By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
Some came and ate from a variety of delicious food offered by numerous street vendors, while others enjoyed live and recorded reggae, hip-hop, soul and R&B.
And, this year, during the Los Angeles Sentinel-hosted 13th annual Taste of Soul Festival, some even left as registered voters while still others walked away with new jobs.
An estimated 350,000 people descended upon the Crenshaw District on Saturday, Oct. 20, for the popular event which counts as the largest street festival in Los Angeles.
“It’s really a day of testimony to all of the good things that go in the African-American community you can come out in a safe, secure environment,” said Danny Bakewell Sr., the founder and creator of Taste of Soul and NNPA Chairman Emeritus.
More than 25 vendors were on hand to offer food, while such music personalities as En Vogue, Jody Watley, Kurtis Blow and Macy Gray performed on the various stages set up throughout the day-long festival.
“I am very pleased to be here in Los Angeles to watch this wonderful and peaceful massive gathering of African Americans and others,” said NNPA National Chairman Dorothy Leavell, who publishes the Crusader newspapers in Gary, Indiana and in Chicago.
“The Taste of Soul in Los Angles – 350,000 strong – and the Bud Billiken Parade in Chicago are the two largest annual gatherings in the United States,” Leavell said.
In recognizing that organizers of the festival also held a voter registration drive, Leavell said the Taste of Soul was a great place to encourage African Americans and others to get to the polls next month.
“We are now on the eve of the important midterm elections on November 6. It is crucial that the millions of readers of the Black Press across the nation go out to vote in large numbers,” Leavell said, adding that the NNPA salutes the “dynamic leadership of Danny Bakewell, Sr., and the Los Angeles Sentinel family.”
Companies also participated in the festival by holding on-the-spot interviews and hiring.
Each year, an annual job fair is held a few weeks after the Taste of Soul at a local community college.
However, Pamela Bakewell, the executive vice president and chief operating officer of The Bakewell Company, the Los Angeles Sentinel, Los Angeles Watts Times and Taste of Soul, said everyone realized that it’s hard to get individuals out and decided to take the jobs to the people this year.
“It is a phenomenal organization that works with employers that commit to the training and employment of young people,” Pamela Bakewell said about the organization LeadersUp, which sponsored the new feature at the event in which employers came out with the intention of hiring on the spot at the festival.
“At least 25 employers committed to hiring at least 300 people at Taste of Soul,” Bakewell said.
The voter drive climaxed on Saturday, just two days before the deadline to register in California.
“We needed to tell people in Los Angeles where they can go to register should they not know. We started to push this through the Los Angeles Sentinel and through the Black Press and the adjunct place where it all culminates is Taste of Soul because it is on the Saturday before registration cuts off,” Bakewell said.
NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., said the 350,000 who attended Taste of Soul were a manifestation of the “best of humanity culturally, socially, economically and spiritually.”
“And, the Los Angeles Sentinel for 13 years have done Los Angeles and America a great tribute to plan and execute one of the most impactful family festivals in the world,” Chavis said.
“We thank God for one of the Godfathers of the Black Press of America, Danny Bakewell, for his insightful and visionary national and global leadership that the Taste of Soul personifies and exemplifies.”