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What You Need To Know Today: Discovering Community At Black Market Flea, LA Mayor And Sheriff Debates, Santa Monica’s Racist Past

A woman with long braids wears a cheetah pattern top
Elana Ringgold poses in front of her booth at Black Market Flea for her thrifting shop, Tryon Thrift.
(Ashley Balderrama for LAist
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Good morning, L.A. It’s Wednesday, September 21. 

Today in How to LA: Since launching last year, the city’s Black Market Flea has brought community together; plus, understanding the extent of the mayor’s powers to address homelessness.  

If there’s one thing to know about me, I like to have a good time. Whether I’m at the beach grooving on my skates to Beyonce’s new album or chilling at a family member's backyard in South Central, the party stays in my pocket.

As you might know by now, I moved back to Los Angeles for the first time in my adult life in December. Coming out of the worst of the pandemic (and even getting COVID myself right before this new year!), it was hard. Even with my family being here, it’s been a long journey to establish a social community outside of them. The great thing is — I find new ways to connect with people like me all the time. 

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Earlier this summer, I attended Black Market Flea, a space I can only describe as a cross between an outdoor bazaar and a party. At the Flea, people buy and sell vintage goods, but it’s so much more than a flea market. It’s been one of my favorite monthly events out here and I’ve grown to love the community-building that takes place. 

Colorful wallets, beads and other products are laid out on a table with a Black man and a young Black girl looking on in the distance
Family admires the products of a booth at Black Market Flea.
(Ashley Balderrama for LAist)

I visited the flea market a few more times, and recently went with members of our How To LA crew. We talked to vendors and attendees about what this experience means to them in a sprawling city that can easily make you feel lonely.

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So, with that said, I’m extending an invitation for you to join the party by reading more about the folks that make Black Market Flea what it is. Also, if you really want to get a sense of the sights and the sounds of the event ('ol school hip hop!), my colleague Brian De Los Santos and I talk about it on today’s podcast. Listen here.

You can check out the next Black Market Flea this Saturday, September 24 at the Beehive. It does cost $12 to enter but, I promise you, it really is so much more than a flea market.

A woman holds her child up under a tent with merchandise in it.
Shop owner of New Heritage Brand plays with her baby at her booth inside Black Market Flea
(Ashley Balderrama for LAist)

As always, stay happy and healthy, folks. There’s more news below — just keep reading.

The News You Need After You Stop Hitting Snooze

  • California Attorney General Rob Bonta on Tuesday took over the corruption investigation into Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, Commissioner Patti Giggans and Metro; he asked the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to “cease its investigative activity.” Read Bonta's Statement. (Los Angeles Times
  • Tonight candidates for Los Angeles mayor and L.A. County sheriff will have back-to-back debates. My colleague Frank Stoltze will participate in both debates starting at 6 pm. You can listen live on the radio or watch the live stream. All the information can be found here.  
  • L.A. mayoral candidate Rick Caruso says he will “end street homelessness.” But no matter how much he wants to if elected, his power as mayor would only go so far. 
  • Maury Wills, the baseball player who won three world titles with the Los Angeles Dodgers, died Monday. He was 89. 
  • The LAist education team just wrapped an in-depth series on dyslexia. Reporters covered the science background, screening, practice, policy, and the transition to college and careers. But there was a lot more the team learned along the way. Read about that here
  • Central and Northern California got a good dousing of rain this week, which helped with wildfires. Even so, the state’s earth is likely still too parched for the recent storms to have made much of a difference. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a few more bills into law. One would make it illegal for employers to test and penalize workers who smoke weed “off the job and away from the workplace.” But don’t bring out the blunt just yet, Californians. This law goes in the books on Jan. 1, 2024. Also, Gov. Newsom signed a bill that would allow the composting of human remains starting in 2027. (Los Angeles Times/ ABC7)
  • This will either fascinate you or freak you out: a pair of extremely rare megamouth sharks were spotted earlier this month by a fishing boat off the coast of San Diego. It’s unclear why these typically deep-sea dwellers would be so close to the surface. One theory? They were mating. (NBC7 San Diego)

Wait! One More Thing...How Racism Ruined Black Santa Monica

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Left to right: Grace Williams, Albert Williams, Mary Mingleton and Willie Williams (no relation) in the segregated section of Santa Monica beach known as the Inkwell. 1926. (Shades of L.A. Collection/Los Angeles Public Library Collection)
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Over this weekend, the Ebony Beach Club, a Black-founded surf and arts collective, celebrated its last beach party of the summer and from the looks of it on social media, it was a good time. I’m mad I missed out.

One of the founders, Justin ‘Brick’ Howze talked to LA Times earlier this summer about how Southern California beach culture “always excluded us” and how he and the other Ebony Beach Club founders want it to be a “place of leisure, which is a healing experience.” 

Right now, Howze holds his events at Dockweiler Beach. But did you know that the original Ebony Beach Club was just 10 miles north in Santa Monica? It was a beach club started by a Black entrepreneur named Silas White, but it never got to open because the city of Santa Monica claimed eminent domain over the area. 

The roots of Black Santa Monica go back to the 1880s. LAist contributor Hadley Meares wrote all about the history and the hardships they had to deal with just to enjoy a life by the sea.

Here’s another story: Black businessman George Caldwell opened a dance hall on Third Street. It was extremely successful but the city banned dance halls in residential districts, eventually resulting in the place closing. 

“They didn't like the fact that these Black people were there having a good time, and they couldn't legislate them having a good time at night. So they passed ordinances to say that you couldn't have this dance hall," noted historian Dr. Alison Rose Jefferson. "Now, mind you, white people who may have been attending those same kinds of places on the pier, weren't closing them down."

That’s why the evolution of today’s Ebony Beach Club is so important to Black people in L.A. now.

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