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Discovering Community at Black Market Flea
Colorful array of city activities: food truck, cyclist, vintage car, barber, girl in quinceanera dress; 6th street bridge in the background with purple gradient overlay
(Dan Carino
/
LAist)
Episode 11
8:58
Discovering Community at Black Market Flea
Black Market Flea is like a cross between an outdoor bazaar and a party. Sure, you can buy some cool vintage threads but it is definitely a lot more than a flea market and has become something of a community space for Black Angelenos. It's been going on once-a-month for a year now so the How To LA team went to check it out at the Beehive in South Central Los Angeles. More details here. Guest: Aaricka Washington, Associate Editor, How to LA Newsletter

Brian De Los Santos 

From LAist Studios, this is How to LA. I’m Brian De Los Santos. And we've got a special guest in the studio.

 

Aaricka Washington 

Hi, Brian. What's up?

 

Brian De Los Santos 

That's Aaricka Washington. She writes our newsletter over on LAist. Today she's taking us on an adventure.

 

Aaricka Washington 

Yes, we're checking out one of my favorite spaces in LA, the Black Market Flea. (Music plays.) Black Market Flea, it's more than just a flea market. It is a par-tea okay! Streetwear brands, artists, trendsetters-all Black, all love, and it's all about connections.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

Tell me what to expect when I walk inside to this awesome sounding place.

 

Aaricka Washington 

When you walk inside. One of the first things you notice is the music. Hip Hop, the throwbacks. (TLC’s Creep plays underneath.) This place is massive; three main outdoor areas and an indoor area. Over 60 vendors-there's food, there's a park, there's a new roller skating rink. People are wearing Afro-futuristic outfits. It's a whole vibe. You feel like this sense of love and community, and bonding that you will not find in a lot of other spaces.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

Let's go talk to some vendors.

 

Elana Ringgold 

I had to thrift my school clothes because when you're low income, you have to survive, you know. Like couldn't afford to go to the mall like other kids. And so that's how I got into it.

 

Aaricka Washington 

This is Elana Ringgold-you should have seen the way she looked: vibrant orange hair, a vintage silk sequined blouse and gold round oval shades, like my girl was a style icon in my eyes. She got started because of her grandmother.

 

Elana Ringgold

Her name was Beatrice Tryon. She just loved browsing the thrift store. My aunt would come from Lake Elsinore, and she would bring bags of thrifty clothes to my grandmother's house and just dump them on the floor. My cousins and I would just dig through, play dress up, have a fashion show. One time my cousin dared me to walk to the Nacho House in an 80's prom dress and a straw hat and I said okay (laughing). And I put it on-it was hot pink, I'll never forget, and I walked (more laughter) to get nachos.

 

Aaricka Washington 

Now she's selling those 80's prom dresses at the Black Market Flea.

 

Elana Ringgold

I have a red one, a beige one, a blue one, a black one.

 

Aaricka Washington 

That 80s fashion. That's what brought my attention and made me want to talk to her. I asked Elana what it's like selling in a Black community space like this?

 

Elana Ringgold

I'm glad to be here because normally when I do pop ups, or just being in this realm, you don't see people like me; you may see maybe two people. So it's just awesome to see Black men and women, you know, creating generational wealth.

 

Rawshawn Gabriel

If you saw another Black person here and you did the head nod every time your neck will get tired. You know what I'm saying?

 

Aaricka Washington  

This is Rawshawn Gabriel, he makes pants from vintage tapestry blankets that he finds.

 

Rawshawn Gabriel

I find something that I like, take my favorite pair of Levi's and cut a pattern off of that. BOOM, you got pants, and I just make a drawstring on the top. Just watch a movie, and make a pair of pants.

 

Aaricka Washington 

I gotta take a second to explain these pants to you, Brian.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

Okay.

 

Aaricka Washington 

Some of these pants have cats on them, deck of cards, horses and dogs, it (chuckling) reminds me of a rug that you found in your grandma's place. (Brian laughs.) But their pants! And they're very loud, like you wear them out to the hottest party. (Worst of all, you'll be burning up.) (They both laugh.) But, if you wear them out to the hottest party, like, people are going to notice you.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

It's a look.

 

Aaricka Washington 

Yeah, it's a look.

 

Rawshawn Gabriel

I wouldn't be here, if I wasn't getting paid to be here. And I would be in a thrift store, if I wasn't getting paid to be in a thrift store. I would be making clothes if I wasn't getting paid to do it.

 

Aaricka Washington 

He says he's been to every Black Market Flea except for the first one. So that's a little over a year. He likes the vibe. Like, he's friends with people who are right next to him, or across from him at the flea. They buy things from one another. So it's a very communal space for him.

 

Rawshawn Gabriel

The vibe here is just to...do each other right. We're all here trying to spend money with each other. So, there's-WHAT? Intention in the air. Even though this is called Black Market Flea, you're not getting like a flea vibe here. Like, people aren't coming here to negotiate. I say 210 for something that I made, I get told: "if anything, you should charge more," as opposed to like, Melrose Trading Post. Someone might be like, "Can I get a discount?" And it's like, "Nah, I'm sorry." You're never gonna see this again. I can discount materials that are mass produced, maybe, but there's no clearance sale on a one of a kind thing-that I made with my hands.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

Look $200 $300 on pants may not be awesome for everyone. But I gotta defend this. Look, they're different, they're style, you're also supporting the community. And this is what I want to be doing as an Angeleno. I want to be supporting people of color, supporting artists-that are from here, or want to be of this community and this is why I think Black Market Flea is Different. Because this is like a space to support others.

 

DeMarkus

What makes Black Market Flea a special place is that it's spreading that awareness of all intersectionalities-whether you're full Black, or Caribbean Latinx Black-you could build community here. I'm DeMarkus, i'm a Puerto Rican non-binary from Inglewood, California. I'm here with my life partner Ko, and we are Soul Food Candle Company. We sell candles that hit the intersection of Black, brown and queerness. So you'll definitely see that represented in our products.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

It wasn't just vendors like Alana, Rawshawn, or DeMarkus that were feeling the vibes.

 

Jaden Woods

I think it really has an aesthetic. This is really Black as hell. So yeah, there's not a lot of places like that. Yeah. My name is Jaden Woods i'm 22. And I'm from a small town called Gautier, Mississippi.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

How did you hear about Black Market Flea?

 

Jaden Woods

I had actually seen them on social media for like years, and then I moved to LA, so I was like okay. And it was like the one year anniversary, so I was like, this is a perfect time to come in.

 

 

Precious Wilhite

Precious Wilhite, i'm 17 years old and I'm from Los Angeles, California. I came here to support Black businesses and experience more of my culture, and to be around people that look like me. I like the vibe. I like the prices. The people are very welcoming, and everything is just so open.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

We also caught up with some people waiting in line to get in. What's your name?

 

Janae 

Janae.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

Janae.

 

Megan 

Megan.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

Megan, what's the thing you're looking forward to today?

 

Megan 

The first time I went, it was a lot smaller venue and just to see how much it's grown in the...past like year. It's crazy.

 

Janae

Yeah, it's my first time here. So I don't really know what to expect. But I'm really excited to see what's inside.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

I bought a biggie poster. I bought a really cool sweater jacket, that was like 60 bucks-it would have cost me 200 bucks at another store. I think about a t-shirt as well-OH, and I almost took someone's Louis Vuitton wallet; cus I thought it was in a bin-that was like a thrifty bin. But actually, (laughter) it was someone's wallet. So my bad vendor! (More laughter.) I didn't give it back, FYI. How do you feel about this event? It's an important Black community space right now. And it's poppin. How do you feel about it, Aaricka?

 

Aaricka Washington 

Well, as you know, Brian, I just moved back to LA for the first time in a long time in December, and I had been looking for a way to find community. For me, LA is such a sprawling city. Everybody lives everywhere, and it can be hard and challenging, especially as a Black person. (Chuckles.) This whole thing was started by a young lady named Mayah Hatcher-last year. She's a Black thrifter, and she told the LA Times that she wanted this space to feel like a family reunion. It really means a lot to me to go to these spaces, and to be able to meet people who have all kinds of variety of backgrounds, and be able to dance-which is what I love to do-and buy things that I wouldn't find on Shien.com.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

So what's poppin? When's the next one, cus you're taking me, right?

 

Aaricka Washington 

Yeah, I gotchu! I gotchu boo. The next one is September 24, which is a Saturday.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

Thanks so much to Aaricka Washington, who joined us today to tell this awesome story. Aaricka, you're the best.

 

Aaricka Washington 

Yeah, and thank you, Brian for having me. And, also thank you-thank you Black Market Flea. You can find them on Instagram at Black Market Flea. Check it out.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

This is How to LA from LAist Studios. Support for this podcast is made possible by Gordon and Dona Crawford who believe that quality journalism makes Los Angeles a better place to live. This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.