Photographed and Written by Kemal Cilengir
Driving down Crenshaw Blvd, it was impossible not to notice the pop-up “Corona Virus Supply” stands on many of the street corners. When there is a need in the community, folks in the neighborhood come out to help fill the void. Many of the grocery stores in Los Angeles have sold out of items that have become necessary in our current environment. Hand sanitizer, disinfecting soap, gloves, and masks have become scarce and are often sold out locally and even online.
Hajj Amir Aliyu aims to bring these hard-to-find essential items to the Crenshaw neighborhood. He has been on the corner of Crenshaw Blvd and Exposition for almost two weeks now delivering much-needed goods to the community. “The first few days, I was selling a lot…people were coming by because the stores were out of gloves, hand sanitizer, and masks.”
We were briefly cut off when a young man at the red light on Exposition yelled, “Aye-Yo! You got any hand sanitizer?!” Aliyu, replied, “Yes, sir, come take a look.”
While I hung out and chatted with Aliyu over the next few minutes, a number of people dropped in to check out the stand; some purchased items, while others just browsed. Two students stopped by and asked for some gloves. They didn’t have cash on them, so Aliyu gave them one of his packets of gloves for free. “Since they shut down everything, I just wanted to get out here and lend a helping hand. If I can make a few dollars on the side, fine, but I’m not trying to gouge anybody. This is not a time to be gouging or hoarding. I give a lot of stuff away. I pay for it out of my pocket. I do sell the products, but there are people walking around here that don’t have money, and they are getting on the bus without gloves, so I'll give them some.”
Aliyu also feels his stand plays a role in helping those in the community become aware of some precautions they need to take to mitigate the spread of the virus. “It’s about education really. They need to be educated about what’s going on. Some people don’t look at the news.” Aliyu’s stand plays an important role in not only providing much-needed products to the community, but also in informing the community about which products will help slow the spread. Los Angeles just informed its residents that they must wear masks at all times when going to grocery stores and performing other essential tasks. Aliyu’s stand has several styles of masks for sale, ranging from $3 to $10 for a full-cover option.
It is amazing to see how some individuals in the community are really stepping up. Aliyu has pledged to be out supporting those in need for the foreseeable future, but hopes the crisis will be over sooner rather than later. “I don’t know how long it will be. I’ll be glad when this thing is over, when they get a handle on this, so we can move around. We as Americans, don’t like to be constricted. It seems like they have suspended the Constitution in America.”
Every week the deadline for us to stay in our homes is being extended and new restrictions are being placed on us. Our daily routines only a month ago have been turned upside down and long-term behavioral changes are inevitable. Members of the community, like Aliyu, inspire and give us hope that although times are tough now, Angelenos and the world are going to get through this. It will take time, but we will all come out of this stronger than before.
- Kemal Cilengir (@streetwisela)