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