If you’ve been searching for a place to feel seen and feel represented, Reparations Club is your sanctuary.
Founded by Creative Director Jazzi McGilbert, Reparations Club is a concept shop and community space curated by Blackness™ + POC (allies welcome). A labor of love through and through, Rep Club is home to a thoughtfully curated mix of merchandise that simultaneously takes you back to nostalgic childhood memories and makes you gasp as you lock eyes with a treasure you didn’t know you needed until that very moment. They also host events with local black-owned businesses and strive to continuously foster an environment that you want to be in.
The all-female team includes Co-Captain + Multi-Disciplinary Creative Nomad Trae Harris and Senior Buyer, Stylist + Entrepreneur Nadia Beeman. Each of these individual female powerhouses are driven to create a space that makes people of all color feel welcome, safe, and seen.
What was your primary motivation behind founding Reparations Club?
Jazzi: To create a space that I wanted to be in and that I felt comfortable in, and by nature, other black and brown people would too.
How did you come up with the name?
Jazzi: I had some nameplate necklaces made that said “reparations” for me and my friends. When I came up with the idea for the shop – I think Trae and I were sitting on the couch – and I was like “yeah okay, Reparations!” I thought about it more and it became like a mantra of sorts. It made sense and I knew it would stick in people’s heads and bring the right people in and sort of keep the wrong people out.
Trae, how did you become part of Reparations Club? I saw on Instagram that you are HBIC!
Trae: Just so we’re all aware, Jazzi wrote my Instagram bio so that’s her doing! But I think it all just kind of serendipitously happened at the same time. I moved out here – I actually really just came out to visit. I only had one bag and Jazzi had space and she allowed me to be in her space. And during the time of us just building around what was going on in our lives and having conversations about what the interesting place she was at in her life with her mom just passing and receiving some insurance money from her mom’s passing and what something like that means for a person who’s never had that kind of money in one large sum before. We were just having conversations about “what does that mean” from the minute Jazzi was thinking about what she wanted to do and what kind of space she wanted to create. She was talking about her mom always wanting a store and I thought that was a really amazing way to commemorate her mom’s legacy, as well as the legacy of our ancestors who came before us. Out of all these conversations, I just knew that I wanted to be there every step of the way. That’s how it really all came together. I just wanted to support my friend who was doing something really awesome. Wanting her to know that she doesn’t have to do it all alone. I think that’s something that often happens to folks – they feel like this monumental task is now in their laps because they made this choice. I just wanted her to know that she wasn’t alone.
Nadia, as Senior Buyer, how do you discover emerging artists and how do you choose what comes in and how do you help curate this experience?
Nadia: Some of it comes from my background in styling and Jazzi has a background in fashion too. We really look at brands and designers that are at a certain tier that are doing very well at what they do, but either aren’t welcomed or just haven’t been explored. We really want to make this a space where those people can exist. We pay a lot of attention to new artists through research, different articles, going back to the archives to look back at things that existed in a past time that don’t exist now, and we’ll do research and find it.
Jess: Yes, like bandages that are in a skin color other than the one we’ve had to deal with forever growing up.
Jazzi: Those bandages in particular, we have a brand from the 70s that we found deadstock of and we also found a brand being made today so we’ve displayed them both alongside each other.
How did you realize all this was your purpose and calling and where you were meant to be? I feel like that’s so hard to find sometimes with society telling you that you need a 9 to 5 and all these pre-established standards.
Jazzi: I think it was a process of elimination. I’ve done the 9 to 5 before. I was always creative so that was the through line of my life. Being a young black woman, you gotta work. I was a receptionist at a law firm. My mom was a paralegal so I grew up under the desk of attorneys. That did not work for me. I wrote so I worked in fashion for Teen Vogue and Nylon and that was never comfortable for me. I tried it and toughed it out because it was the most logical path. I wasn’t a designer. I wasn’t a photographer. There were all these things that I liked and had opinions on but didn’t do any of those practices so magazines felt like a natural fit for me – but it was very uncomfortable, it just felt like wearing someone else’s clothes all the time. So I left that, retired from the fashion industry. I’ve been a creative director and that’s where I've sort of been able to put together all the skills that I have and that’s what led me to this.
Nadia: I kind of planted my seed in a funny way. We didn’t even know each other a year ago and I came to the soft opening of Reparations Club. We were asked to bring flowers or a plant so I brought a plant and who knew that I would be the plant that would grow here.
Jazzi: And I killed the plant she brought!
Nadia: But then I came back through a mutual friend and I grew here. For me, it was just seeing Jazzi as an entrepreneur is really inspiring. I’m an entrepreneur myself and being part of something from the ground up is just really important to me. I just really connected to everything about this.
Jazzi: My version of that story is that, there was a friend of mine, a guy who I was dating, who kept telling me about this girl Nadia. “You gotta meet Nadia, you gotta meet Nadia!” And I was like “yeah we’ll figure it out and meet.” I don’t even think I realized you were that Nadia when you came that day. Once I did figure it out, it made a lot of sense.
Trae: For me, as much as I love fashion and I love black designers, thinkers, creatives, and creators, I was a lot more interested in the space as a community space and an opportunity to facilitate different conversations and educational experiences. I think that’s what really draws me in. I like the idea of having The Free Black Women’s Library or formal ritual workshops or book talks, and just having folks gather and being in community in this space. That’s what feels more in alignment for me personally. I’ve always been really interested in facilitating space for folk. Like how can we get together and exchange and grow? I think that kind of rounds out the entire experience of what we all find in this space.
You guys have thrown so many events and gatherings in this space, do you have a favorite?
Everyone: Saturday Morning Cartoons.
Trae: Just because it was the most unique type of event. Across the diasporas that exist, everyone feels connected to something like that. Because it doesn’t really matter if you grew up in the hood or the suburbs or what city or state you grew up in – Saturday morning cartoons were on every station in every city and every state in every time period. So if you’re in your mid-20s to maybe even early 40s, you have a connection to that. I feel like across age groups as well, folks really connected to that.
Jazzi: I remember that it was also the first event we ourselves put together so that felt special as well. We were like “Will people come to this? It’s in the morning – a Saturday morning – and people go out Friday night. Are they really gonna get up at 10 in the morning to have a bowl of cereal and watch some cartoons when they could do it at home?” And then the tickets sold out within 24 hours. It was great and super wholesome. Like who’s having morning events and eating bowls of cereal?
Like you could do it at home, but you probably wouldn’t. You wanna do it with people. Growing up, I remember doing that with my parents or my brother.
Nadia: Trae mentioned community, and I remember there was a moment when we looked down and there were 30-35 people just sitting together on the couches in front of the TV and we were like, “Wow, this is a space.”
Jazzi: I don’t know where else in LA you could do that.
Trae: And it was cool because Shan curated commercial segments between the cartoons that were all reminiscent of black childhood commercials that we saw growing up, from like perm commercials to Gumby. All types of things that just felt so nostalgic, so that was cool too. I feel like another one of those is gonna be even bigger and can provide us with even more opportunities to have those moments of nostalgia that are just really innocent and fun.
Jazzi: And I think for me, all the events we’ve done with the Free Black Women’s Library stick out to me just because that feels like for one, it’s black women coming together for this event that is around reading and it’s very intergenerational – there’s family, kids, old folks, swapping books written by black women for free. That was just a really good time. Seeing everyone sitting and kind of communing around books. It was great.
How do you feel that Reparations Club is impacting both black and brown communities? And the Los Angeles community at large?
Jazzi: I think I’m too in here and in it to know how it’s impacting the community at large. I just kind of focus on this space that we’re creating and the world outside of that, obviously it matters, but I try not to think about that too much in here. It’s just the space that we are creating – right here. And I think, just all the brown folks who have come in and been able to find themselves in here, I think there’s a shared experience and we all know that. So just creating that space. We try to have a little something for everyone. Something that sticks out to me is by Coloured Publishing – my friend Yuri did a zine called “Winding Roots” and it’s about Asian people with curly hair. We sell out of it every time we get it back in. My husband is Japanese and Korean and he has wavy hair. I remember he and his mom finding that book and finding themselves in it. So having a space for just everyone to come in. Engage with the blackness. Engage with the brownness. And just help them find themselves.
Trae: I think in general, just creating the word of mouth to let folks know that there’s a space that you can come to that have books that have faces on them that look like your face, magazines featuring people that look like you with people working there who aren’t walking around watching you do the things that you’ve doing, who are just allowing you to be in the space where there are high end luxury items and lower end items, but everybody has something that they can engage with. Just knowing that the space exists is doing a lot – that’s important.
I feel like it’s so important to see yourself represented in media and entertainment and see figures and faces that look like yours. Growing up as a minority, you don’t get that luxury. You guys are part of a narrative that is changing, molding, and affecting that. This interview has been amazing. Is there anything else you guys want to say?
Nadia: Thank you for highlighting and appreciating the work that we are doing.
Jazzi: When thinking about the future of Rep Club and what that’s all gonna look like, I think some goals I have include a co-working space. People come in here and post up with their laptops all the time, but I wanna formalize that a bit more because it seems like something people really want and need. And yeah, just continuing to be a space where people can discover new brands that aren’t getting attention but are have something worth paying attention to.
Trae: Or maybe there’s someone who braids hair or does nails and that’s something they wanna do here. Just making sure that this space is constantly facilitating the growth of other black and brown people, because if everyone isn’t growing together, then it’s just the same bullshit that we’re experiencing in these other spaces. Just how to continue to push forward and be progressive in that.
And to bring this experience full circle, we are inviting everyone who reads this to join us in celebrating the release of this story at Reparations Club this Saturday, February 22nd.
Photography by Andy Baptiste
Creative Direction by Neijah Lanae
Words & Interviews by Jessica Wu
Graphic Design & Videography by Melissa Ver