With so much uncertainty and chaos, I’ve really appreciated this newfound attention to social justice issues that have been present in our communities/country/the world for so long now. It’s been inspiring to see so many grassroots movements popping up. I will echo the sentiment that it took a worldwide pandemic and shutdown to get us to wake up, but it is happening.
If you’ve been on social media lately, you may have noticed there is an uptick on a long-standing issue: vulnerable street vendors are being attacked and robbed, only now it is being recorded and posted on social media for all to see. It’s so sad to know that someone would have that much disdain to beat an often-times elderly and defenseless person for no more than $100, but that’s what has been happening to our street vendors for many years now.
As a born and raised Angeleno and having attended elementary in Pico Union, I grew up buying from street vendors. Their friendliness and hustle has always inspired me. I’ve never seen a grumpy or lazy street vendor. They are the definition of a dedicated entrepreneur: resourceful, creative, innovative, humble, hard-working, and let’s be honest they’ve been selling instagrammable cold-pressed juices long before it ever became a trend.
They made me want to sell shaved ice, fruit, juice, flowers, etc. and to do it all with a smile. They work so hard, and such long hours for very little in return. Dorany Pineda recently wrote a thoughtful piece highlighting the life of a street vendor in Pico Union during COVID-19 in the LA Times: https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-07-02/pico-union-paletero.
Recently, my friend Cynthia invited me to an event her friend organized to support his local fruit seller in Koreatown Los Angeles. His goal was to buy out the cart with the help of his friends. I showed up to a group of socially distant and mask-wearing friends patiently waiting for their fruit cup orders. It was a success! Juana, the Guatemalan fruit vendor, was so grateful to have sold out her cart that day, and she was also gifted an additional $2000 donation that was raised for her. Meanwhile, we all walked away with delicious fruit cups. Juana cried tears of surprise and happiness, and said “things like this don’t happen to people like her.” She lead a prayer for all who contributed and said this money was going to have such a big impact on her family in the states and Guatemala.
So how do we help? I’m glad you care because there are so many ways to help, big ways, small ways, and everything in between:
- have a little cash on you to support a street vendor when you can, purchase a treat/flowers for yourself or someone else, or just tell them it’s to wish them a good sales day
- give them a little tip if you can, just like you would your Post Mates, Uber Eats, and other delivery drivers
- if you have the means to, buy out the cart for a day and give away all the flowers/fruit cups/ice cream/elotes, etc. to the kids in that neighborhood, your friends/co-workers, a local community center, organization, etc.
- organize a group of friends to buy out the cart with you, ask for donations, etc.
- donate to Inclusiv Action: they’ve delivered 825 $400 cash cards to Los Angeles street vendors, and currently have about 500 street vendors on their waitlist
- help spread the word, and tell your friends to tell their friends
- share a little positivity with a local street vendor, have a conversation with them, tell them you find their work admirable, and watch them light up
Hope this blog inspires someone to take one small action that will make a big difference to a hard-working street vendor. As our parents taught us: hoy por ti, mañana por mi.