From left are Supervisor Holly Mitchell, Danny J. Bakewell Sr., and Tiffany Haddish. (Robert Torrence/L.A. Sentinel)

The Taste of Soul is a visual presentation of the unity in Black culture and it highlights the shared contribution to the evolution of America. There were many attractions at the largest family street festival in South L.A. The VIP Lounge worked as an oasis for international public figures and local dignitaries that fight for change on the frontlines in Los Angeles.

Through the groove of the live DJ tunes, everyone was invited to eat homestyle cooked dishes from the House of Hawkins and indulge in refreshing beverages from Pucker Up Lemonade.

“I’m a third generation native Angeleno and I grew up on Crenshaw and Leimert Park,” County Supervisor Holly Mitchell stated while families passed by.  She reflected on the 18 years of celebrated memories at the Taste of Soul.

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“You will see a number of my former colleagues from the Legislative Black Caucus here because they have their retreat this weekend, so I’m glad to be on the local level now and to be here— to see the investment in our community and to see people come out and share space …”

From left LAUSD Supt. Alberto Carvalho, Councilmember Heather Hutt and U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee. (Robert Torrence/L.A. Sentinel)

Guests would enter straight onto the dance floor where DJ Bandit mixed classic and soulful hits. The dance floor was customized to look like a large newspaper, highlighting the most significant moments that the Los Angeles Sentinel captured over generations.

“It was great to DJ the VIP section—I loved making people move and groove with the vibe of music. I spent 40 years in the game, so I know how to read the crowd and what they want to hear,” said DJ Bandit.

People were allowed to sit along the sides of the tint with plush couches available and golden center pieces sprinkled throughout the venue, leading to the back—one would find the House of Hawkins catered service offering fried chicken, catfish, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, red beans, and rice and more.

House of Hawkins catering offered fried chicken, catfish, collard greens red beans, and rice and more. (Robert Torrence/L.A. Sentinel)

The canopy style tent provided much needed shade, but the heat of the day steadily crept in. If one was looking to cool down, they would head towards the Pucker Up Lemonade station and find many zesty Pucker Up flavors like Mango, Watermelon and Peach Cobbler Tea.

Everyone was smiling and greeting each other like old friends, Cynthia Mitchell Heard, COO of the L.A. Urban League gave a warm embrace to the former Ambassador Diane E. Watson, and they reflected on the joy of Taste of Soul has brought over the years. Ambassador Watson recalled a time when Danny Sr. first got to Los Angeles, as she took in festivities around her and shared bits of the many accomplishments shared since that time.

Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) (Betti Halsell/ L.A. Sentinel)

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) described the Taste of Soul as a familiar place of paradise. Dr. Chavis said, “This is not just a local event or a statewide event—this is an international event. The success of Taste of Soul has so much meaning behind the importance of Black culture and African American cuisine, but more importantly this is a sign of our unity.”

Chavis recalled his involvement with Million Man March and noted that people called it a “glimpse of heaven.”   The president of NNPA said he recognizes that same feeling covering the Taste of Soul.

VIP visitors enjoyed a wide range of refreshments. (Robert Torrence/L.A. Sentinel)