What is the meaning of


In this project we are highlighting the experiences of people in the state of California.

Alyssah Hall speaks with Carmen Dianne, a self-proclaimed “army brat,” who moved around the country and globe in her childhood. Dianne’s familiarity with change made her jumpstart a makeup career in Hollywood. During the pandemic, when nothing in L.A. was open but grocery stores, she felt a calling to create a mobile farmers market to support Black businesses. Dianne embraced the pivot in her life, and in return, affirmed her sense of belonging in Los Angeles. 

Carmen Dianne Cultivates New Home With Mobile Farmers Market

by | Mar 15, 2024

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by Alyssah Hall | Next Generation Radio | University of Southern California Annenberg | March 2024

Click here for audio transcript

Carmen Dianne:

As I get older, I think I’ve realized that you kind of have to make home. You have to make your home. And it could be the literal sense of, like, making my apartment feel like home. Or it could feel like connecting with people and laying down roots.

My name is Carmen Dianne. I am co-founder of Prosperity Market and I’m originally from Maryland and now I live in Los Angeles, California. 

I’m an army brat, as they say, endearingly. My dad was in the army, so we moved around quite a bit. It was all I knew. 

You don’t see a lot of other Black families. So I’ve always been in spaces where there’s, there’s not many of us around.

Even though we moved around a lot, you feel like, okay, I’m coming home. I felt a sense of coming home wherever my, whatever my parents had made home like that, that felt like home, being with my family. 

I came to California for Hollywood (laughs).

I started doing makeup in college, fell in love with it. I started to have more of an interest in TV and film, and I came to California one time, and in the summer, fell in love, and I moved here six months later. 

I’ve had a career change. I started Prosperity Market with my co-founder, Kara.

Prosperity Market is a mobile farmers market. We feature Black farmers, food producers and chefs. So, we built a literal farmers market on wheels. 

It came from a really dark, sad, frustrating place. It was in the middle of the pandemic. Nothing was open but the grocery store. And we don’t have any national or regional Black-owned grocery stores to my knowledge. 

And after George Floyd was murdered, we saw so much pledged support to Black-owned businesses, which is great, you know, in theory, but what I didn’t want to see happen was for that to go away.

Once we started building Prosperity Market and working on it, it’s like I felt like myself again. I could laugh and smile and joke. 

It really deepened my relationship with this city. I feel more in touch with community than I ever have before. Definitely made me feel like a local and like I’m at home because my family expanded, you know, our vendors are our family. The customers have become family. Our volunteers are family. So I feel like my family has expanded with Prosperity Market.

I think going through important life changes in a place can make it home and where you feel good. Home is where you feel good.

L.A. feels like a chosen home because one, I’m still here. That says a lot because people come and go in L.A. very quickly.

The fact that I don’t feel the need to rock the boat right now is telling that, that I do feel really comfortable and I’m happy here. 

A Black woman poses inside the doorway of a pink trailer with a shelving unit behind her.

Carmen Dianne stands inside Prosperity Market’s trailer at its debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November 2023.


Moving around was the norm for Carmen Dianne, who self-identifies as an “army brat.”

Her father was a colonel in the army, and she recalls moving around the United States and other countries. One of her earliest, and fondest, memories was when her family was stationed at a U.S. military base in Japan.

“My parents would let me and my friends or my brother take the train and just do all of these things outside of the base,” she said.

When her family returned to Maryland for Dianne’s eighth-grade year, it was a challenge to adjust yet again. 

“I’m like, ‘Wait, but I was taking the train in this foreign country, but I can’t go to the mall?’” she said. 

A Black family of four poses for a portrait. A Black uniformed military personnel is situated on the right side of the frame.

Carmen Dianne’s father served in the army for nearly 27 years and retired as a Colonel. This picture was captured in 1995 while the family was stationed at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. Pictured are Dianne’s older brother, Corey Thomas (middle), her mother Sandra Thomas (middle left) and her father, Dwayne Thomas (right).


I’ve always been in spaces where there’s not many of us.

Carmen Dianne

CEO, Prosperity Market

A young Black woman with a green headscarf stands smiling with her Black parents in front of the California Hills with the Hollywood sign in the background.

Carmen Dianne (left) moved to Los Angeles in 2013. Her parents Dwayne and Sandra Thomas visited her that year. Dianne visits them often at their home in Virginia.


The United States Department of Defense reports that there are over 4.7 million military family members and personnel as of 2020. But Dianne often felt “othered” being in the only Black family on base during the mid-1990s. 

“You don’t see a lot of other Black families. I’ve always been in spaces where there’s not many of us,” Dianne said.

Although she was able to maneuver in predominantly white spaces by code-switching, she still faced microaggressions and did not see much Black representation outside of her family. 

“My brother, in a lot of ways, is the only other person who understands a lot of what I went through with moving around a lot,” Dianne said. 

However, Dianne’s atypical upbringing gave her the confidence and freedom to pursue any calling she desired in life. 

After spending her formative years in Maryland and Virginia while attending high school and college, Dianne decided to relocate to California in 2013 to pursue a career as a makeup artist in Los Angeles. 

A Black woman sits on a brown couch with her laptop in front of her on a computer stand.

Carmen Dianne sits in her Los Angeles home answering emails on March 11, 2024. Prosperity Market made Dianne feel at home in Los Angeles.


“I started doing makeup in college, [and] fell in love with it,” she said. “I had an interest in TV and film, and I came to California one time in the summer, fell in love and moved here six months later.”  

Enamored as she was about starting a career in Hollywood, Dianne still leaned on her family for support and encouragement when she received a scholarship to attend school in Paris for prosthetics and effects. 

“I got off the plane and then all of a sudden everything was foreign,” she said. “I don’t have my parents to hold my hand, this is me on my own.” 


Although Dianne had traveled many times as a kid, her first instinct was to call her father. 

“I couldn’t use my cell phone to call him and I was trying to find a pay phone,” Dianne said. “I did finally call him and he said, ‘You made a plan, just stick with it,’ and it all worked out.”

Dianne returned to Los Angeles after her eight-month stint in Paris. She continued to work in the makeup industry until the COVID-19 pandemic. 

During that time, the murder of George Floyd, followed by the Black Lives Matter movement, deeply impacted and shifted Dianne’s worldview. She felt empowered as she read books by Black activists like Huey P. Newton’s To Die for the People and Assata Shakur’s Assata: An Autobiography.

She felt a calling to help the Black community and economy as many Black businesses shut down during the pandemic.

According to a report by the House Committee on Small Businesses, Black business ownership declined more than 40% during the height of the pandemic, more than any other ethnic group.

Dianne’s motivation to help was so strong that she put down her makeup brush and began to strategize solutions to historic disparities in June 2020 alongside her long-time Maryland friend, Kara Still. The duo looked to address food insecurity, which impacts one out of five Black households in Los Angeles, while also supporting Black-owned businesses. 

Their idea to create a farmers market on wheels, featuring Black farmers, food producers & chefs from L.A. County launched in February 2021. They named it Prosperity Market, and the experience brought Dianne closer to her chosen home of L.A. 

“Prosperity Market definitely made me feel like a local — like I’m at home. My family expanded, our vendors are our family, the customers have become family, our volunteers are family, so I feel like my family has expanded with Prosperity Market,” Dianne said.

This career change affirmed Dianne’s relationship with the local L.A. community, grounding her deeper into California. Today, she credits her mother’s love, father’s bravery and brother’s understanding in shaping her into who she is today.

“Growing up as an army brat, a lot of times we choose ‘home.’ We pick our favorite place. ‘That’s where I’m from.’ It’s just for ease of conversation. It’s a lot to get into,” Dianne said. “In a way, L.A. has embraced me and shown me an overall beautiful experience.”

“In a way, L.A. has embraced me and shown me an overall beautiful experience.”

Carmen Dianne

CEO, Prosperity Market

Two Black women are pictured in front of a green backdrop taking a selfie together with a cellphone.

Prosperity Market co-founders Kara Still (left) and Carmen Dianne (right) take a selfie together at KTLA on Feb. 15, 2024, for a live news segment to promote their upcoming market at that time. The duo was celebrating Prosperity Market’s third-year anniversary.


A Black woman walks in front of a pink mobile trailer which has the words “Prosperity Market” written alongside the bottom half of the trailer.

Carmen Dianne and Kara Still co-founded Prosperity Market in the midst of the pandemic out of a growing need to support Black-owned businesses and address food deserts. The mobile market features produce and products from Black farmers, food producers and chefs from all over L.A. County.