Only in LA
Jazzi McGilbert has Los Angeles in her heart. For the creative entrepreneur born and raised in South Central, opening Reparations Club marks the latest chapter in her ongoing journey, one that has taken place all across Southern California’s cultural capital and beyond.
“I know this city pretty intimately and knew there was a need for something like Rep Club,” Jazzi says. “There are other black-owned bookstores all over the country that are doing beautiful things, and they all look different. It feels like having extended cousins all over the map. But I think Rep Club itself could have only started in LA.”
A Safe Space
The concept bookshop has since been brimming with creative energy and genuine human connection, providing sanctuary and a warmth atypical of many establishments of its kind.
“I knew that having a place where people could just sit and be was important,” she says. “And a lot of spaces are just very clinical and purely transactional. They don’t seem to want you to stay there for too long. And I wanted a space that felt very cozy.”
Apart from its well-curated literature and calendar of events, casual gatherings are a staple at Rep Club, a venue dedicated to fostering community, especially for those who have elsewhere experienced discomfort and alienation.
“I feel the most joy in this space when I see people using it like their living room and knowing they feel safe here. […] Black queer people feeling comfortable to just come, hang out, literally kick their feet up,” Jazzi says. “I cannot think of a lot of spaces in LA where I can show up as my fullest self.”
Rep Club also hosts a fair share of luminaries, spanning authors, artists, and advocates of fascinating and diverse backgrounds. “The space draws in artists from around the world that I’ve admired for a long time and people from my community that I admire just as much. We all just get to hang out.”
Where the Heart is
The shop’s welcoming atmosphere owes much to the design choices Jazzi made to evoke the feeling of the environment she grew up in, with many details inspired by her grandmother’s house, where her family still resides. “That was where I felt the safest,” she says.
“We had so many family gatherings and family game nights, birthdays, barbeques. I think everyone in my family has a birthday photo in this house from some year. And so that’s just sort of the central starting point of my life. It’s always been somewhere I can come back to.”
Several photographs taken in McGilbert’s family home in South Central are on display in the shop, most of which were of her late mother, who was originally from Houston, Texas before the family relocated to Los Angeles years before Jazzi was born.
“I opened the space nine months after my mom passed away. She was my best friend in the world. I think there was this big hole that I don’t know that I consciously was trying to fill,” Jazzi shares. But that, she says, is what she ended up chasing; the space became so personal that the people who have come to love Rep Club are now resonating with this part of her life. “Seeing them be impacted by that, there’s almost a kinship, immediately.”
No Place Like It
“I’m tethered to the city in a lot of ways,” says Jazzi, a self-described introvert, at least in an LA context. “Any time I’ve been somewhere else, I always feel like a fish out of water. And this is the place where I just feel totally, completely myself, at home. I know how to navigate everything, from the traffic to the nightlife, if I venture out. I just know my way around here.”
But few things stay the same in a city as dynamic as LA. “Every time I actually leave my house, there’s something new going on. There are new places, new people. New restaurants. It’s always changing—for better and for worse—and constantly surprising me, but it’s still home,” Jazzi says.
“I know these streets really, really well, so I feel like I’m on autopilot going from point A to point B—seeing how the city’s changing as I’m driving, seeing the things that have been there forever, and wondering how they’re still afloat sometimes.”
One thing that may never change is the highway congestion to which Jazzi has become accustomed. But having zero road rage, the slow-moving traffic allows her to wind down, reflect, or catch up on her audiobooks and podcasts.
“It’s just quiet in my car,” she says. “I’ve always liked containment. That’s a really contained space. I used to hide under my mom’s desk. And my car feels similar. She used to tell me that she had to drive me around to get me to fall asleep at night. I’ve always been like a car creature.”
A well-known perk of living in LA is being close to the sea. “The proximity to the beach and to the ocean in LA is such a treat,” Jazzi shares. “You don’t spend as much time there as people might expect. But it’s still a treat.”
While trips to the beach were mainly reserved for special occasions and first dates, Jazzi recalls enjoying many long evening cruises along coastal roads in her teen years. Today, that feeling of freedom brought by the sound of waves and the night breeze springs to life a short drive away.
“Getting your driver’s license is a big moment in your LA life,” Jazzi says. “You get the freedom to just keep driving down the coast seemingly forever.”