For 12 years, National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) member publication, the Los Angeles Sentinel, hosted Taste of Soul has been an economic driver in the Black community by empowering Black-owned businesses through the festivals’ vendor and sponsorship opportunities.
And, while this year’s Taste of Soul offers attendees the opportunity to try amazing food, enjoy live entertainment, and apply for a job, the Sentinel is using the event to spearhead a huge voter registration drive.
In a Tweet picked up by numerous Twitter users, the 85-year old newspaper announced that they “are serious about voter registration. Tell a friend they can register to vote at Taste of Soul Headquarters at the Los Angeles Sentinel.”
The Taste of Soul is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20.
Underscoring the urgency of the voter registration effort, Taste of Soul L.A. organizers tweeted that long before the Taste of Soul, and after individuals register to vote, they could “then come join us for a day of civic action [Thursday] September 27.”
“We started doing this by having a big banner in front of our building at the Los Angeles Sentinel and put it in our newspaper every week so that people can register at the Sentinel, which is the headquarters for Taste of Soul,” said Pamela Bakewell, the executive vice president and chief operating officer at the Sentinel.
Bakewell said 350,000 people regularly show up for the annual Taste of Soul.
With the NNPA already aligned with the NAACP, the Congressional Black Caucus and others for a voter registration drive that aims to sign up 5 million new voters in time for the all-important November midterm elections, Sentinel officials determined the Taste of Soul would represent an ideal venue for a registration drive.
“We figured with all the promotion and our social media and digital elements reached 30 million last year, we can hit that this year,” Bakewell said. “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.
Earlier this year, Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Jr., the president and CEO of the NNPA, began championing the voter registration initiative. The campaign has focused on an aggressive voter registration drive, community-level education on important issues, and a mobilization effort, which are all designed to reach young, Black eligible voters, particularly in battleground states, like Texas and North Carolina.
“It’s a payback year. This coming November, the 2018 midterm elections will be one of the most important elections for American Americans in our lifetime,” Dr. Chavis said.
“This is about voting rights and the enormous suffering and bloodshed that our people have experienced to make American democracy real and fair. Yet, this is also about responsibility.”
Bakewell noted that the Sentinel has realized a steady increase in visitors to its website and social media properties, a fact that could only help with the registration effort. “We are trying to become a daily newspaper, not just weekly, and on the social media side, we’ve tried to develop an internal digital team and that has really increased our views,” Bakewell said.
“We used to reach 30,000 to 33,000 people weekly digitally. Now, we are at about 55,000 on average and we’ve seen our digital views go up 20,000 over the last three months. Our digital and social media news is catching on… so why not use all of these eyes to get people to register to vote? So, we turned this into a voter register campaign while we have all of these people coming to the Taste of Soul.”
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