By Victoria Moore
LEIMERT PARK — For Black entrepreneurs in Leimert Park Village and surrounding areas, offering affordable Christmas gifts is also about sharing ethnic pride, traditions and individuality.
In the midst of the holiday season during the coronavirus, rampant homelessness and economic uncertainty, local merchants are offering for presents that recall the joy, love and peace that many people seek during this time of the year.
One of those merchants is Aziz Diagne, an artist who founded the AZIZ Gallerie.
“We’re the only gallery in the area,” Diagné said.
Open since 2018, the space is known for exhibiting works by renowned African-American artists like Charles Bibbs. Pointing out the Leimert Park Rising Juneteenth Festival T-shirts for $20 Diagné says they are great souvenir art T-shirts with a fun graphic illustration at the bottom.
His gallery, located at 3343 43rd St., is open Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 7 p.m. Information: (323) 815-1843 or azizgallerie.com.
The multi-use design co-op Sole Folks is another business in the village that supports artists, but instead of hanging their works on the wall, they display them on their racks and shelves.
“We’re all about expressing our creativity here,” said Himyo, a representative of the store. Among the selection of unique hats is a suede baseball cap in black and red emblazoned with an embroidered image of former football quarterback Colin Kaepernick taking a knee for $30. Sole Folks is located at 4317 S. Degnan Blvd., and is open Tuesday through Sunday. Information: (323) 815-1155 or solefolks.com.
Social consciousness isn’t just a way of life that’s applied to the front of a T-shirt or a baseball cap. For more than 20 years, Eso Won Books has been a place to go for cultural enlightenment.
Among gift ideas at Eso Won were an adult coloring book, a children’s book about Langston Hughes, an Egyptian journal published by the British museum and an Ancient Egypt Journal — $6.99 — that brought to mind the King Tut exhibit at the Natural History Museum in Exposition Park.
Eso Won Books is located at 4327 Degnan Blvd., with hours Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. Information: (323) 290-1048 and esowonbookstore.
If Eso Won Books is about intellectually filling the mind with the breadth of African-American culture, the Sisters Marketplace Designs by Queen Aminah is about introducing shoppers to the beauty of Africa. A customer could feel overwhelmed by the variety of fabric, clothing, accessories and art objects available.
A salesperson, asked about gift ideas for under $30, took two different types of small children’s musical shakers off a shelf, demonstrated how to use them, and said, “These would make great gifts, and they’re only $15.”
Sisters Marketplace Designs is located at 4339 Degnan Blvd., and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 .m. to 7 p.m. Information: (323) 873-7885. and https://www.queenaminah.com/.
While Queen Aminah promotes and preserves African culture at the Sisters Marketplace, All Chill, a hip-hop ice cream shop, promotes contemporary hip-hop culture in its museum/gourmet ice cream space.
“There will always be remnants of the genre displayed here, from my husband Julian’s large collection, because it’s an important part of our culture,” said co-owner Genelle Brooks-Petty.
Pointing to a small display table, Julian Perry suggested an All Chill mug for $25 when asked about gift ideas.
All Chill is located at 3415 W. 43rd Place and is open from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Information: (323) 201-7072.
Crossing the street, Nappily Naturals and Apothecary is similar to the Sisters Marketplace because it is filled with unusual products.
A helpful clerk explained that the store supports recycling and sustainability by encouraging customers to bring in their own containers to purchase dish and laundry soap. There are a number of items that would work on a budget of $30 and under, including a large silver bowl filled with grapefruit-sized cotton balls.
Nappily Naturals and Apothecary is open Tuesday through Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m. Information: https://www.nappilynaturals.com/.
Nearby was Sika, which featured a colorful and inexpensive outdoor display of African separates. Among the merchandise was a small bag made from 100% leather imported from Kenya for $25.
Sika is located at 4330 Degnan Blvd., and is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 7 p.m. Information: @sikaadwimfo (Instagram) and etsy.com/shop/sikadwimfo.
At the nearby Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza is another book store, Malik Books, another excellent resource for contemporary and classic African-American literature. Among the books on sale was “The Ways of White Folks” by Langston Hughes ($15.95) that would make a great gift for any young person new to literature.
Malik Books is located inside the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, 3650 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Information: (323) 389-8040 or malikbooks.com.