By Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.
Black America needs more good news and positive news. Too often headlines in American media have the proclivity to focus only on the negative when it comes to the life-experience of Black Americans and other people of color communities.
Bakewell Media recently hosted the “10th Annual Taste of Soul” family festival on the historic Crenshaw Boulevard in the heart of Los Angeles was just held. Estimates of the aggregate crowd size throughout the day on October 17, 2015 for “Taste of Soul” ranged from 380,000 to 450,000. This makes the Taste of Soul the largest African American-owned and sponsored annual festival in the United States.
But the unprecedented size of the “Taste of Soul” was not the only outstanding feature of the uplifting and magnificent display of Black American “family, food, fun and respect.” Thanks to the genius of Danny J. Bakewell, Sr. and his Bakewell Media group of enterprises including the Los Angeles Sentinel and the L.A. Watts Times, “Taste of Soul” has evolved over the past decade into the most vibrant, transformative, energetic and peaceful mass gathering in the history of the city of Los Angeles.
The positive vibrations from “Taste of Soul” were not only heartfelt throughout the state of California, but were also felt across the nation as millions of people were participated via social media and live video streaming. As I stood in the huge crowds of African Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans and many others, I witnessed the power of multicultural and multiracial solidarity and unity all together saluting the importance of family, entrepreneurial development and mutual respect.
There was no drama. There was no ill will. There was no violence. The beauty of diversity was in full display. People were dancing in the street. People enjoyed the music and the fantastic array of food that revealed the culinary excellence and expertise of our families and businesses. The Taste of Soul was the manifestation of the soul of Black America that is in fact the soul of America: the undergirding irrepressible spirit and triumph of the creativity of the oneness of all humanity that transcends race.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti at one point also got inspired and to took the 94.7 The WAVE stage and played the piano to entertain the masses at “Taste of Soul.” California State Attorney General Kamala Harris spoke at the McDonald’s Gospel stage about the importance of voting in upcoming elections. Yolanda Adams, Grammy award-winning artist, also performed on the McDonald’s stage to the ecstatic pleasure of thousands that crowded around the stage.
Of course an event of this magnitude just does not happen without a lot of diligent preparatory work and significant corporate sponsorship support. General Motors Buick Division was a major sponsor of this year’s “Taste of Soul.” It is important for us to support those companies that invest back into our communities and in particular those companies that sponsor events that help to generate economic development and success of African American owned businesses.
AT&T, Nielsen, Toyota, Wells Fargo, Walmart, McDonald’s and many other corporations also co-sponsored this unique public gathering that many believe was an affirmative glimpse into the future of a rapidly growing multiracial America that values its diversity rather than denying it. The city of Los Angeles in the past has had more than its share of racial strife, injustice and inequity. Yet the “Taste of Soul” continues to stand out as an aspirational reality of how a major city finds and exhibits its best in the marketplace.
Community and business leaders in other cities across the nation might well benefit to consult with Danny Bakewell Sr. about the promise and potential of replicating the “Taste of Soul” in their cities and communities. Striving for excellence and stressing the importance of family unity, economic development and respect should not be limited to Los Angeles. Our nation as a whole needs to have more days and moments that transform and advance the goal of equality and economic empowerment.
From my vantage point, the “Taste of Soul” was another tremendous step forward in the celebration of the benefits of an inclusive democracy and economy. We have come a long way, but we still have a mighty long way to go to attain freedom, justice and equality for all.
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached for national advertisement sales and partnership proposals at: firstname.lastname@example.org; and for lectures and other professional consultations at: http://drbenjaminfchavisjr.wix.com/drbfc.