On October 17 more than 350,000 people came together to make 10th annual The Taste of Soul Family Festival successful. As they enjoyed live entertainment, artists display booths, and savored food from local restaurants, some took time to reflect on the pulse of Black Los Angeles.
Christopher Jackson, who enjoyed the gathering with his two sons, Malik (15) and Malcolm (15), and his nephew Ryan (16), said the safety of the community and its youth were at the top of his concerns.
“I’ve heard a lot about this social network misunderstanding about some 100 days 100 nights, whatever that was supposed to be about, but it really took a lot of innocent lives, and the main concern now for parents I’ve been talking to in my community is the general overall safety of the children going to to school, coming from school, whether they want to go out on the weekend and socialize with their peers,” Jackson said.
Jackson’s son, Malik, said he too is worried about the violence.
“We need to come together and talk about the problems,” he said. And Malcolm’s concerned about just making it. “It’s like, being successful in my life, like, what can I do to make my life successful every second of the day and not wasting time,” he said.
A few steps away at the Southern California Cease Fire Committee’s booth, a banner displaying the demand “Let Me Live” highlighted Black L.A.’s public safety concerns.
Melvin Farmer, a leader with the Crips street organization, said the pulse of the people is peace.
“After this brutal summer with this 100 days and 100 nights of murders and everything, the last three weeks in ‘Death Alley’, we have not had any shootings or murders, so that’s a good sign. You could feel it in the air, like right here at this event today, Taste of Soul, Blacks, Whites, Latinos, we’re all together,” Farmer said.
Death Alley is a one and a half mile stretch in South L.A. plagued with gun violence, and social media rumors that gang members aimed to kill 100 people in 100 days under some provocative hashtag.
“I think the community could see some daylight now. I can feel it in my heart and I think they could feel it too,” Farmer added.
Vicky Lindsey of Project Cry No More, a support group for mothers and families of those slain in gun violence, echoed the sentiments of peace. She said it was joyful to see the diverse gathering, and believes people should take that back to their neighborhoods.
“Go back to Compton and say it was on! Go back to the West Side and say, it was on! Once we come together as one or go back to our hoods, they’ll know,” Lindsey said.
Mary Abena has attended The Taste of Soul for nine years now. Rental housing – not affordable housing – is the key issue that’s been heavy on her mind and the minds of her family and friends, she shared.
As a senior citizen with a middle class income, she’s been priced out of South L.A.’s rental market, she explained.
“There’s affordable housing for seniors, but those of us who have retirement and social security, you add those two together and we don’t meet that income requirement, so that means we have to move out of our community in order to go to a senior citizen place because there’s no place here,” Abena said.
Arena noted that being at the 10th annual Taste of Soul gave her a much needed outlet. “I love it! It’s our people. We’re enjoying one another. We’re having fun. We hear music. We’re going old school. We’re going new school. It’s just exciting!”
Hector Perez Pacheco of the Aztlan Mexica Nation Harmony Keepers, a warrior society that works to protect Native Americans’ sacred ceremonies, applauded the Taste of Soul for being a vehicle to bring forth the diversity of Los Angeles.
“You have the young. You have the seasoned. You have the different communities and places. It’s a beautiful opportunity to rejoice in the beauty of our music, of our soul, of our heart, of our spirit,” he said.
He remarked many people approached him and expressed pleasure to see he was there, participating and representing the Indigenous people.
Donna Wicks, whose son, Kevin, a 38-year-old postal employee, was killed at his home on July 21, 2008 by Officer Brian Ragan of the Inglewood Police Department, told the Sentinel the fight for justice is resonating throughout the community.
“It’s been a journey, but I’m ready. I’m ready for the battle. I’m ready for the revolution. I’m ready for whatever comes to show justice for my son, Kevin,” she said.
She told the Sentinel the pulse of the people is invigorating, enlightening, and it’s very spiritual to see everyone together.
“My observation today is that the community is at one, and we must stay unified and together. We need more of this, not just once a year. We need this ongoing, every month,” Wicks said.