L.A. bookstore owner celebrates Juneteenth through community

"The liberation here manifests itself in many ways that I'm really proud of," Jazzi McGilbert, founder of the Compensation Club.

“The liberation here manifests itself in many ways that I am really proud of,” said Jazzi McGilbert, founder of the Report Club. Makeup by Tameka Blackshir and hair by Kayla Acosta.

(Kayla James / For The Times)

When Report Club opened in 2019, it was clear: This is not just a bookstore or retail store. There’s something sacred about the space itself – what it means to have a piece of real estate owned by Black women in LA. After displacement during the pandemic, that energy remains. Books by Black authors line the shelves, serving as a gateway to an open-format space where live karaoke sessions, intimate artist talks and chat nights are held. Homosexuality occurs frequently. The setting itself is like the cool living room we all wish for: stylish yet comfortable and warm.

For founder and owner Jazzi McGilbert, the Report Club is a material offering for Blacks in LA: It’s, after all, somewhere, made for being mainstream. me. Before June 13, McGilbert spoke to Image about the importance of physical space and the ways it can free us.

i try Not to define it as much as possible. But when I have to, I say it’s a concept bookstore and creative space – because that opens the door to absolutely anything happening here.

I wanted somewhere that prioritized Blacks and, by extension, other people of color, but unlike everything else that made the Black community feel uncomfortable, that wasn’t really for us. I wanted to create a space where we can hang out, where we feel focused, like at home – just like your shoes go. Where we have the same point of reference.

The only space where I have that feeling is the Underground Museum, where I held my mother’s funeral. It’s a space my mom and I have been to before, and I remember saying, “Oh my God. Look: Black Art is getting the reverence it deserves. “I wanted to recreate that feeling, because there is more than one space that can do that – and turn it into a retail space, not necessarily an art space.

If you told Jazzi 5 years ago what I’m doing now, she would be surprised. The most surprising thing is that I am the boss. I didn’t think that was possible. I would be shocked to know that I call the photos somewhere and people resonate with it. I’m naturally drawn to all sorts of things that I feel can have a sense of creative freedom – and really, those creative freedoms don’t necessarily apply to me. I ended up with fashion and style, but then you get into the industry and you realize it’s very commercial. As a black girl in the fashion industry, I had a crossroads that weren’t my physical body type, and then all the caste issues. (I don’t come from a rich family.) I’ve always felt like this big uphill battle I’ve lost. In the end, I decided to go with the flow, not the fashion industry. It’s towards something very, very different. Compensation Club feels like this grand theory I had. One big test is working so far.

And then the book part feels so ironic. I am a child who loves books. Introvert. I loved reading, but I fell out of love with it. When I opened the bookstore, I didn’t even know the last time I actually picked up a book. I’m still discovering these. But I know it’s amazing and it’s taking back the childhood energy I had while reading.

A smiling woman sits on a table in front of a painting and checkered wooden wall.

McGilbert says that the space specifically focuses on Black people is more important than ever in LA.

(Kayla James / For The Times)

The liberation here manifests itself in many ways that I am truly proud of. That’s every day — whether it’s someone walking in and stopping, holding out their hand, like, “Wait, whoa. This is in this neighborhood? Why didn’t I notice?” People’s reactions really feel seen and understood right away that this is something for them Or our staff: Our general manager is working at another bookstore where she is not focused, not feeling I feel represented and always fight to see myself reflected on that shelf. There are so many little things that you wouldn’t get in another work environment. It liberated me, and I know it was. Like, being able to borrow your boss’s car if you need to go somewhere – I’ve been in a work environment where my boss never would lend me their car – or maybe ask for a favor. It is not a toxic work environment. A little disorganized, maybe, but it’s not malicious. Just being able to find other people who don’t feel heard and giving them a platform is already great. And then there are all the authors we’ve connected with.

Every day here is pretty special.

I think that’s why physical space is so important – because we’re all aimless here and we’re looking for community and connection. The internet is what opened up my world, but you can’t hug someone over the computer. Feeling safe and able to just hold conversations… I think that’s about what space can be organization.

These spaces are disappearing, especially in this city. Our rent is crazy, and it’s just going up. We’ll stay here as long as we can, but I wish there was more space like this. For me, it’s Barnes & Noble at the Westside Pavilion. It’s ArcLight. The first place I felt myself reflected back was the Slauson Swap Encounter. It’s such a milestone, I hope it stays there forever. It’s a space where I’m like, “Oh, this is made to I. “These are the prices that I have access to. Everything I need is here – all my hair stuff, if I need a cute outfit – all here in one place. That is really important to me. A lot of my family is buried at Inglewood Cemetery. I learned how to drive there.

I want the Negroes in LA, and even outside LA, when we’re pushed farther and farther away, to take up huge space. There’s something about being who you really are. There’s a lot going against us, but anywhere you can do it with no pretensions, no filters, I think that’s incredibly liberating.

https://www.latimes.com/lifestyle/image/story/2022-06-17/l-a-bookstore-reparations-club-shows-why-taking-up-space-can-be-an-act-of-liberation L.A. bookstore owner celebrates Juneteenth through community

Russell Falcon

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