Sun, May

Fresh food, Black merchandise, and voter education at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity has been registering people to vote and helping people check their registration information. Photos by Jason Lewis


The Crenshaw Farmers’ Market, Melanin Market LA, and voters drives are happening Saturdays at the mall.  

The California HBCU Alliance sells merchandise that promotes Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

By Megan Reed

The Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the promenade of the Rave Cinemas comes alive on Saturdays with the weekly Crenshaw Famers’ Market.  On select Saturdays, the Melanin Market LA brings Black vendors to the mall, and members of Alpha Phi Alpha, Fraternity, Inc., Beta Psi Lambda Chapter (Los Angeles) have been holding a weekly voter registration and education drive.  Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) have also been represented at these events.   

The farmers’ market happens rain or shine from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.  Local farmers have some of the freshest fruits and vegetables, and tastiest healthy foods in the city.  The market’s main goal is to enrich the health and overall quality of life for the communities in which it serves.  

The Crenshaw Farmers’ Market has some of the freshest fruits and vegetables in the city.

The Melanin Market LA features Black vendors who sell merchandise that is made specifically for Black people.  For entrepreneurs who do not have a brick-and-mortar store, the market allows them to get their products directly into the hands of consumers.  

The Melanin Market LA typically moves around to different locations in South Los Angeles and Inglewood.  Having it adjacent to the Crenshaw Farmers’ Market allows community members to shop for healthy food and Black merchandise at the same location.

“We’re bringing to the community everything that’s going on in their community in one spot,” said Jay Funtila, co-creator of Melanin Market LA.  “We centralize it so that you don’t have to search for it.  Everybody can have something to engage in.”

The Melanin Market LA has an Afrocentric vibe with a DJ playing Black music at the event.

“We always want to make sure that we’re building our culture,” Funtila said.  “The purpose is to socialize, get to know one another, and exchange ideas so that we can continue to flourish together.”

The Melanin Market LA has an Afrocentric vibe that features Black music and culture.

The Melanin Market LA partnered with California HBCU Alliance to promote Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and many of the attendees wore their HBCU shirts and caps.

“HBCU Day at the Melanin Market LA event was a great success in not only bringing business to companies owned by HBCU alumni, but bringing visibility to the large portion of the L.A. population who are products of the over 100 HBCUs in the country,” said Brandon Miller, a member of the California HBCU Alliance.  “Although there aren't any HBCUs in California, it is important for our community to continue to be aware of their presence and impact.  In these trying times socially and politically, our young students looking to college need to know there are options that create a safe place to grow and be celebrated as they are.  We feel the Melanin Market, in partnership with the California HBCU Alliance, created an atmosphere of the HBCU experience and we look forward to partnering with them again in the future.”

Brian Compton (Tigers shirt), owner of All That and Sum Greek Warehouse Showroom in downtown, sells Divine 9 and HBCU merchandise.

While people enjoyed the festive atmosphere of both the Crenshaw Farmers’ Market and Melanin Market LA, members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity performed community service through their Los Angeles Chapter’s Fight Against Voter Suppression (FAVS)  7,000 program, which is a part of the fraternity’s A Voteless People is a Hopeless People national program.  The fraternity members registered people to vote, educated community members of the ballot propositions, and one of their main goals was to promote mail-in voting.

“Main-in voting is a very simple solution to the very complex problem of voter suppression, and all of the different insidious ways that some go about altering elections,” Sedwitz Dumont said.  “Whether it’s the elimination of early voting, or the closing of polling places making people wait longer in lines, or people not being able to find their polling place at all, the effect of these measures is to discourage people from voting.”

Another unforeseen hurdle that the FAVS 7,000 initiative addresses and that will likely be faced by all voters in 2020, is the ability to get to polling places because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the potential for continued sociopolitical protests.  Even as states around the nation begin to reopen, the coronavirus will still be an issue in November.  Mail-in ballots would allow people to cast their vote while maintaining social distancing.

“As the nation begins to resume business-as-usual, we are seeing increasing levels of COVID-19 infections, and if this continues through to November, I don’t see people being very enthusiastic about being around large groups of people that they don’t know,” Dumont said.

The fraternity members will be at the Crenshaw Farmers’ Market weekly until the election, and they will be joined by the NPHC on select weeks.

For more information about the Crenshaw Farmers’ Market, visit www.seela.org.  For more information about the Melanin Market, visit www.melaninmarketla.com.  For more information about FAVS 7,000, visit www.7000voters.com.