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Just as R&B legend Brian McKnight and famed jazz musician Boney James were finishing their sets on the Wave Stage and Chante Moore was belting her last notes on the Radio Free Stage, sundown signaled a triumph conclusion for the Los Angeles Sentinel’s third annual ‘Taste of Soul’ which reached another milestone attracting an estimated 105,000 spectators to the largest street scene festival in the state of California.
“All of the negative myths about our culture and our community are always put to rest here at ‘Taste of Soul’ where we not only come together and have a great time, but we do it harmoniously with other ethnic groups in a most peaceful atmosphere,” said Sentinel Executive Editor Danny J. Bakewell Jr.
Established in 2006 by the Sentinel to celebrate African American culture, ‘Taste of Soul’ has drawn more than 215,000 people to the famous Crenshaw Blvd. strip to a day of patronizing Black business, rejoicing in Black music and food, and providing a networking and marketing base unparallel in the history of Black media.
A beaming ray of sunshine hovered above Crenshaw Blvd. on the third Saturday of October during a time when a grey dark cloud has been cast over the economy, but vendors banked on the hottest name in America to reap profits at the street festival.
An estimated 300 vendors lined the one mile strip on Crenshaw Blvd. from King Blvd. to Rodeo Rd. with an array of items from flavored smoothies to seafood dishes, kettle popcorn and energy drinks, but the big hits were T-shirts donning the name and image of Barack Obama.
Even vendors which did not have items for sale and were driving a message such as “I’m For Parks” made sure they had an Obama button or sticker to attract members of the massive crowd.
In just a short time span, ‘Taste of Soul’ has gone from one big street scene festival to an advertising and marketing dreamland, offering reputable corporations such as Disney and McDonald’s an opportunity to enhance their presence in a gloomy economy and a network such as FOX 11 to brand its on air talent.
But ‘Taste of Soul’ is also about elevating a variety of unknowns, especially the rapidly growing list of entrepreneurs who have found light at the end of the dreaded financial tunnel with Obama.
The sea of people who maintained a congested crawl of human traffic instead of the traditional low riders and nightly cruisers on the famous strip were also treated to a variety of entertainment.
‘Chosen Gospel Recovery’ group serenaded the masses with the first spiritua melodies on the day from the Wave Stage that set the tone for an eight-hour marathon that captured journey from King Blvd. to Rodeo Rd.
Just to the north about a half block away was the first town hall meeting at ‘Taste of Soul’ which featured a roundtable discussion from Assemblyman Mike Davis and Councilwoman Jan Perry.
An hour later, Congresswoman Laura Richardson joined 2nd District Supervisor candidate Bernard Parks for an emphatic volley of Black politics.
Then the African American celebrity chef G. Garvin appeared to whip up a delightful portion of seafood cheese grits that left several hundred amused and hungry.
The belly of ‘Taste of Soul’ was filled with ingredients of young, older and seniors which represented a diverse ethnic background from Hispanic, Caucasian and Asian.
On this day, their vast differences were invisible, their common ground vivid and their culture welcomed by a familiar denominator-known as music.
Much of it delivered by world-class performers such as McKnight and James at the Wave Stage, Kenny Lattimore and Wayne Brady from the Radio Free KJLH Stage and a blend of comedy and jazz perfected from the newly added J Spot in the center of it all.
‘Taste of Soul’ was not just a melting pot of people, but for the first time three radio stations who often compete for similar audiences came together for an event in which there was enough for everyone to go around.
93.5 The Beat, Radio Free 102.3 KJLH and 94.7 The Wave harmoniously co-existed to the benefit of the crowd which sampled all three FM stations without ever changing their radio dial.
‘The Voice of the Community Speaking for Itself’ on this day was collection of songs, dances, marches and phrases and a combustion of scents from fresh Shabazz Seafood and Louisiana Catfish to the sweet smell of blackberry cobbler deliciously spelling the success of the Los Angeles Sentinel’s ‘Taste of Soul.’