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Where To Get Your Lit…In Spaces Created By Black Women

A wide photo of the interior of the bookstore. The walls at the far end of the store are wooden and checkered. The floor has a black, yellow and black checkered pattern. In the foreground to the right of frame there are many colorful books on the display. On the left there are more shelves with books. A customer stands at the payment counter. And on the left of frame three Black women chat.
Customers come from all around the city to patron Reparations Club. March 11, 2023.
(Alexis Hunley
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I’ve always been an avid bookworm. I love even the smell of books. Visiting my family in L.A. meant I got to stop by Eso Won in Leimert Park every summer. My heart was truly broken when it closed.

These Black Women Wanted A Safe Space For Them. So They Created It.

A wide photo of the interior of the bookshop. On the left of frame a Black woman wearing a white cardigan, stripped shirt, and jean miniskirt holds a book and reads it. To the left a white woman picks up a book on display in the center book display of the bookstore. On the right of frame an older white woman with a black pants and jean jacket faces a large bookshelf against the wall. At the top of the bookstore wall there's a sign that reads, "Why some people be bad at me sometimes by lucile clifton" "they ask me to remember but they want me to remember their memories and i keep remembering mine."
Octavia's bookshelf in Pasadena, CA. March 7, 2023.
(Alexis Hunley
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But since moving back here permanently, I found out about some fairly new Black-owned literary spaces in L.A. and, to my surprise, they were all created by women. All of them have sprouted up in the last four years:

One can always find a good book at these spots but they are more than that. Each place has a unique mission and, for the brick-and-mortar stores, these places offer a little piece of home: family photographs, art and a place to sit and read. They also provide a place to engage in conversation and find community.
“The intention was to have a space that centers on Black people in L.A.: Black stories, Black narratives, that is a start," Jazzi McGilbert, founder of Reparations Club said. “I think a lot of places are made with other intentions that don’t align with the community. It’s more business first. Our goal is to be people first. We think of ourselves as the neighbors over here.”

For my latest story, I spoke with these Black women bibliophiles about how they got started — and why. If you’d like to check some of these spaces, I’ve got a list of where you can find them throughout the city. Also, catch my conversation with How to LA host Brian De Los Santos about my visits to these spaces.

As always, stay happy and healthy, folks. There’s more news below — just keep reading.

We’re here to help curious Angelenos connect with others, discover the new, navigate the confusing, and even drive some change along the way.

More News

(After you stop hitting snooze)

  • The Los Angeles City Council appointed Heather Hutt to finish serving former Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas’ term after his conviction on federal corruption charges. My colleague Frank Stoltze has more on why this matters and what’s next.  
  • It's set: Imelda Padilla and Marisa Alcaraz will head to a June runoff in the race to replace former L.A. City Councilmember Nury Martinez. That seat serves Council District 6, including neighborhoods like Van Nuys, in the San Fernando Valley.
  • State Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo is back with a newer version of a bill that would stop prison-to-ICE transfers in California. My colleague Josie Huang has more on the revived bill calls for and who would be impacted. 
  • You may have heard about antibiotic-resistant "superbugs" found in local waste water samples. Here's what you need to know.
  • Wilder’s Preparatory Academy in Inglewood has been showing promising success for students in literacy and math. EdSource’s Kate Sequeira has more on this predominantly Black student charter school. 
  • L.A. taxpayers, you are in luck. In case you missed it, you do not need to file your tax returns this month. Normally, we’d be looking at April 18 but due to recent storms — and the flooding and other issues caused by them — the IRS gave residents of L.A. County, and several other counties, a breather.  
  • The Biden Administration weighed in Tuesday with a proposal for cutting water allocations from the Colorado River. It could drastically reduce the portion Southern California receives.
  • Tulare Lake has returned after several powerful storms. But it might cause future problems for  a compost facility that turns human waste into fertilizer. 
  • California lawmakers created a home loan program for first-time buyers called “Dream For All”. But just 11 days after the application launch, all of the initial money is gone. A disproportionate number of the borrowers are white, non-Latino and live near Sacramento.
  • *At LAist we will always bring you the news freely, but occasionally we do include links to other publications that may be behind a paywall. Thank you for understanding! 

Wait! One More Thing...

Desert X Art Installations

four shipping containers are arranged with a triangle shape in the middle, through which you can see a snow capped mountain and a blue sky
Artist Matt Johnson's installation, Sleeping Figure
(Keith Ladzinski)
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Have you ever seen Desert X art installations? If not, you definitely need to check out these larger-than-life pieces of art. So instead of taking a blast into the far past, let’s hop in my yellow DeLorean coupe low rider to drive out east to explore Desert X, six years after its creation.

My colleague John Horn will meet us there for this biennial initiative. On our drive through Coachella Valley, we’ll catch a view of a sculpture made out of shipping containers by L.A. artist Matt Johnson, called the “Sleeping Figure”.

“I always wanted to position it along the freeway, the freight rail, and I wanted the mountain as a backdrop, because the figure becomes like an actor on a stage. And it becomes almost like a painting,” Johnson told John recently.

Desert X also features the photography of Tyre Nichols, the 29-year-old Black man who was killed by the Memphis Police Department earlier this year. Learn more about the mission behind these art installations and some of the artists’ work.

Desert X will run through May 7.

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