Taste of Soul Takes Over South L.A. This Weekend

Taste of Soul (2010) Intersections South Los Angeles

In a little more than a decade South LA’s Taste of Soul has grown from a small event to the largest one-day street festival in Los Angeles.

This Saturday, Oct. 21, hundreds of thousands of people are expected to descend into Crenshaw for food, music and neighborhood fun.

“The best part about it is seeing the picture with all of Crenshaw filled to capacity,” said Taelor Bakewell, head of public relations for the event and granddaughter of Taste of Soul founder Danny Bakewell Sr.

In 2005 the elder Bakewell, publisher of South LA-based newspaper the Los Angeles Sentinel, came up with the event to “showcase the best in our community,” his granddaughter said.

Together with several partners, including the City of Los Angeles, the very first Taste of Soul hosted more than 30,000 visitors. Last year roughly 400,000 people attended.

Hundreds of food vendors from LA restaurants, local businesses and community organizations will be represented this year. The festival was born out of the idea that “black people have an extremely strong buying power and are very innovative,” Taelor Bakewell said.

This will be the 12th Taste of Soul for Kobbler King on Jefferson Boulevard. Brian James, supervisor at the South LA bakery, will be manning the booth chock-full of fruit cobblers, banana pudding and monkey bread. He said there is a clear crowd favorite: “We bring a variety, but we sell about 2,500 peach cobblers.”

Bakewell grew up going to her grandfather’s community jamboree. Now she spearheads many of the organizational efforts. She said the festival showcases the “importance of recycling black dollars” back into the community.

Longtime vendors like Kobbler King are part of what keeps Taste of Soul popular year after year. For James, participating is a no-brainer. “It’s the biggest festival in Los Angeles,” he said, laughing. “We do a lot of festivals and it’s the fastest one. It’s the most profitable in one day.”

Beyond the economic benefits for food vendors, the event is an opportunity for artists and musicians to showcase their talents.

“The exposure that Taste of Soul offers is unbelievable,” said singer Brandon Wattz. He started singing around the age of 6, influenced by his father, who was a musician and singer.

Wattz is one of 10 performers invited to participate in this year’s Starquest talent competition. Each contestant will be doing a tribute to the Motown record company.

“Motown songs brought great joy to people’s lives back then and still today, so to be a part of that is an honor in itself,” Wattz said.

Over the years Taste of Soul has expanded to include four premier performance stages. The Starquest competition winner will get to perform on the 102.3 KJLH and 94.7 The WAVE music stages.

Along with the singing competition, this year’s festival will feature big-name music acts including R&B artists Brandy and Melanie Fiona, Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna and legendary rapper and beatboxer Doug E. Fresh.

Taste of Soul is “not [about] going out to Abbot Kinney or Coachella for fun and entertainment, but finding it in our own community,” Bakewell said. Beside the music and food smorgasbord, the event puts a special focus on giving back.

Community and health organizations will share information with attendees. Groups like the Prevent Cancer Foundation and LA City Workforce Investment are offering health screenings and career advice.

Taelor Bakewell has watched Taste of Soul expand and thrive since she was a kid. She described organizing the festival her grandfather started as a “tight-knit” family operation. She said it’s rewarding to see their hard work paying off.

“This is our community and we want to take care of it,” Bakewell said.

Taste of Soul is this Saturday, Oct. 21, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Crenshaw Boulevard between Stocker Street and Rodeo Road. Entrance to the festival is free.