Angel Jennings is the assistant managing editor for culture and talent at the Los Angeles Times. Before taking on this role, she worked for nine years as a staff reporter for the paper’s Metro section, where she covered South L.A. Before moderating “What Are Today’s L.A. Women Fighting For?,” the third event in the Zócalo/Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County series When Women Vote, Jennings called into the virtual green room to talk about the time she helped resurrect her high school newspaper, her favorite place to catch an L.A. sunset, and Leimert Park in the wake of Black Lives Matter.
What was the last memorable film you watched?
Going back to that moment of communal experience, it was the last movie I saw in a theater—The Photograph, with Issa Rae. It's a love story about a daughter who is trying to find herself by finding her mother. It was really beautiful.
Do you remember where you saw it?
It was the theater by the Fox Hills Mall—the Howard Hughes movie theater is what everyone calls it. I'm not a native Angeleno, but I've noticed all these landmarks that natives just call by what the name was years ago. So, Fox Hills Mall is Westfield, but I've adopted the old-school reference. And Howard Hughes is another one that everyone talks about going to when they were younger. I love it now as an adult because there is a restaurant inside, and you can order margaritas and bring them in with you. And it’s not pricey like IPIC. It’s reasonable, and the drinks are great.
You’re from the Washington, D.C., area. What was your favorite place to go growing up?
There was this place called the Landmark Mall. Now the mall is decaying and older, and I think it's getting a facelift. But I just remember playing around the water fountains … the freedom of the open space … going to the Chick-Fil-A. There were just so much adventure going to that mall.
You would think that I would say like, “Oh, the monuments.” But I didn't go to the monuments until I was older. We lived in a suburb. So we stayed close to home, and the mall was such a staple of my elementary school years, and even my teenage years—that whole mall rat thing where you go to the mall and look cute and go to eat and spend hours there. That was definitely a vibe for the teenage kids of the 2000s and late ’90s.
You were recruited by the University of Nebraska for your work on your high school newspaper. What first got you interested in journalism?
I was actually thrust into a journalism class. It's not something I signed up for. I had moved and was late to registering for classes, and it was the only class left. I actually went to my guidance counselor and begged to be released from the class. I'm like, “Please, I am already taking English, I don't need another writing course.” But once I was told that I could not be removed from the class, I just kind of fell in love and went all in. I helped resurrect the school paper. Journalists from the Washington Post would come during their lunch break and help teach us how to write articles, how to interview. It was a partnership that led me to other weekend journalism boot camps, and to connecting with someone at the Washington Post who actually graduated from the University of Nebraska. He made that connection with the school, and then they recruited me for journalism. In this day and age, you hear about people being recruited for basketball and football, but I was recruited for the written word. I thought that was pretty cool.
Was there a story you wrote in high school that still stands out to you today?
This was the early 2000s, and there was a student who said that he was being discriminated against because he was openly gay. The principal was not happy with us for publishing it. It actually became an issue where we had to fundraise to pay for that edition to be printed. That's when I realized how powerful the written word is.
Were you thinking about that experience during the discriminatory pay class-action lawsuit that you were part of this summer against the Times?
Actually, no. What I went through in high school was a distant memory until more recently.
But I know that I’m going to be moderating a panel about what women today are fighting for—in particular L.A., but so much of what's happening in L.A. we know carries on throughout other states and throughout the country. And one of the big things is equal pay: People want to be paid for the work that they do, as pursuant to their counterparts who are white and male. And with that vein in mind, it's not just about for women, but also for Black people. And I realized that there's only so much pushing you can do by going to your bosses. At some point, there's other avenues that you can take to remedy your problem. And I think that we need to realize that's a powerful tool that should be employed when necessary.
Was there any one moment when you knew L.A. had become your home?
I don't know if there was an exact moment. I just know that I planted roots here, and they continue to grow. I got married here. I had my daughter here. And now, I’m approaching the 10-year mark in 2021. So it wasn't a moment; it's just been a combination of moments where L.A. has felt like she’s embraced me. I'm pretty sure that some of the sunsets have something to do with it, too.
Where's your favorite spot to catch the sunset?
One of my first homes in L.A., we had a rooftop. It was amazing. It had a hot tub. It was in the middle of Mid-City—the Hollywood sign was to the north; you could see the sunset to the west. That was a favorite place and space. But we moved. So now we go to the beach and watch the sun slip below the horizon.
Last question: What’s your favorite public space in L.A.?
Leimert Park. I’m actually walking down the street—not the sidewalks because I'm trying to social distance—and just taking in this gathering space. It's always been the epicenter of Black culture in L.A., but really has transformed into something with a deeper meaning in the wake of Black Lives Matter, where it's also become a place of healing, and a show of resilience, and a place to find restoration. I love this place. I love the bookstore that’s there. I love the cafés that are popping up; they're all Black-owned. It's just such food for the soul.