South Los Angeles residents remember 1992 riots

On April 29, 1992, Los Angeles erupted in violence following the announcement that white police officers involved in the beating of black motorist Rodney King were acquitted of charges of assault and use of excessive force. For six straight days, looting, violence, arson and death wracked urban Los Angeles as racial, cultural, and social tensions reached a peak.

Gladys Castaneda

Shopping malls and residences directly across the street from the University of Southern California’s campus went up in flames from the rioting. Gladys Castaneda has served at USC’s University Club for more than 27 years. She was in the neighborhood when the riots began in April 1992. Listen to her memories of that tumultuous time in an interview with Annenberg Radio News host Sarah Erickson.

Duane Earl

Duane Earl and his brother are the owners of Earlz Grill in South Los Angeles. The brothers started with a hot dog stand and were getting ready to open their first brick and mortar restaurant. Duane talks about the Grill’s first location when the riots hit. Rebecca Shoenkopf of Annenberg Radio News interviews.



Sika owns the store in Leimert Park. He tells the story of protecting his store Sika, which sells jeweler and African clothing and imports. Here he tells his story of how he kept his store safe with a little help from the neighbors.


Sandi Beamon

Sandi Beamon had a new born in 1992. The riots made her see her community in a different light.


Larry Weintraub

Larry Weintraub is one of the owners of Randy’s Donuts. The riots didn’t cross to the west side of the 405, but Weintraub was bombarded with something else – police officers.


Julius Dorsey

Julius Dorsey is the director of transportation for Watts Health Center. The riots didn’t stop him from doing his job.


Marcus Anderson

Marcus Anderson worked next door to a Korean liquor store that burned down – but not from what you would expect.


Jeffery Walls

Jeffery Walls remembers exactly where he was when the riots started.


Richard Speed, Jr.

Richard Speed Sr. lived in South Central in 1992. As he sees it, the riots were misdirected.

VIDEO: Think Healthy! comes to 112th Elementary in Watts

Cedars-Sinai’s Couch for Kids came to 112th Street Elementary School in Watts on April 15 to teach kids that healthy living can be fun. All 500 students took part in the fair on the school’s campus.

Church and apartment building catch fire in South LA

There was a smell of smoke in the air outside of the church and apartment building that caught fire early Sunday morning.
But besides the smell and some police line tape, the building looked to be in relatively good condition.
The building, located on 109th Street and Broadway, is the New Life Christian Church on the first floor and apartments on the second.  The fire was reported at 1:25am Monday morning, reports City News Service.
The fire left one man critically injured and three other adults and two children suffered from smoke inhalation, reports City News Service.
Here are a few pictures of how the building looks now.

Cuts to Medi-Cal hurt South LA residents

imageMamie Stamps lives in a little blue house in Watts. Her 17 grandchildren call her Bear in the Big Blue House, after their favorite cartoon. The inside is cramped; framed pictures of her family plaster the room like wallpaper. Stamps lives alone here. Her kids have grown and moved out; her husband died in 1992.

Stamps is now retired. She worked for 20 years at Children Institute International, where she cared for abused children.

“I did everything for them that I did for my babies. Raised them. Did everything for them. You just fall in love with the kids,” Stamps paused and laughed, caught in a memory. “It was nice.”

Like many people in the area, Stamps lives on a fixed income; like many people in the area, Stamps suffers from multiple health problems, and; like many people in the area, she relies on Medi-Cal to help her with health care costs.

Stamps has an arrhythmia and stigmatism. Today, she spent six hours at the Watts Health Center on her regular check-ups for her eyes and heart.

“I depend on Medi-Cal,” said Stamps, as she pours a cup of ice tea from a plastic pitcher she removed from an avocado-colored refrigerator. “Shoot, I don’t know how many times a year I see the doctor. A lot of times, quite a few time.”

But in January 2012, Stamps’ health care bills will increase.

On March 24, Gov. Jerry Brown signed 13 bills into law, aimed to reduce California’s $26.6 billion budget deficit. Combined, the bills cut the budget by $11.2 billion. One of the bills, AB 97, affects Medi-Cal, California’s version of the federal Medicaid program.

Medi-Cal offers health insurance to the elderly, those below the poverty line and the disabled.

The governor’s office projects the cuts will save the state $557 million. Health care activists, however, say the cuts will significantly burden low-income communities.

“Medi-Cal covers the sickest and most vulnerable people in California,” said Jessica Rothharr, program director for budget advocacy for Health Access, a health care advocacy organization.

Many people on Medi-Cal are already having trouble making ends meet.

“For a lot of these families, they’re the first one to lose a job,” said Dr. Ricky Choi, pediatrician at H & M Human Services Community Healthy Center in Oakland. Choi is also the Chairman of the National Physician’s Alliance of California, a group that officially opposes the cuts. “They’re the first ones who can’t get their kids out of a struggling school; they’re the ones that are really bearing the brunt of the recession.”

The changes to Medi-Cal may seem small. But the little adjustments will add up to a big impact for many recipients.

AB 97 has many provisions, but there are three that health care activists see as especially pernicious: Increases in patients’ co-pays, an annual soft cap of 7 doctors visits, and; a 10 percent pay cut for providers.

Ultimately, opponents to the cuts argue, the plan will cost more than it saves.

Co-Pays equal prohibitive costs

Effective in the new year, Medi-Cal recipents will have to pay a $5 co-pay on doctor visits and medications (currently, both are free). Emergency room visits will now cost $50 up front, and inpatient care will run a person $100 a day.

This may not seem like a lot. But for Stamps, that means not buying as many groceries. That means not being able to buy her grandson a little gift when she sees him every Sunday for church.

“I like to buy him little trucks,” smiled Stamps, peering down into her hand through coke-bottle classes, as though she could see the truck. “I love the way he looks when I give him those.”

Choi sees first-hand how the poor already triage their resources. Ninety-nine percent of Choi’s patients are 200 percent bellow the poverty line.

“In some cases, they can’t even afford Christmas presents, let alone pay for additional co-pays and premiums,” said Choi. “These changes will be a significant burden to the low-income community.”

Rothharr says the increase in co-pays won’t bring in a lot of revenue. In fact, according to Rothharr, hospitals and doctors don’t even want the burden of collecting $5.

“This is just an additional barrier to care,” she said. “The way it saves money is not because of the income received. The way it saves money is by reducing the amount of care.”

People can’t afford to go to the doctor, so the volume of patients’ visits and prescriptions filled is reduced.

“It’s a pretty sneaky and immoral way to go about it,” Rothharr continued. “It’s reducing access to care, reducing utilization of care by those who need it most.”

The new $50 co-pay on ER visits will also cause problems. Many people on Medi-Cal don’t have that much money lying around. But if a person is truly in need of medical attention, ERs cannot turn them away under the federal law Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA).

“It means Emergency rooms will eat it,” said Rothharr. “It’s a horrible system and that’s why the hospitals were strongly opposed because what are they supposed to do?”

This undue strain on hospitals means worse care – especially in less affluent neighborhoods where uncompensated visits will be more common.

Caps on visits means less care for the most needy

Even if a Medi-Cal patient can fork over the five bucks for a visit, the cuts will cap the number of times he or she can see the doctor in a year.

Rothharr worries that this will deter people from seeking medical attention when symptoms first show – and when they might be able to be cured.

“What you’re doing is having those people decide which of those doctors visits to skip, which of their regular tests and checkups to skip,” she said.

This is especially difficult in people with chronic conditions who need regular checkups, such as diabetes, high cholesterol and cancer survivors.

“It is not workable, and what it means is that people are going to die,” said Rothharr.

Stamps has never thought about how many times she sees the doctor a year. But now she’s going to have to. Both her conditions require regular check-ups; she depends on them. Now she doesn’t know what she’ll do.

“I’d just have to suffer through it,” she said. “I can’t afford any private medicine.”

Both children and pregnant women are exempt from the seven-visit cap.

In the original proposal, Brown wanted a hard cap of 10 doctors visits – meaning that patients could not see a physician more than 10 times, no exceptions. The Committee on Budget ultimately compromised with the soft cap of seven.

A soft caps means that a doctor could see a patient more times if they self-certify that the visit was medically necessary.

“But what you’re asking the doctor to do is take a chance in seeing that patient in the hopes that Medi-Cal will agree and pay them,” said Rothharr.

If Medi-Cal will reimburse, the payments take months to receive.

“It transfers the burden of more paperwork on physician and provider,” explained Choi.

Ten percent provider pay cut, fewer doctors

Doctors in California aren’t required to see Medi-Cal patients. And now they’re less likely to than ever.

The new budget decreases the amount received from Medi-Cal by 10 percent.

“We’re already near the very bottom in terms of states that provide reimbursement,” said Choi.

Many providers simply won’t be able to keep their practice open at the lower rate. Others will limit the number of Medi-Cal patients they see. As a result, there will be fewer doctors for Medi-Cal patients – and more demand for the ones who are. It will also be harder for Medi-Cal recipients to find a doctor.

“This is concern for providers who are really honestly seeking to provide the best care they can for their patients,” said Choi. “Unfortunately, these cuts are going to make it harder to do the jobs that we feel passionate about doing.”

The true costs

Myrna Schnur is the co-convener of the Grey Panthers of Berkeley, a social service non-profit organization that advocates for social programs in bills facing Sacramento.

The Grey Panthers have been watching AB 97 closely.

“Not only is it immoral and horrifying, it is financial foolish to cut Medi-Cal,” said Schnur.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office, the nonpartisan fiscal advisor to the state, did not account for increased use of ERs and county clinics when calculating the savings of AB 97.

This oversight is why the American Association of Medical Assistants, the Association of Emergency Physicians and the National Physicians Alliance all went on record opposing this bill.

“It’s penny wise and pound foolish,” Rothharr said. “You’re not dealing with the underlying need for care.”

In addition to a rise of uncompensated care, patients will also be sicker when they do seek medical help. Not only will that cause unnecessary suffering, said Choi, but they’ll be more expensive to treat.

“While it might not show up in the budget or the books, quite frankly it’s going to increase the overall costs of health care in California,” said Choi.

The Grey Panthers see the cuts as a human rights issue. Cutting Medi-Cal is myopic, says Schnur, and further disenfranchises the already disenfranchised.

“We’ll see an increase in hunger, adding more stress to food banks,” said Schnur.

“Clearly, this will lead to a humanitarian disaster,” said Rothharr. “We are talking about California going backwards into something that looks a lot more like a third world country.”

Choi also sees Medi-Cal cuts as a justice issue. For example, the plan will cut vision services.

“If you can’t see, you can’t do very well in school,” he said.

Choi says the changes will affect his families at the clinic immediately.

“These people are already, bearing the brunt of this recession,” he said. “They are the least able to handle this accumulated impact of all these cuts in services.”

Stamps knows she will feel it.

“I budget my money closely,” she said. “I have to. It’s all I have.”

Feeding Our Families forum talks food justice issues

At a community center in Inglewood, about a dozen people came to attend the Social Justice Learning Institute’s Feeding Our Families forum.  They talked about food justice, the idea that all communities should have access to healthy, affordable, organic, locally grown and culturally relevant food. 

Inglewood is considered a food desert.  This means that most people live more than a mile from a store that could provide the community with healthy options.  Communities that are far from food sources have higher obesity rates, diabetes rates and heat failure.

Panelists sat at a white, collapsible table at the front of the gym.  Community members faced them on blue folding chairs, arranged in two semi circles around the speakers.  The sound of rain pounding outside echoed dully through the auditorium.

The panelists included Trina Williams, a advocate for education and a member the Inglewood Unified School District Board of Education; Megan Bomba, a project coordinator with the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College, and; Julie Sheppick, Director of Communication & Fund Development for Women Organizing Resources, Knowledge and Services (WORKS).

Together with facilitator Danielle DeRuiter-Williams, the Social Justice Learning Institutes’ food justice coordinator, the three panelists discussed how to bring more food choices to Inglewood and how the community can get involved. 

The bottom line, agreed the panelists, is the push must come from within the community.

“You have to start where you at, use what you got, do what you can,” said Williams.

During the question and answer portion, the intimate group started a conversation.  They shared personal experiences and challenges when it comes to eat healthy foods.

Adriane Banks came to the meeting because changing her diet improved her life.  She has lost 40 pounds through eating healthy and walking with her kids.

Barry Hargress happened upon the auditorium while on an errand.  But he stayed for the forum.

“My son gave me an errand,” he said.  “I’m supposed to pick up a box of chocolate donuts on the way home.”

He said he wants his kids to eat better.  Not him, he’s a lost cause.  But he wants better for his children.  People chimed in to give him advice with his kids and said he should also push for a healthier lifestyle for himself.

An elderly woman in a leopard-print hat also chimed in.

“I come to a lot of community meetings,” she said.  “This is the first time I’ve ever stayed longer than 15 minutes.  It’s also the first that I’ve seen a group that’s committed to doing what they know is the right thing to do. “

The panelists praised the community members for coming and having so much passion about food justice. 

Ramona Gardens offers non-traditional restaurant experience

Ramona Gardens is not a place many Angelenos would happen upon. Encased by freeways, railroad tracks and the University of Southern California’s hospital, it is difficult to get to. The streets are wide and many of the buildings are empty, with paint chipping off their brick walls. A large apartment complex sprawls across one block, clothesline strung in front of every door. Power lines frame the buildings.

There are no grocery stores, no farmers markets and no community gardens. Ramona Gardens is a food desert, an urban area where people don’t have ready access to healthy foods.

The nearest restaurants are south of the 10 freeway, about a mile away. Many residents don’t have cars and, even if they were to make the trek, they can’t afford restaurant prices.

Ramona Gardens is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Los Angeles. The median family income is less than half that of the national average, and 37 percent of the residents live below the poverty line.

But once a week, restaurants come to town.

In a little grassy area just south of the apartment complex, a bevy of food vendors gather every Saturday morning. They set up collapsible tables and chairs, pitch tents and fire up grills. They sell pupusas, meat, veggies, fruit, funnel cake, sopas and quesadillas. People all over Ramona Gardens come.

“They’re like restaurants without walls,” said Jeanette Castro, who grew up in Ramona Gardens. For many, said Castro, this market is the one time a week where the neighborhood can eat food they didn’t prepare themselves.

Like most of the residents, the food vendors are Mexican immigrants. Teotu Reyes moved from Puebla, Mexico, seven years ago. She started selling food at the markets a couple of months ago to help pay the rent when her family couldn’t find work.

“There aren’t any jobs right now,” Reyes said. None of her family is legal, and work is hard to come by. “We don’t know how to read. We don’t know how to do another job. We’re country people, and that’s what we know how to do.”

So Reyes came to work at the market. She sells traditional Mexican food, just like she did when she lived in Puebla. She still wears the blue-plaid apron she brought with her from Mexico.

Now Reyes has regular customers. Many of the regulars are quenching a little homesickness; they love that they can order their favorite from back home, said Reyes.

“There are restaurants down there,” said Reyes, waving to the south, “but who can afford them?”

At her booth, as with many of the vendors, you can get a full meal for around $2 to $4.

“You can tell they’re all really grateful,” said Reyes. “You can tell they like coming here, ordering food, and sitting down to eat.”

Reyes comes at 5 a.m. with everything to build her booth: two plywood tables, a tent, coolers and cooking things. It takes her over an hour to set it up. By 7 a.m., the market is already swarming with customers.

The vendors aren’t there legally. They used to rent spaces in a parking lot for $5 a piece. They changed the venue to avoid paying the fee, and suddenly all types of businesses moved in – make-up, plants, new and used clothes, toys, shoes and produce. Now the scene resembles a hybrid between a garage sale, Mexican mercado and a Saturday market.

Some bring things from their own homes to sell. Others are business owners with merchandise. Few may have stolen merchandise, such as a card table with dozens of used watches in neat rows.

While Ramona Gardens is not in South Los Angeles, residents must go there to get to restaurants or grocery stores. And once there, they will find significantly fewer options than more affluent communities in Los Angeles.

In South L.A., there is one restaurant for every 1,910 people, verse West L.A. that has one restaurant for every 542, according to the Community Health Council, a think tank in South Los Angeles. What’s more, 1 in 4 South L.A. restaurants are fast food, compared to one in ten in the West.

Not having restaurants is hard on a community. Restaurants create a space for civic society to grow.

Gloria Lopez, a fictitious name to protect her identity as an undocumented person, comes to the market and sells barbecue chicken. But she can’t make it every Saturday. Though she depends on the market for income, sometimes she doesn’t have enough money the following week to buy the chicken.

Those weeks, she said, are devastating. She can barely feed her family.

But in a small way, this market is stimulating the Ramona Garden’s economy. It provides a place for commerce to happen.

“I don’t know what we’d do if we couldn’t come here,” said Lopez.

Related Stories:
The Food Truck of Ramona Gardens
Neighborhood garden brings fresh produce to South L.A.
Experts discuss the ‘politics of food’ in South L.A.

The Food Truck of Ramona Gardens

Jeanette Castro is going to graduate college this spring. Most people from Ramona Gardens don’t.

“They usually end up in jail or, I don’t know, something bad,” said Castro. “It sucks.”

Ramona Gardens is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Los Angeles. The median family income is less than half that of the national average, and 37 percent of the residents live below the poverty line. There are no restaurants, no farmers markets and no community gardens. The nearest grocery store is a 20-minute drive away, an insurmountable distance to many of the residents who don’t have access to a car. Ramona Gardens is a food desert.

If residents can’t find a way to get to the supermarket, their options are limited. The only store is Nico’s Market, a corner convenience store that provides a limited selection of produce, meat and packaged goods. But everything costs more than it would at a grocery store, and the food is often past its expiration date.

“It’s expensive and it’s not worth it,” said Castro. She stood in front of the produce cooler at Nico’s. The cooler has about a dozen different fruits and vegetables and is only partial stocked. “It’s empty. Like, sometimes if you want to buy tomatoes, they’re no tomatoes. Because they’re all with holes or practically black. So you have no options really.”

Ramona Gardens sits just north of the 10 freeway and east of downtown. Many of the buildings are empty, paint chipping from years of neglect. Few cars pass. It is common to see parents on bikes with small children gripping their back, standing on pegs jutting out of the back tire. Ninety percent of the residents speak English as a second language, and more than 90 percent are Hispanic.

“It’s dangerous here, there’re many gangs, many people drink and use drugs,” said Castro. Crime levels are high. According to some residents, police didn’t even patrol the area until 10 years ago.
Even though Nico’s is overpriced, there is constantly a long line at the checkout counter.

“Sometimes people don’t have options,” said Nora Maya, Castro’s mother. “They don’t have a car, they have kids.”

Beyond Nico’s there is one other option for food. Everyday, a truck parks down the block. The old, dilapidated pickup has crates of produce and snacks, everything priced considerably less than at Nico’s. A group of men sit throughout the day.

Castro says the food is not only cheaper, it’s also better. For example, the truck sells strawberries for a dollar, while at the store they’re $2.99. “And they’re still good,” said Castro. “It’s not rotten like at the corner store. This isn’t even a store and they’ve got better quality. And that’s why people come to him.”

The truck has parked in the same spot every day for the last 22 years. In that time, Jose Rodriguez, who owns and runs the truck, has developed a relationship with the community. It allows him to offer something else Nico’s doesn’t: credit. image

Rodriguez sells food to people, regardless if they have money with them. He keeps his records in a black and white notebook, which is falling apart at the seams. Every page is dedicated to a different family, with long columns that show amounts borrowed and repaid.

“When you need to go to the store, it’s a struggle of money,” said Castro. “Here, you can get what you need without the money, which is a good thing, and pay him later.”

There is no specific credit limit, but people don’t need to settle their accounts in order to get more food. Some pages show a balance that steadily climbs up, owing the truck more and more, but Rodriguez doesn’t cut them off.

“If we can help someone and still run our business, we will,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez and his son get their produce every morning from the LA Market Warehouse downtown. He says he is able to charge so little because he doesn’t need to pay for rent, only a vending permit. In a survey conducted by the city about mobile vendors, Rodriguez says his truck was rated the cheapest and he got the highest grade in quality.

In 22 years of operation, Rodriguez says there hasn’t been another option for people to buy food. Long ago, there was a second market next to Nico’s, but Nico’s put them out of business by charging less. When the second market went under, Nico’s prices skyrocketed. “Between over here [at the truck] and over there [at the market], everyone would prefer to go over here,” said Castro.

Related Stories:

Fast food ban changes food landscape in South L.A.

Neighborhood garden brings fresh produce to South L.A.

Experts discuss the ‘politics of food’ in South L.A.

Bernard Parks celebrates election in Leimert Park

“Celebrate good times, com’on!” blares over the PA system as Councilmember Bernard Parks walks into the ballroom of the Regency West. The room is filled with supporters and journalists.

“I have every reason to be optimistic,” said Parks. “We’ve done everything right.”

Right now, the incumbent is ahead 54 percent to competitor Forescee Hogan-Rowles’s 42 percent.

Neighborhood garden brings fresh produce to South L.A.

imageTwenty years ago, a house burned down on Raymond Avenue. As the neighborhood filled with apartment complexes and preserved Victorian homes, this lot remained empty, dotted with garbage, dog poop and sodden, abandoned mattresses.

Three years ago, the lot was reborn. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, it transformed into a thriving community garden, where 30 neighborhood families collectively grow fruits and vegetables.

The garden, known as Raymond Avenue Neighborhood Garden (RANG), is the brainchild of Julie Burleigh. Raymond Avenue is a residential neighborhood, with wide tree-lined streets. As many pedestrians and bikers pass as cars. The quiet neighborhood is punctuated by bikes bells of tamale vendors and the mechanical jingle of ice cream trucks.

“I had always looked at this spot and thought, ‘wow, that would make a great community garden,” said Burleigh, standing on a wood-chip path between elevated plots. She gestured towards the jungle of kale, snow peas and corn behind her, as though revealing the results of her vision.

Burleigh lived across the street from the eyesore for six years before approaching the lot’s owner. The two women worked out a deal; the neighborhood could use the lot as a garden until the owner wishes to develop or sell it.

The garden is one of many vacant-lot-gone-community-gardens in Los Angeles. The movement aims to help bring fresh produce to food deserts, areas that don’t have ready access to fresh produce.

With all the empty lots in Los Angeles, creating gardens has great potential for alleviating food deserts. It wouldn’t be easy, requiring a solid structure of people and could only happen on lots with adequate soil. Still, it is possible. The Raymond Avenue garden proves that.

Watch a video story about the Raymond Avenue Neighborhood Garden:

“I drive around the city and see empty lots and think, ‘people could grow food there,’” said Burleigh.

But in order for the idea to catch on, it would need to become a community priority. People would need to change their relationship with food, argues Burleigh, pointing out the irony that the least healthy food is often the most affordable.

“Fresh foods need to be an indispensible part of the diet,” Burleigh said. “It’s not super easy, but it can be done with a little training.”

The lot is broken into 37 individual 5-by-10-foot plots. When the project broke ground, neighborhood volunteers chose a plot. The plots became the families’ personal gardens, everyone shouldering all responsibilities for their own bed.

The amount of food that comes from the lot is directly correlated to the work put in.

“From one 50-square-foot plot, if you’re really taking good care of it, and switching out crops seasonally and adding compost, it could feed one person,” said Burleigh. “All their vegetable needs.”

Burleigh is a certified Master Gardener, a program under Common Ground and the University of California system. Common Ground, based out of the University of California, Davis, aims to take the scientific research from the university system, translate it in to layman’s terms and train dedicated volunteers on how to create and manage gardens.

Though there are Master Gardener programs around the nation, the one in Los Angeles County is unique. Thirty-five years ago when the United States Department of Agriculture subsidized the project, the funding was contingent upon the program specifically helping low-income people.

imageYvonne Savio, project manager for Common Ground, says the emphasis on poor communities goes beyond building connections with food – it build connections with people.

“There are so many folks that really need a lot of help,” said Savio. “It’s not just food, we’re intent on people becoming real communities.”

Burleigh has seen how her neighborhood garden has facilitated a sense of community first-hand.

“I know my neighbors, and they know me,” said Burleigh. The garden has worked as an equalizer for the neighborhood. West Adams Historical District, where the garden is located, is economically diverse. Poor immigrant families live next door to historical mansions and USC students.

But, as Savio put it, once in the garden, all these differences “melds and melts out of existence. People are bonding together just because of the gardening.”

Burleigh said she has gone from being a stranger to the “Garden Person” on the block.

“Before I started the garden, I was feeling isolated,” said Burleigh. “And when you feel isolated, it can really compound. And by the same token, when you feel connected, that can really compound.”

The garden also provides outdoor space for apartment dwellers, who otherwise would not be able to have a garden.

“In a few words, this is life,” said Fatimah Rodriguez, who lives in an apartment less than a mile away. She has had a plot at RANG for almost two years. “Fresh food, fruit and vegetables that you plant with your own hands, and take care of them and nurture them, it has no price. It’s just very important to me, and my family, too.”

Like Rodriguez, Burleigh says she has an almost spiritual connection with gardening – one she would like to share with others. It gives her the opportunity to feel soil between her fingers in the middle of this asphalt city.

“I love the process of being involved with nature in a pointed way,” she said. “Having a collaborative relationship to the natural world, you’re watching the cycles, you’re learning about how things grow, learning to care for things and tend for things.”

Wig shops overwhelm Crenshaw Boulevard

To people who live in Crenshaw, the number of wig shops on Crenshaw Boulevard is an ongoing joke. When you drive down the boulevard, you can see wig shop after wig shop, beauty salons next door to beauty salons and barber shops on every corner. Some call Crenshaw “the heart of hair culture” in Los Angeles.

Some residents of Crenshaw don’t like the number of wig shops. They would like to see Crenshaw become a more self-sufficient area, with diversity in shops. Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks says he has received complaints about the wig shops for well over a decade.

There are an estimated 30 locations where you could buy a wig within a couple of miles. Click below to see a video story on wig shops, that residents say may be covering up a bigger problem.

For a closer look at the wigs shops on Crenshaw Boulevard, watch this slideshow.