Here To Help: A Documentary Highlighting The Hard Workers At Compton’s Not Your Mama’s Kitchen

By Estefani Alarcon

JJ and Tito’s day started at 3 a.m. during the production of ‘Here to Help’ to make sure they arrived at the same time that the employees at Not Your Mama’s Kitchen in Compton did. NYMK’s team usually begin their day at 4 a.m. to prepare for their non-profit work for the community and open the restaurant at 11 a.m.

After meeting Derrick Lewis, NYMK’s owner, at the California African American Museum and visiting NYMK in Compton, JJ was determined to share their story. “I walked into the establishment and I quickly realized it was [a] family-owned and operated business. You couldn’t talk to anyone who wasn't a family member: Mia, who is Derrick’s wife, was at the register; Angie, who is Derrick’s cousin and runs the non-profit, was serving food; his dad was in the back washing dishes,” she said.

“I could just tell they were about their community.”

Derrick Lewis, Not Your Mamas’s Kitchen Owner (Photography provided by HRDWRKER)

Derrick Lewis, Not Your Mamas’s Kitchen Owner (Photography provided by HRDWRKER)

JJ and Tito started their own media and production company HRDWRKER five years ago when digital media was on the rise. They noticed day-to-day hard working people and how their journey wasn’t being highlighted in the media. They decided to change that by focusing on hard working people and documenting their journey.

“I think we forget that there are working class local heroes amongst us everyday, and our goal with this documentary is to shine light on what it means to be a Black business owner, live in your community and support your community. I think this is a great reminder that there are heroes and people lifting our communities up around us daily,” JJ said.

Still from the documentary (Photography provided by HRDWRKER)

Still from the documentary (Photography provided by HRDWRKER)

She wanted to help NYMK and thought about it for a long time while looking for funding for the documentary. After running into the team at NYMK three months before beginning the project, she decided to just go for it. “I thought ‘let me just do this. I don’t care how much I have to pay out of pocket. I love these people, they are so great, let me just do it.” They began shooting in November 2018 and throughout December into the new year making ‘Here to Help’ their longest project to date.

To continue their work in the community, they recently created ‘HRDWRKER Local’ where they curate and host local events at small businesses. HRDWRKER Local also provides workshops for people to learn new skills and meet new people.

Their first event in January was a plant potting workshop at Sanyo Nursery & Florist in East L.A. They also hosted FAM Fest, a family day at NYMK with food, music and art.

“It is very important for people to shake their hands and hear people’s personal journey and connect with them more because that’s their incline, to support them,” said JJ.

(Photography provided by HRDWRKER)

(Photography provided by HRDWRKER)

On June 6, they will screen ‘Here to Help’ and have a community panel discussion at Paddle Room at The Standard in Downtown L.A. at 7 p.m. Their panel discussion will include local business owners from Not Your Mama’s Kitchen, Hank’s Mini Market, Sip & Sonder and Dominique Gallery

“I’m hoping when people watch this, they could understand that NYMK is really doing the best that they can and are learning as they go. They are a great example of what that looks like,” said JJ.

JJ also hopes viewers understand how local businesses like NYMK are trying their best to survive.

“[From] getting a permit, having inspectors tell you that you have to fix this by Monday … there’s all these little things that this family owned business is trying to accomplish along with making a great meal to put out in front of you,” JJ said.

For future events follow HRWRKER on Instagram and to see their projects visit HRDWRKER.COM.

Not Your Mama's Kitchen: Here to Help is a short documentary film capturing the heart, hustle, and process behind a family owned restaurant and nonprofit with the mission of uplifting their community through food for the soul.
Estefani Alarcon