Providing access to healthy goods in South L.A., one pop-up shop at a time

South L.A. vendors sold a number of products from relaunched 90s brand apparel to vegan gumbo at the Black-owned Prosperity Market.

New Heritage owner, Tamira Wells, poses in front of booth and table set up with clothing brand at the Farmer's Market.

The scorching morning sun shone on an all too familiar path up Figueroa Street to the Memorial Coliseum. The sidewalk was filled with USC students and South Los Angeles residents alike. Instead of turning into the Coliseum, the crowd continued to the front entrance of the California African American Museum (CAAM) hosting the Prosperity Market, a Black-owned, pop-up farmers market.

The “farmers market on wheels,” founded by Carmen Dianne and Kara Still, celebrated its first anniversary at the CAAM last Saturday, which was first time the market was hosted near the USC campus.

The market aims to “transform our local ecosystem and our economy through agriculture, food access, nutrition education and community partnerships,” according to their website. The founders and vendors hope to address the problems of accessibility in South L.A.

Approximately 60 vendors set up their booths across the CAAM patio, blasting music and filling the air with aromas of promising food and other goods, including Gorilla Grub, a comfort food eatery that specializes in vegan options of gumbo and burgers.

South L.A. couple Londell and Kimberly Littlejohn started Gorilla Grub after Londell was injured during his time working for the L.A. County Fire Department and went on disability retirement.

“I discovered the benefits of a plant-based diet as opposed to a traditional meat diet,” Londell said.

However, Londell quickly discovered how difficult it was to access fresh vegetables and food in their Leimert Park neighborhood — which is considered a food desert — a region where there is no access to “healthy and affordable food.” This causes people in the region to be more likely to develop diet-related conditions including obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Unlike the Westside of L.A., South L.A., specifically Londell’s community, lacks healthy food choices.

As a food desert, South L.A. is riddled with fast food chains and lacks access to affordable produce and other goods.

Marginalized communities are highly affected by food deserts, according to Diverse Health Hub, and South L.A. has predominantly Black and brown residents. In South L.A., farmer’s markets, like Prosperity Market, are providing a needed service to the community.

Taylor Lindsey, owner of The Plant Plug, started as a volunteer for the pop-up a year ago and then began to bring her business to the market to “help people connect” to plants. She encourages others to grow their own fruits and vegetables for little to no cost. Her business also teaches people how to create homesteads and “grow almost anything anywhere” in dry Southern California.

Plant Plug owner, Taylor Lindsey, poses in front of plant booth at farmers market.

In addition to bringing accessibility and useful skills to the community through the Prosperity Market, “[this pop-up] has really been a big hub, an incubator for small businesses, not so much notoriety in the marketing, but the collectivity,” Lindsey said. “I’ve gotten to know my neighbor.”

Another goal, one emphasized by vendors during this pop-up during Black History Month, is Black joy. Lindsey spoke about how, unlike other business environments, the Prosperity Market is focused on building community, collaboration and patience more than the profit. All vendors at the market are part of a “hub” where they are able to buy supplies from each other and uplift each other’s projects.

“It doesn’t feel like a competition,” Lindsey said. “It’s absolutely phenomenal what we can all do for each other. We’re here for each other.”

This was certainly the case for first-time vendor Tamira Wells. Founders Still and Dianne invited Wells on behalf of the Sophos Boutique in Leimert Park. Wells was inspired to relaunch the unisex clothing brand New Heritage after her uncle passed away to “continue their legacy.”

The brand is 90s inspired and was started by Wells’ aunt and uncle, with some of the pieces featured on the shows “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” and “Boomerang.” Today, the clothing tags have a picture of her aunt and uncle to honor them. According to Wells, being a part of Prosperity Market was a good way of getting the brand’s name out and celebrating the successes in her family. “Black joy,” she explained, was the basis of relaunching.

A place for celebration, nutrition and community, the Prosperity Market allows for all this and more for both vendors and consumers. Farmer’s markets like this one are beginning to address the issues with accessibility while also building a culture of community among Black-owned businesses.

Prosperity Market’s next pop-up will be at the Hollywood Farmers Market on March 13. For more information, visit the market’s website.