2019 Taste of Soul Family Festival (Robert Torrence/L.A. Sentinel)

Massive crowds filled Crenshaw Blvd. on Oct. 19, to enjoy the food, music and opportunities at the 14th Annual Taste of Soul Family Festival.

The enormous gathering recorded its largest attendance ever since launching the inaugural event in 2005. An estimated 385,000 people came from throughout Southern California as well as others who traveled from Nevada and Arizona to celebrate on the “Shaw.”

Describing Taste of Soul as the “biggest and baddest block party in all of Los Angeles,” Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., TOS creator/founder, was clearly overwhelmed by the abundance of support from community members, corporate executives and small business owners in uniting to present a variety of activities that were not only entertaining, but also generated dollars to the local economy.

Also, South L.A. elected officials – Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Council President Herb Wesson, and Councilmembers Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Curren Price, Jr. – provided a range of valuable resources that contributed to the success of TOS. In addition

“After 14 years, I didn’t think Taste of Soul could have gotten any better. But, I was wrong! The positive energy, the fun and enthusiasm of this year’s Taste of Soul was the absolute BEST we’ve ever had,” said Bakewell, who is also chairman of Bakewell Media and Mothers in Action.

“The businesses at Taste of Soul did better than ever before, our sponsors had the opportunity to engage with the community like never before and the level of entertainment at each and every stage was top of the charts!”

Producing such an incredible festival takes a team of dedicated and knowledgeable people, noted Bakewell, who recognized some of the key staff that make the event so successful.

“I cannot express my appreciation to the Sentinel staff, who worked overtime to insure that Taste of Soul was OUTSTANDING,” he said. “So many people play a vital role in making Taste of Soul happen for the hundreds of thousands of people who attend each and every year, but I would be remised if I didn’t acknowledge by name the hard work of Nicole Williams, Lauren Brazile, Allen Moret, Jr., Cedric Carlin, Tom Dorsey, Tracy Mitchell and Carroll Howard from Mothers in Action, Tamela Mitchell, Shameka Smith, Tamarra Williams, Ryan Jackson, David Z, Ivan Tircuit, Sabra Waddy and the entire Sentinel Team who worked so diligently for the months leading up to Taste of Soul and the hours before and after the event to ensure that we transformed Crenshaw into the party place it was and returned it back to the city, all within 24 hours,” he declared.

During Taste of Soul, hundreds of vendors lined Crenshaw, from Stocker to Obama Blvd., offering a multitude of products and services, from food to clothing to housing assistance and educational information. Several banks had representatives on hand and various healthcare agencies provided on-site screenings.

Many houses of worship hosted booths along with television stations, construction firms, social justice groups and municipal departments. Crowds also flocked to the new TOS exhibit, Bakewell Media’s Art Experience, which highlighted original creative designs by local artists; Children’s World, which included games, activities and entertainment for kids; and the Budweiser Beer Garden, operated by Mothers In Action.

As usual, the main stages drew thousands of music lovers. The Hyundai Sound Stage, sponsored by Hyundai Motor Company, featured top talent by Experience Unlimited, Dru Hill, Keri Hilson, Johnny Gill, Doug E Fresh and DJ Mal-Ski and Friends.

The 94.7 The Wave Stage was equally powerful with DJ Shell, Chosen Recovery, Cultural Soul, Tay Walker, Tony Grant, Klymaxx, SOS Band and Evelyn Champagne King. Pat Prescott, 94.7 broadcaster, and Pat Harvey, CBS2 news anchor, served as emcees.

Another blockbuster lineup headed the KJLH’s Radio Free Music Stage presented by Planet Fitness. The performers were the KJLH Choir featuring Fred Hammond, Tye Tribbett, Anthony Brown and Charles Jenkins. Also, J. Brown, Snoh Aalegra, Sevyn Streeter, 702, Jon B., DJ Kool, Rahsaan Patterson, and legendary hit-maker Stevie Wonder entertained the audience.

The ever-popular Brenda Marsh-Mitchell Gospel Stage, sponsored by LIVEFREE and the Black Leadership Aids Coalition, held church on Crenshaw through an array of regional and national artists. Gospel mega-stars Warryn and Erica Campbell had the crowd praising and shouting to music by brought My Block Family of JoiStaRR, The Walls Group, Lena Byrd Miles and Jason McGee and The Choir. The local artists, assembled by Sauls Enterprises and Mowatt Entertainment, consisted of Zion Messengers, Shari Demby, Pastor Desmond Pringle, Jubilant Voices, Angela Polk and the L.A. Inner City Mass Choir.

2019 Taste of Soul festival (Robert Torrence/LA Sentinel)

Despite all of the activity and people at TOS, the festival continued its past records of being a safe environment for the entire family. The peace-loving crowds were made even more secure by the visible presence of LAPD officers, L.A. County Sheriff’s Deputies and Nation of Islam soldiers.

Extremely pleased with the outcome of the 2019 Taste of Soul, Bakewell expressed his gratitude to , comedian/TV host Sheryl Underwood and gospel stars Warryn and Erica Campbell, who served as
the celebrity chairs.

He also extended thanks to the TOS major partners, which included L.A. City, L.A. County, 94.7 The WAVE, 102.3 KJLH, CBS2/KCAL9, Brotherhood Crusade and Ivie, McNeill, Wyatt, Purcell & Diggs Law Firm, and the sponsors, which were AIDS Healthcare Foundation, AT&T, Bank of America, BET, Brotherhood Crusade. California Resources Corporation, Californians For Energy Independence, Cedars-Sinai, Charles R. Drew University, Chase Bank, City National Bank, City of Hope, Comerica Bank, DaVita, Destination Crenshaw, Good Samaritan Hospital, Hyundai, Kaiser Permanente, L.A. City College, L.A. City Workforce Investment Board, LADWP, L.A. World Airports, Learn4Life, Metro, Metro by T-Mobile, Metropolitan Water District, Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital, One West Bank, PBF Energy, PCL Construction, SEIU Local 2015, Slate-Z, South Coast AQMD, Southern California Edison, Southern California Gas Company, US Bank, Walsh Shea, Watt Companies, Watts Health, Wells Fargo and West Basin Municipal Water District.

(Robert Torrence)