The Taste of Black Chicago motivated Aisha James and her entrepreneurial friends to bring a similar concept to St. Louis. She received encouragement from those very friends saying that they would support. However, that wasn’t her original plan.
She wanted them to spearhead it, not her. It fell into her lap, and the first Taste of Black St. Louis was held in September 2018 at Tower Grove Park.
The Saint Louis Natural Hair & Black Cultural Expo and Conscious also occurred that same day. Despite there being multiple events, TOBSTL attracted about 7,000 people.
“I felt very proud about what happened with those vendors,” James said. “There were about 45 vendors that took that leap of faith with me and they came back the next following year.”
TOBSTL returned to Tower Grove in 2019, and there were more than 50 vendors and about 16,000 visitors.
Due to last year’s COVID-19 pandemic and local restrictions, James was unable to hold the festival. She’s back in 2021, and Taste of Black St. Louis is Sept. 9-12 at Convene Event Space and the City Foundry.
“Having people believe in [TOBSTL] made me say every year this is something that we need to continue to have.” James said. “There are a lot of Black businesses here that deserve to have the spotlight.”
TOBSTL kicks off on Thursday, Sept. 9 with a connect and sip from 6 to 7 p.m., at Convene. Koran Bolden, national award winning motivational speaker, author, and CEO of Bold Moves Worldwide will attend and DJ Shay Money, will provide entertainment.
“Thursday’s connect & sip is basically a thank you to my sponsors [Sysco, Better Family Life Inc., Goss’Up Pasta, Kipp: St. Louis Public Schools, Community Wellness Project, and A&C Happy Hour Wine and Spirit] and for people who want to connect and network with individuals in the culinary industry.” James said.
Guests can patronize TOBSTL Friday, Sept. 10-Sunday, Sept. 12 at the City Foundry where more than 60 different vendors including Black owned businesses from children under the age of 18 on behalf of Young Biz Kids [an organization that teaches kids financial literacy and how to operate their own company], will provide an experience.
“The kids can start generational wealth now, they don’t have to wait until they’re grown.” James said.
Friday’s events include a chef demonstration by Chef Ronda Broderick of Posh Plates and CJ Williams of Edible Art.
Tish Haynes Keys, a contestant on Season 14 of “The Voice” will perform. Saturday includes a chef battle and performances from The Remedy Band and Champ J.
Sunday concludes TOBSTL and there will be a chef battle part 2. The winner will receive the Grandma’s Golden Skillet award. Union House will perform.
Queen Mocha Latte, socialite and social media influencer will host all three days, DJ Boogie Corleone will DJ during the day and DJ Cuddy Montana will DJ at night.
The Community Wellness Project will administer rapid HIV and STD testing.
BFL will hand out PPE gear and vaccinations will be available courtesy of Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Dr. Fredrick Echols, acting director of the City of St. Louis Department of Health.
James has faithful veterans who sign up every year, including The Nacho Lady from Chicago, Simply Cooking with Donna and Tara’s Tasty Treats. Savory Delights is one of the newcomers at this year’s TOBSTL.
Goss’Up Pasta is providing food for TOBSTL’s volunteers, the VIP section and for Thursday night’s connect and sip.
“I love St. Louis,” James said. “I know we have a lot of great things to offer and food is definitely one of them. Kansas City doesn’t have the best ribs. We have the best everything and I want the Taste of Black St. Louis to showcase all of that.”
While general admission passes for all three days are free, there is a $50 fee for a one day VIP access pass. A three-day VIP access pass is $125. Register for all tickets on Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/taste-of-black-stl-registration-157112193801.
Visit https://www.tasteofblackstl.com/ for more information about the Taste of Black St. Louis.