Crenshaw Dairy Mart abolitionist pod (prototype) at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Geffen Contemporary in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, CA. 2021. Documentation by Gio Solis. Courtesy of the Crenshaw Dairy Mart.

Free the Land! Free the People! A Study of the Crenshaw Dairy Mart "abolitionist pod"

Sep
21
2024
Feb
15
2025
Ecology and Environmental Justice

A Curatorial Perspective on Two Objects

Free the Land! Free the People! a study of the abolitionist pod showcases the Crenshaw Dairy Mart’s innovative approach to addressing systemic issues through art, architecture, and science. In 2021, CDM began prototyping and building abolitionist pods - autonomously irrigated, solar-powered gardens within modular geodesic domes - with communities impacted by food insecurity, housing insecurity, and the prison industrial complex. Offered alongside workshops on food justice, art, and healing justice, CDM's abolitionist pod project reimagines community care and models how art, architecture, and science can collectively address systemic issues. The exhibition is organized as a survey and studio of the Crenshaw Dairy Mart artist collective’s ongoing research for the abolitionist pod, with illustrations, archival documentation, architectural renderings, sketches, and drawings of the collective’s many configurations of the geodesic structure during its prototype phases as they engage with a history of collectives and cooperatives at the interstices of food justice, land sovereignty, and the Black Liberation Movement. The exhibition falls in conjunction with the artist collective’s year of programmed study and research for the abolitionist pod, entitled Imagination Year, following suit their collective practice of prototyping an abolitionist imagination through group improvisation and experimentation, collating the spiritual-historical-political discourse of the abolitionist pod program, through prayer and somatic-embodiment practices, as it ties to contemporary imaginings of economic autonomy, community resilience, and collective agency for oppressed communities bound to land usage and its reparations. These ruminations and points of departure for the Crenshaw Dairy Mart collective each intersect with the convening of over 500 Black nationalists who sought the creation of a sovereign nation-state, the Republic of New Afrika (RNA). The RNA’s demand for financial restitution and reparations of land, is most notably recognized under the moniker “Free the Land! Free the People!” The exhibition coincides with a concurrent resource and larger archive in indexing the networked Black farmers across Los Angeles county with whom CDM has collaborated with on the abolitionist pod, traversing contemporary movements towards alternative permacultures, which include localized, small-scale farming and micro-farming as models for community care, community safety, and economic autonomy within the larger contemporary abolitionist movement.

The two works, abolitionist pod (prototype) (2021) and abolitionist pod (2022 - Ongoing), each reimagine safety for system-impacted communities, beginning with the propagation of ecologies and ecosystems - establishing self-sustenance and autonomy, for communities, by communities; where, the practice of abolition includes the gathering of collaborators and kin, bringing folks together, to build together, and to step into futures which prioritize healing, compassion, and love. The first abolitionist pod (prototype) was able to house between 700 to 2000 fruits and vegetable plants sourced by Black farmers and gardeners across Los Angeles County for the public to access and harvest food to feed themselves and their families in the Little Tokyo Historic District at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA during May 2021. The abolitionist pod program can be seen as a library of plants and vegetables, framing a larger ecosystem of localized farmers across Los Angeles County who have supported providing seeds forall plants and vegetables in each abolitionist pod. The abolitionist pod program has been designed to autonomously and self-sustainably water all existing plants in the structure utilizing solar energy with solar panels. Ultimately, the abolitionist pod has been designed to build community structures around garden tending, considering neighborhood micro-farming on localized city blocks, in order to imagine the healing capacities of community, gardening with your neighbors, and hands in soil. In March 2022, the Crenshaw Dairy Mart unveiled their second abolitionist pod at the Hilda L. Solis Care First Village (HLS CFV), an interim housing facility which provides 232 beds for people experiencing houselessness. The original intent for this property, situated right beside Men’s Central Jail and Twin Towers, was to serve as a parking structure for a Men’s Central Jail replacement. The plan was successfully canceled by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors (LACBOS), after community organizers and advocates from JLA and DPN, amongst coalitions across Los Angeles, fought to stop the $3.5 billion dollar jail construction plan. In the corridor of the abolitionist pod at HLS CFV, weekly workshop engaging with topics in and around abolitionist praxis, gardening and food justice, art and healing justice, civic engagement, resumé building, and re-entry in four week curriculum sessions were led by partner organizations across Los Angeles County.

Programming page. 

Crenshaw Dairy Mart

8629 Crenshaw Boulevard, South Los Angeles, Inglewood

Photograph of a cream colored sculpture made of metal rods covered with hessian sacks which have plants in them.
Crenshaw Dairy Mart abolitionist pod at the Hilda L. Solis Care First Village in Chinatown, Los Angeles, CA. 2022. Documentation by Gio Solis. Courtesy of the Crenshaw Dairy Mart.
Crenshaw Dairy Mart abolitionist pod at the Hilda L. Solis Care First Village in Chinatown, Los Angeles, CA. 2022. Documentation by Gio Solis. Courtesy of the Crenshaw Dairy Mart.
Crenshaw Dairy Mart abolitionist pod (prototype) at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Geffen Contemporary in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, CA. 2021. Documentation by Gio Solis. Courtesy of the Crenshaw Dairy Mart.
Crenshaw Dairy Mart abolitionist pod (prototype) at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Geffen Contemporary in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, CA. 2021. Documentation by Gio Solis. Courtesy of the Crenshaw Dairy Mart.
Crenshaw Dairy Mart abolitionist pod (prototype) at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Geffen Contemporary in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, CA. 2021. Documentation by Gio Solis. Courtesy of the Crenshaw Dairy Mart.

Discussion Questions

  • In the law review article, Abolitionist Aesthetics and the Abolitionist Movement: Los Angeles Grassroots Organizations and the Aesthetic Foundations of Real-time Abolition, Mark-Anthony Johnson reflects on (grassroots abolitionist) movement building and a (community) organizing “science”. In what ways can we introduce the tenets and values of abolition, encompassing dignity, care, economic autonomy, and mutual aid, into a social science and scientific enquiry?
  • What are the ingredients of prison-industrial-complex (PIC) abolition (i.e. dignity, care, economic autonomy, mutual aid) and why?
  • What does a localized agricultural economy look like?
  • How can bringing collaborators, kin, and community together to place hands in soil together propagate ecologies and ecosystems?
  • How can gardening and farming in community create community safety?
  • What are ways in which planting food in our homes, our gardens, and our backyards create economic autonomy?

Bibliographic References

Crenshaw Dairy Mart, abolitionist pod.https://www.crenshawdairymart.com/abolitionist-pod
Patrisse Cullors and alexandre ali reza dorriz, abolitionist aesthetics and the abolitionist movement: Los Angeles Grassroots Organizations and the Aesthetic Foundations of Real-time Abolition, UCLA Law Review, UCLA Law Review, Volume 69.6. 2023.https://www.uclalawreview.org/abolitionist-aesthetics-and-the-abolitionist-movement-los-angeles-grassroots-organizations-and-the-aesthetic-foundations-of-real-time-abolition/
Sci-Arc, Return to Community Arts: How Local Arts Organizations Resist Hierarchy. Video [15:46].https://channel.sciarc.edu/browse/return-to-community-arts-how-local-arts-organizations-resist-hierarchy