Black vendors have turned the African Market Place & Drum Circle Farmers Market into a respected community gathering place on Sundays in the Leimert Park Village.

However, those same vendors along Degnan Boulevard and W. 43rd Place feel like they are in the midst of being pushed out by city officials. They believe the historic Leimert Park neighborhood in South Los Angeles is being redeveloped in what some see as text-book gentrification.

“We are so grateful for everyone who helped raise this issue,” said Jenn Laurent, co-founder of African Market Place & Drum Circle Farmers Market. Laurent works with the non-profit, LA Legal Assistant, which sponsors the market.

Laurent’s call to action to help keep the farmer’s market Black-owned and Black-operated recently went viral on Instagram. In the post, she asserted that the market’s permit was being revoked by the office of Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who represents LA’s 10th district.

However, Ridley-Thomas said he has no plans to shut down the market or change who runs the market.

“We learned on Tuesday, (April 27) that the Bureau of Street Services has proposed a temporary permit be put in place through the end of the fiscal year to pilot this effort since the Marketplace was previously operating without proper city and county permits – and with no legally recognized point person,” said Ridley-Thomas in a statement.

Officials said the market’s current permit is issued through June 30, 2021, which coincides with the end of the city’s fiscal year. Moving forward, officials said they are focused on collaborating with organizers to promote a clean, safe, authentic and pedestrian-friendly, weekly event in Leimert Park Village.

“For example, we initiated the necessary step to close key vehicular entry points so that pedestrians would be safe on major event days,” said Ridley-Thomas.

“This is rather basic stuff, but there is more to be done to bring Village festivities into full compliance and ensure they live up to their full potential.”

Ridley-Thomas has supported and uplifted the need for public transit infrastructure like Metro’s new Leimert Station. He has also helped unhoused neighbors in Leimert Park Village transition from homelessness to housing.

“Now, at the initiation of my office, city and county departments are clear who the marketplace organizer is, and everyone should be clear about the ‘rules of the road.’ We will insist on a Marketplace that is safe, clean, and welcoming to all comers, and are committed to working with the market operator, vendors, residents, local businesses and city departments to ensure that is the case long-term,” Ridley-Thomas said. “We will build on this progress and pull together to make Leimert Park Village the strong, vibrant, culturally-enriched Afro-centric capital of greater Los Angeles.”

Meanwhile, Laurent said the market’s goal is to fill a specific need in an area with limited access to affordable and nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables.

“We’re already a food desert, Laurent said. (After the Ralphs on Crenshaw and Slauson closes in May) we will be down to one (major) supermarket for the whole Crenshaw district.”

Laurent admits they are still in the process of cultivating and need help growing the Leimert Park Farmers Market, as they are seeking new, local vendors who will sell fresh fruits and vegetables.

Ultimately, the African Market Place & Drum Circle Farmers Market will continue to operate on Sundays but community organizers are uncertain for how long.

Mark Ridley-Thomas’s Full Statement on the Leimert Park Village Marketplace

Leimert Park Village is the hub of Afro-centric culture and commerce in Los Angeles.

As a long-time resident and elected representative (City, County and State) for the area, I am focused on bringing resources to bear to uplift the Village and celebrate its rich history and resilience.

Since my return to the City Council just five months ago, as many as nine members of my staff have been assigned and are working on a range of challenges and opportunities that the Village presents, including:

-Supporting vibrant culture and commerce

-Helping the unhoused transition off the streets

-Improving infrastructure

-Reimagining public safety; and

-Partnering with local businesses and non-profit agencies

My team has worked with the local homelessness service provider, (HOPICS) to transition over 50 unhoused community members who lived around the Village into interim and permanent housing – and as Chair of the City Council’s Homelessness & Poverty Committee, I plan to continue on with this critical work.

We are also working closely with the City Departments to proceed with the construction of the Vision Theater and to design much-needed improvements on Degnan Blvd and 43rd Place. In addition, we are developing a plan to open Leimert Park Plaza in a manner that once again allows it to become the focal point of the Village for stakeholders and the community to enjoy.

For the past few months, my team has also worked with a myriad of City Departments to engage the local businesses, residents and vendors on a path to ensuring that the Sunday Marketplace is conducted in a manner that is safe, inviting and maintains community standards. For example, we initiated the necessary step to close key vehicular entry points so that pedestrians would be safe on major event days.

This is rather basic and essential work, but there is more to be done to bring Village festivities into full compliance and ensure they live up to their full potential – culturally and economically.

The good news is that this getting done. We learned on Tuesday that the Bureau of Street Services has proposed a temporary permit be put in place through the end of the fiscal year to pilot this effort since the Marketplace was previously operating without proper City and County permits – and with no legally recognized point person. That’s now behind us.

At the initiation of my office over the past month, City and County departments are clear who the Marketplace organizer is, and everyone should be clear about the “rules of the road”. We simply want the Marketplace to be safe, clean, and welcoming to all comers we are committed to working with the market operator, vendors, residents, local businesses and city departments to ensure that is the case long-term.

We will build on the progress being made and pull together to make Leimert Park Village the strong, vibrant, culturally-enriched Afro-centric capital of greater Los Angeles. Let’s do this!