Self Help Graphics & Art presents a short documentary following six street vendors from the coalition Vendedores en Accion, VEA (Vendors in Action). The film highlights the long-term mental and emotional implications caused by their line of work, their fight to legalize street vending, and economic insecurity amplified by COVID 19. Watch full film below; a still from the film is installed as a wheatpaste mural on the Self Help Graphics & Art building.
About 50,000 street vendors are operating in Los Angeles, 10,000 of whom sell food; 80% are women of color; many are undocumented, refugees from Central America and seniors. Vendors’ anxieties and traumas stem from experiencing police harassment and merchandise or equipment confiscation due to their work’s criminalization. Despite winning a decade-long fight to legalize street vending in 2019, applying for a permit is complicated and challenging to meet its requirements. These pressures are aggravated by the hovering threat of ICE raids and deportation, and the competition to save vending sites, requiring individuals to spend nights on the streets. When COVID-19 was classified as a pandemic in March 2020, the government banned street vending. The fear of deportation kept many from applying for government support, depleting economic and housing security. Unable to file for unemployment and with limited options, many continued to sell, despite being COVID’s most impacted demographic.
The documentary features the band Quetzal, with VEA members singing in chorus their anthem, the lyrics for which were conceived through a collaborative process facilitated by Quetzal Flores. The filmmaking experience allowed the six vendors to briefly put aside their daily routine and participate in a creative, collective and empowering process. The film director, Alvaro Parra, and the members of VEA jointly defined the final narrative.
Additional support for this project was provided in part by the California Arts Council.
“Street vending is a dignified way to make a living and forms part of a long cultural tradition in the Americas. To hear the street vendors call is to know you are home.”
-Alvaro Parra, Director.