In 2001 in a small cultural arts center in the high-crime, predominantly immigrant neighborhood of MacArthur Park, a new kind of community youth center was born. Justice by Uniting in Creative Energy (J.U.i.C.E.) emerged as a direct response to work with underserved youth- specifically incarcerated youth- who were asked directly what they felt might have made a difference in their lives. Their responses, and years of research, went into creating a program that would be open to all, would provide services that were exciting, inspirational, and educational, and would offer mentoring by their peers in the fields they respected; all with only one ground rule- respect.
Since its inception, J.U.i.C.E. has been located in and served the predominantly Latino neighborhood of Pico-Union and MacArthur Park, located adjacent to the predominantly Asian neighborhood of Koreatown. Our participants, who come from these underserved communities, face a variety of challenges, ranging from underperforming schools to a lack of professional and/or vocational opportunities. To further compound these issues, when considering the high levels of crime, gang activity and a lack of resources for the promotion of personal well-being available within these communities, personal safety and health become of chief concern for many of its young residents. J.U.i.C.E., however, strives to address these concerns by providing a safe center run by and for young people, focused on skill building in the arts of the hip-hop culture.
Despite numerous challenges, especially with regards to funding such a unique program, the center continues to thrive- still in the same neighborhood, but now at the MacArthur Park Recreation Center– offering weekly programming to dozens of youth from the surrounding neighborhoods, as well as young people from around the world.
Since inception, our successes include:
- Six years of critically-acclaimed annual shows to packed houses of the J.U.i.C.E. Hip Hop Dance Festival at the Ford Amphitheater,
- Numerous young people that have come through J.U.i.C.E. in the past have moved on to regional, national, and international team competitions, as well as popular media, including the TV shows, “So You Think You Can Dance” and “America’s Best Dance Crew”, and the current movie, “Battle of the Year”.
- International exchanges with similar youth programs in Germany and Uganda,
- Two produced CDS of compilation music created and entirely by J.U.i.C.E. staff and participants,
- Community events and competitions attended by hundreds of local youth, as well as youth from Japan, Korea, France, and other countries,
- Visits from major hip-hop artists,
- Features in the LA Times, on Fox, the BBC, and other media outlets,
- Participation at numerous conferences, universities, and panel discussions regarding the impact of the arts on high-risk youth,
- Providing after-school dance and visual arts programming for the Ambassador School for Global Education,
- Observing multiple young people who started as participants in J.U.i.C.E. earn recording and commercial contracts, places in major gallery exhibitions, spots as part of touring dance and performance troupes, and national and international artistic acclaim.