CULTURAL FESTIVAL : African-American babies will benefit from the enjoyment of others.

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The African diaspora will symbolically reunite this weekend during “A Taste of Africa,” a festival devoted to the culinary delights and dynamic music of African culture.

“Over the years I attended a lot of festivals, a taste of this and a taste of that,” said Penny Owodunni, producer of “A Taste of Africa.” “I thought it was only appropriate to have ‘A Taste of Africa’ to represent the rich cultures of the African diaspora.”

The two-day festival, beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday on the North Lawn of Hollywood Park Race Track, will benefit Great Beginnings for Black Babies, a 3-year-old campaign aimed at lowering the infant mortality rate of African-American babies through prenatal education and counseling.


The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services launched Great Beginnings to reach women in Inglewood, Compton, Pasadena, Long Beach and southern Los Angeles.

Great Beginnings is “a wonderful charity and they are making a big difference,” Owodunni said.

Owodunni, who says her last name means “money is good to have” in Yoruba, a Nigerian language, was honored recently by Great Beginnings for her past fund-raising efforts. Organizers expect “A Taste of Africa” to raise $20,000 for the group, which will receive 30% of the admission proceeds and 5% of vendor sales.

The festival will highlight arts and crafts, music and food from Africa, the Caribbean, South America, Central and North America.

Visitors can take a culinary tour through Nigeria, testing staples such as jollof, a rice dish with red sauce, and fufu, a doughy bread used to scoop up egusi, a stew of spinach, chicken and spices. The next stop might be Jamaica for a course of spicy chicken, or Louisiana for a bowl of creole gumbo.

Among the featured crafts will be shona, sculptures traditionally carved in semiprecious stones by Zimbabwe’s Shona tribe. The abstract or human busts range in size from five ounces to 250 pounds and sell for $50 to $25,000, Owodunni said.


The music of Brazil, Jamaica, Africa and America will provide a soundtrack for the festival. The lineup includes jazz from the group Buddies and the Brazilian music-and-dance troupe Brazi.

Blues from the Kevin Moore Band, jazz by Billy Mitchell and Friends, African juju music from Segun Victor, reggae from Dakeye and Here & Now, and melodies from a Caribbean steel band help fill out the program.

Celebrities from the television shows “In Living Color” and “Martin” are expected to attend along with music and sports stars.

Entertainment for children will include clowns, face painting, a carousel and moon bounce ride.

Festival visitors will also be eligible for prizes, including 500 free lottery tickets and a one-week trip for two to the Bahamas.

Admission is $5; children 12 and younger will be admitted free when accompanied by an adult.


Hollywood Park is at 1050 S. Prairie Ave., Inglewood. Information: (213) 293-4040.