Gospel artists, from left, JJ Hairston, Canton Jones and Donald Lawrence usher in the Holy Spirit at the introduction of the McDonald’s Inspiration Celebration Gospel Tour at the Taste of Soul on Oct. 20. (photo by Andre Charles/L.A. Sentinel)
April May Cooper brings the house down with her performance on the TOS Brenda Marsh-Mitchell Stage. (photo by Andre Charles/L.A. Sentinel)

The McDonald’s Inspiration Celebration Gospel Tour made its final stop at the Taste of Soul in the presence of more than 350,000 attendees and it was nothing short of amazing! The critically acclaimed gospel stage, sponsored by McDonald’s and dedicated in the memory of the late Brenda Marsh-Mitchell, featured a number of performances from the nation’s biggest gospel music acts.

Hitting the stage to bring hope, inspiration and a whole lot of joy were singers and songwriters Donald Lawrence, Deitrick Haddon, Rickey Dillard, Geneen White, JJ Hairston, Canton Jones, Todd Dulaney, Paul Porter of the Christianaires, Renee Spearman, Lonnie Hunter, April May Cooper, Brent Jones and Keith “Wonderboy” Johnson, among others.

Grammy-nominated artist and Stellar Awards Hall of Famer Ricky Dillard with artist Lillian Lloyd. (photo by Sylvia Leverette/L.A. Sentinel)

Well known choir ensembles of Southern California such as the Holman United Methodist’s Jubilant Voices, West Angeles “New Generation” Choir, the Radio Free KJLH Choir, FAME Unity Choir and the Inland Empire Choir also hit the stage.

Renee Spearman deliver a spirit-filled number on the Taste of Soul Brenda Marsh-Mitchell Stage. (photo by Sylvia Leverette/L.A. Sentinel)

Aundrae Russell of KJLH’s Stellar Award-winning radio show, “Spread the Word,” along with Christian comedian and radio personality, J Redd, co-hosted the Holy Ghost soiree.

From left are Christian comedian J Redd, event producer Pastor Kelvin Sauls and Aundrae Russell, host of KJLH’s “Spread the Word” broadcast. (photo by Brittany K. Jackson/L.A. Sentinel)

Mega event producers Ricardo Mowatt of Mowatt Entertainment and Pastor Kelvin Sauls coordinated the logistics for the stage and said it all came down to having “a vision to create an opportunity beyond the church walls.” The duo, who work closely with partners at McDonald’s, said it is their goal to “show how we as a people can extend ourselves to compassion.”

“It takes vision, it takes collaboration, it takes dedication and it takes cooperation on so many different levels,” Sauls and Mowatt said as they thanked all of the churches, choirs and pastors for their involvement.

Chart-topping singer-songwriter and pastor, Deitrick Haddon, said community is what he lives for and is the reason that he started Hill City Church in Watts. “We’re doing things every week for the community and just letting them know we’re here to show love and spread inspiration,” Haddon said. When asked about what he believes people should know in this season, Haddon says he simply charges people to “hold fast” to their faith.

Award-winning artist and pastor, Deitrick Haddon, poses with his wife, Dominique, and their beautiful children following his performance at the Taste of Soul. (photo by Nell Davis/L.A. Sentinel)

“A lot of people are losing faith and judging God because of things men and people have done. Don’t do that. Hang on to your relationship with God and don’t take it out on God because people done hurt your feelings,” he said. “Stay connected to God, stay connected to the church. Go back and tell God thank You and don’t let nobody sway you from your relationship with God,” Haddon added.

Artist Lillian Lloyd, who gave a heartfelt performance alongside Grammy-nominated artist and Stellar Awards Hall of Famer Ricky Dillard, also weighed in on the importance of reaching outside of the four walls to touch those who are broken.

“Anytime we get the mic to sing the praises of the Lord, it’s never about entertainment, it’s always about giving a message of hope. Anything that we can say or do that will keep people from committing suicide, from making bad choices in life, I am definitely on board for that, that’s my mission in life,” Lloyd said.

“People that are in church are there because they know they are supposed to be there, people on the outside don’t know Jesus and that’s why He said to go out to the hedges and the highways and compel them to come. That’s what real evangelism is, this is where real ministry starts,” she continued.

The Sentinel also caught up with members of the Southern California Black McDonald’s Operators Association (BMOA) who said it is their mission “to make sure that the concerns and the things that are relevant to the Black community are relevant to McDonald’s.”

The Southern California Black McDonald’s Owners Association members include, from left, Lindsey Hughes, Reggie Webb, Nicole Enearu, Patricia Williams and Kyle Webb. (Cora J. Fossett/L.A. Sentinel)

BMOA said that they understand that “it’s not just about taking from the community, but about giving back” in communities where Black people organize and do business. The BMOA also places emphasis on youth and young adults, educating them on the value of money, work and education.

As the evening closed with a number of uplifting performances, gospel artist and national host for the tour, Lonnie Hunter, also charged everyone to be “vigilant about our responsibility to get out and vote November 6.” The “Days of Elijah” singer said “even if you are not politically inclined, it is essential that you make your voice heard.”

To see exclusive interviews and performances from the Taste of Soul gospel stage, be sure to visit www.lasentinel.net.