By Ural Garrett
LOS ANGELES — Mayah Hatcher was tired of the unwelcoming feelings she experienced in flea market spaces around Los Angeles before she started Black Market Flea several months ago.
“I felt too Black, to say it plainly,” Hatcher said. “I was selling art at some spaces and just realized that I needed to create something of my own because if I don’t like what’s happening and I have complete autonomy to make something I do enjoy.”
Since hosting the first monthly Black Market Flea event in June at its current home at event space Awa Oasia, 608 Mateo St., in the downtown Los Angeles’ arts district, more than 70 Black vendors have sold everything from apparel and tasty treats to visual art.
Last month, more than 600 people attended the event.
“It’s a special space in which Black people can feel free to be who they are while also bringing what they have or can bring to the table and profiting from it,” Hatcher said.
Alongside offerings like an open bar, there are also musical performances by popular indie artists. The last Black Market Flea event in July featured Theophilus London while the upcoming August event will feature performances from popular alternative-R&B artists Summer Breeze and Devin Tracy.
According to Hatcher, it’s always been important for her to support Black-owned businesses big or small.
“What this is doing is encouraging more Black people to become their own boss and use what they have creatively,” Hatcher said. “It pushes more Black people to go out of the norm and not have to work their 9 to 5. They can create and re-invest money into themselves as a way to create generational wealth.”
Cynthia Gitonga of Push The Brand has utilized Black Market Flea to sell various luxury Sea Moss products despite being a brand available in several stores nationwide. For Gitonga, it’s a way for her to express her Jamaican heritage and contribute to the Black dollar.
“A percentage of our profits go to Black young divers in Jamaica making sure they have things like proper equipment,” Gitonga said. “This year has shown us as a dark-skinned Black woman that it pays to be paid so that you don’t have to go through all of that discrimination. I don’t want a piece of the pie. I want my own pie.”
Olio Design Works CEO Tamari Thompson has found success at the Black Market Flea selling handcrafted jewelry. Thompson said she remembers asking Hatcher to be a permanent vendor following the first event.
“It’s important to be a part of something bigger than myself,” Thompson said. “Seeing all these other Black business owners and creatives is really inspiring. Circulating that Black dollar is something you have to do.”
The Black Market Flea event will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 22. Tickets at $10 are available on EventBrite.