This year, Emmy Award-winning actress-comedienne Tiffany Haddish was the 18th Annual Taste of Soul Celebrity Chair, but it wasn’t her first time attending the cultural festival.
She has attended close to every year. That’s because Haddish has always had a taste for the soul of South Los Angeles. In many ways, Haddish was already a goodwill ambassador for South Central.
Years before donning the Taste of Soul (TOS) title, the celebrity has been using her star power to shed light on such causes as foster care through her community-based organization, She Ready Foundation, and food insecurity in the inner city with a project called Diaspora Groceries. Given her mission of “bridging cultures, nourishing people, and investing in communities,” Haddish is raising the bar for what it means to “represent.”
“I believe it meant a lot to Tiffany to be the celebrity chair of the Taste of Soul,” said Richea Jones, co-founder of Haddish’s Diaspora Groceries.
“She is from the community and of the community (born and raised here). She’s been going to the Taste of Soul for years. And just to be there and support her community in that way, I know she was completely grateful and full of an attitude of gratitude.
“She could live anywhere she wants to live but she chooses to live in South in Central L.A., off Crenshaw. That’s just who she is. That’s just who she will always be. Tiffany has been for the community.”
This is Haddish’s second year of being a vendor at the TOS. Her booth was located near Krispy Kreme on Martin Luther King Boulevard. Haddish spent time talking to attendees and snapping selfies as she shared information about her programs. With an estimated 500,000 festivalgoers, representatives from Haddish’s programs were in an ideal location to connect with fans.
“We gave out hygiene products and socks; we mostly gave out information,” said Dr. Thyronne Gordon, executive director of the She Ready Foundation.
Gordon said the She Ready Foundation was founded in 2019 to support youth in foster care. Haddish knows all too well the instability of living in foster care. Often a child is moved from house to house – in the middle of the night – with their belongings packed in garbage bags.
She also knows the challenge of being aged out of foster care at 18 and not having a place to go. That’s why she created the foundation. It began with the mindful idea of giving suitcases to foster youth.
“This year we will give out about 1100 pieces of luggage,” said Gordon. “Last year we gave out about 1500 pieces of luggage. (But) The Taste of Soul wasn’t the right place to distribute luggage because we couldn’t qualify if a person was in foster care.”
Originally, Haddish purchased the suitcases or had people donate them when they attended one of her comedy shows. But that became a logistical nightmare. Since starting the organization, they have donated close to 7,000 suitcases.
Gordon said in addition to the spinner suitcases, youths receive Haddish’s books, “The First Black Unicorn” and “Layla The First Black Unicorn,” an Afro Unicorn stuffed animal, and a cash gift card for adults.
The foundation also supports schools and foster care programs in other states such as New York, Virginia, and Kentucky. For more information on how you can donate, volunteer, or receive assistance from the foundation, visit www.shereadyfoundation.org.
Diaspora Groceries is a progressive combination of a farmer’s market and a community center with a verdant organic vegetable garden. Jones said the location of the multimillion-dollar project has been in development for a few years mainly because the location – the old Founder’s Bank located at 3910 West Martin Luther King Boulevard – is tangled in city red tape.
Jones said that they are in negotiations with the city, but they hope to break ground in a few years. Their timing couldn’t be better to build out the 20,000-foot alternative affordable food market since approximately three grocery stores have closed in the area recently. In the meantime, they have been building enthusiasm and awareness about the vision of including diverse vendors.
“We gave out packages of seeds at the Taste of Soul, and people were happy about planting gardens,” said Jones, adding that Haddish practices what she’s teaching. Haddish grows vegetables and has a beehive to make her honey.
“We want to teach that food is medicine,” said Jones.
Haddish demonstrates “representing” or changing the world for her begins at home in South Central, making her one of the most memorable ambassadors for the cultural event.
For more information on Diaspora Groceries and how you may become a vendor, visit www.diasporagroceries.org.