. He did. We lived. You should have been there.