Collective action to improve our livelihood



“One of the most visible centers of the lively Liberian community is the market held daily on the sidewalk outside one of the apartment complex buildings. During the warmer months, as many as 20 African women sell vegetables and food including African peppers, palm oil, cassava leaves, potato greens, and smoked fish, as well as clothing, shoes, and CDs. One could say that the African women are adapting their African lifestyles to Staten Island’s landscape. The market women buy many of the vegetables in New Jersey and Brooklyn and bring them to the neighborhood. This sidewalk market provides market women, who are from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Ghana, with a type of employment in which many were already engaged in West Africa. Selling at the market also allows them to be in close proximity to their homes where they can keep an eye on their children and grandchildren after school hours. For those who buy products at the market—as well as those involved in selling—the market is crucial in combating isolation that many elderly—often semiliterate or illiterate—Liberians experience in the community. The market allows Liberians, especially those in the older generation, to socialize and an opportunity for women to leave their apartments. ‘We can sell at the small market,’ one Liberian told me, ‘get our African food and meet our kind.’

The market is not only cherished by local Liberian residents but also appeals to Liberians and other West Africans who live elsewhere in Staten Island. There, they can buy fresh vegetables and other food frequently not available at their neighborhood grocery stores and catch up with the latest Liberian gossip. One parent said, ‘When I miss home I go down to Park Hill to buy African food, meet friends, and visit family members.’” (Ludwig, 2013, pp. 209–210)


Ludwig, B. (2013). Liberians: Struggles for Refugee Families. In N. Foner (Ed.), One out Of Three: Immigrant New York in the 21st Century (pp. 200–222). New York: Columbia University Press.