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Black and Brown L.A. Unite for the Love of Car Culture on 14th Street in Downtown

6:21 AM PDT on June 17, 2020

    [dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]he relationship between an individual's identity, style, personality, and one's car is a popular trademark of American culture. No other city is the relationship more defined than in Los Angeles. Images of cruising down avenues as the sun sets, top down, posted at drive-in movies, washing cars in single-family home driveways, or having a system so that the whole block can hear what you are bumping are all dominant symbols of the L.A. landscape for the past 60 years.

    A person’s car comes with status; in the form of class, culture, identity, and nationality. The possession of a car and what it represents doesn’t stop at the dealership. How an individual tricks out and customizes their ride is just as relevant. To some, it is just as relevant than choosing between rocking Doc Martens or Jordans.

    On 14th Street, the city comes to enhance and customize their cars. Not too far from the Piñata District, the produce mart, and Sam’s Hofbrau lies 14th Street; a block that stretches about 150 yards. It’s in-between Central and Stanford.

    In the late afternoon and early evening, I would take the number 53 bus down to Central Avenue to my job in South L.A. Out the corner of my eye, I would see 14th Street buzzing, a mix of cars jammed up and hustlers on the street huddled up, running up to cars turning onto the block.

    When I got the chance to visit, I pulled up on the block and was immediately met by hustlers, running up to my Toyota's window, persuading me into one of the local shops. All around me cars were lined up, waiting their turn to drive into shops specializing in sound systems, window tinting, lighting, and any other accessory imaginable to customize a car. The street was bumping, speakers thumping hip hop to cumbia, as beat up hoopties shared the street with g-bodies sitting on chrome to a big rig trying to get tinted up on the sidewalk. People were grinding all over, from inside shops to planting red cones on the sidewalk, installing subs, working hard.

    Dayvion had just pulled up from Compton. He was paying $400 to get a new sound system. He knows about 14th Street through word of mouth and explained “there are good connects on everything.” He chooses to support 14th Street because he wants to support Black and Brown business and 14th Street is where there is unity and support.

    Next door to where Dayvion was getting his system installed is Universal Window Tint, owned and operated by Danny. He has owned the shop for over 20 years and specializes in tint, stereo, alarms, vinyl covering, and auto electrical work. Danny stays busy as about five cars were simultaneously being worked on and a steady flow of cars pull up and inquire about his services and prices.

    Video by Ashley Orozco

    Danny employs Carlos to “catch” cars slowly passing by the shops. He runs up and tries to get the cars to pull into Danny’s shop. Carlos is from El Salvador and has been working on the block for 10 years.

    A couple of businesses down is a taco cart. Roger and his family sit on the sidewalk, eating tacos and Fritos, using a plastic stool as a table. Roger grew up in East L.A. but lives out in Hesperia now. He has been coming to 14th Street for 30 years because of the deals and faster service.

    As I continue to walk the long block, there are sounds and movements from the shops, stereos, and sidewalks. I spot a clean grey '64 Impala parked, getting work done by a man named Raul. He owns MTC. Electric and is a member of the Heavy Hitterz car club. Raul and his shop focus on lowriders, and he has been working on cars in Los Angeles for over 20 years .

    The active energy on 14th Street can be felt as soon as you roll-up. A rhythmic chaos of music blasting, cars jammed up, hustlers tapping on your window, while crowds of customers kick back as their cars get worked on by the block's busy workers. It’s a pocket of our city that is so vibrant, so popping, but so unassuming that if you didn't know it was there, you might miss it. An intersection of worlds and cultures that revolve and co-exist around an individual's car and how they want to trick it out to represent their identity in the streets of our city.

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