Taste of Soul (TOS) is full of stories behind the scenes, from its vendors, to all the people who attend every year. The Los Angeles Sentinel’s sports writer, Amanda Scurlock has such a story—one that spans the early days of the family festival until now. She has had a unique experience that has allowed her to view TOS from every angle.
“Back in 2007, when I was a senior in [Crenshaw] high school, I was a part of this group call Food From The Hood,” said Scurlock.
TOS’ inception had only been a couple of years earlier at this point and was fairly new. As one of the festival’s vendors, she was interviewed by then sports and staff writer, Evan Barnes, at the Sentinel. It was this experience that lit a spark in Scurlock.
“That’s a big reason why I like doing high school reporting is that experience,” said Scurlock. “I came here [Sentinel] one day, they pulled me out of school, Evan interviewed me—actually in this room [Editorial Newsroom] and then we went outside and took a picture because we had a van.
“That story ran October 2007.”
Scurlock remembers the festival being a long but fun day that ended with her going to shop for her homecoming dress.
We jump ahead a few years to the summer of 2013 where Scurlock was volunteering with her choir. TOS has partnered with the BET Experience that year to bring Taste of a Taste of Soul, a summer preview of the fall festival. Scurlock and her choir performed at Taste of a Taste of Soul which featured a small group of selected vendors and entertainment.
“I remember we performed before Debbie Allen and her dance group,” said Scurlock. “I remember being interviewed by an intern at the Sentinel and I was like really jealous because I was like, ‘how did she—I want to work for the Sentinel.’
“’I’m trying to be a journalist,’” said Scurlock
She continued, “It was a year after I graduated from college and so we performed at the Taste of a Taste of Soul.
“They had all these food vendors out there—yeah it was a big deal.”
Scurlock returned with the choir to TOS 2014 where they performed on the recently christened Brenda Marsh-Mitchell Gospel Stage, which was dedicated to the late TOS and Mothers is Action president and Sentinel Executive.
Her wish of working for the Sentinel would come true after an internship in 2015. Scurlock began covering high school and professional sporting events for the publication. From articles to video, she was now following her dreams. Now that she worked for the Sentinel, she began to experience TOS from the inside.
“I remember when my dad bought me my first DSLR [camera] and I learned how to do videos on it,” said Scurlock. “I hit the ground running.
“My first video, we went to Dulan’s—and I was there shooting the food and I was like ‘this looks so cool.’”
Scurlock spoke on her experiences covering TOS festivals since working at the Sentinel. She describes how working on the festival from this end has given her more appreciation for TOS and her community.
“In a professional sense, it gives me another dimension because I always do sports,” said Scurlock. “You get the essence of Black life in Los Angeles.
“I remember, I was doing the VIP Tent video [in] 2016, I remember I had got this video of this man dancing and I thought it was so hilarious—getting people dancing and eating food.
“I got Kamala Harris on video at my first Taste of Soul and I was like, ‘Yeah! I see you self!’
“That was a big deal, when I got Kamala Harris, it was the end of the day, I was tired a little bit, I was talking to people all day but she was really cool.
“It always warms my heart at the beginning, these past few years, of [TOS] having Crenshaw’s Marching Band march down and that reminds me of being in high school.
“The cool part to me is the vendors are more than just soul food—you can get, just about, any type of food.
“It shows the diversity within the Black community, which is a big eye opener for me every time.
“TOS is definitely a big unifier—I ran into some people that went to my church, they had a booth. People that I’ve known throughout my life, I mean of course you are going to run into somebody, at least 50 people that you know.
“Because there is about 350,000 people coming.”
Scurlock is gearing up for another great Taste of Soul, coming on October 20.
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