On Saturday, Los Angeles’ largest street festival, the 13th annual Taste of Soul, took over Crenshaw Blvd. to provide its 350,000 attendees with a crafted experience in gourmet food, vendors, free musical performances, information about voter registration, health insurance and job opportunities.
“Hollywood has the Hollywood Parade, Pasadena has the Rose Bowl, and we have Taste of Soul,” stated Danny Bakewell Sr., founder of TOS. “We don’t have to go somewhere else to have a good time. All we have to do is come out of our house, find a good place to park or walk and we’re right here in the mecca of Black business.”
The KJLH stage marked the start of the festival, where the musical selections of “Empire” star Jussie Smollett, kids StarQuest winner Jhala Angelique, emerging R&B artist Gemaine, the all-male band DW3, Vivian Green, Ready for the World, Macy Gray, and En Vogue could be heard throughout the boulevard.
“I want to thank KJLH for being a great partner to Taste of Soul since the beginning,” Bakewell Sr. cited of the radio station owned by Stevie Wonder that has providing timeless R&B music to the greater Los Angeles community for many years.
DW3 livened up the KJLH stage crowd as the sun beamed upon them by paying homage to greats like Maze featuring Frankie Beverly.
“That was the place to go to and listen to any kind of R&B soul that you could get your hands on, it was always KJLH,” remembered “Empire” star Jussie Smollett. “To be here, it’s weird in my life how things continuously come full circle.”
En Vogue, best known for their classic hits “Don’t Let Go” and “Giving Him Something He Can Feel,” hosted the stage as the trio introduced several of the artists starting with Smollett. Though he made sure to entertain the crowd with his up-tempo records and choreography, the L.A. native used his set to stress the importance of voting in the upcoming election.
“The 350,000 people here that go to Taste [of Soul] are 350,000 voters,” stated Smollett.
County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, echoed those sentiments as he addressed festivalgoers during the elected officials ceremony Bakewell Sr. hosted on the KJLH stage. He encouraged people to register to vote and to vote in the election on Nov. 6.
Bakewell Sr. highlighted officials like president of L.A. City Council Herb Wesson, current and former Councilmembers Nate Holden, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Curren Price, and Nury Martinez; the first Black California Highway Patrol Commissioner Warren Stanley, State Senator Kevin de León and Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer. He also acknowledged the TOS sponsors, among them LeadersUp, South Coast Air Quality Management District, Ivie, McNeill & Wyatt, Airbnb, and Charles Drew University.
“A lot of the time these communities don’t get any opportunities like this to have festivals this big, the budget’s aren’t really there,” emphasized Damon Reel, member of DW3 and former South Central resident.
The presentation was followed by 23-year-old L.A. based artist Gemaine, as he serenaded the crowd with his old-school R&B inspired original songs.
“Walking the streets as a fan and being in high school and seeing people perform and now being on this stage it’s just like coming full circle,” Gemaine remarked. “It’s really cool.”
Starquest kids winner, 11-year-old Jhala Angelique, performed a moving rendition of Andra Day’s “Rise Up.” The message she delivered following her performance matched the power in her singing voice as she encouraged the community to rise up despite the current political climate.
As the sun began to set, singer-songwriter and pianist Vivian Green graced the stage followed by Ready for the World, Macy Gray and the show closed out with the much anticipated En Vogue who was joined by special guest Stevie Wonder. The KJLH stage was where musical divinity and social activism intersected at the thirteenth annual TOS.