|Justice by Uniting in Creative Energy||| Print ||
Breakdancing plus graffiti equals a way off the streets
J.U.I.C.E. addresses juvenile crime and youths’ need for belonging by providing a safe center run by and for young people focused on skill building in the arts.
Justice by Uniting in Creative Energy, or J.U.i.C.E., is a Community Partners sponsored project that curbs youth violence and crime through hip hop culture. It is a free, safe and positive place, inviting young people to breakdance, create graffiti art, freestyle rap and blast loud music.
The Pico Union area is the most densely populated section of Los Angeles County, and home to thousands of low-income people, many of them immigrants. J.U.i.C.E. offers young people living in this intense and often chaotic environment a place to ground themselves and feel a sense of belonging. Jonathon Park, a 19-year-old performer from Koreatown says, “I just like it because I see cats coming from down the street and coming on the bus. It’s definitely community-oriented, which I like.”
From behind a desk covered in stacks of multi-colored event fliers, Project Leader Monica Delgado greets by name most of the 80 to 100 members that attend each week. Short, with dark brown eyes that radiate enthusiasm, the 28-year-old Latina requires that everyone sign in. “Other than that,” she says, “there is only one rule at J.U.i.C.E. — respect.”
Further back in the Church’s courtyard sit young men attending a graffiti workshop. J.U.i.C.E. does not openly support or condemn illegal graffiti but reminds members about the consequences and offers alternatives. Eric Black, an 18-year-old graffiti artist who’s been coming to J.U.i.C.E. for two years says, “The thing is you can’t stop someone from doing graffiti. What you can do is give them something else to do.”
J.U.i.C.E provides opportunities for the youth to become creative professionals. A group of J.U.i.C. E. graffiti artists were recently invited to paint a movie set. “It was cool. Now I’ve gotten phone calls from other people who wanna’ offer me jobs. I got a $300 painting waiting for me at home right now to take to San Diego,” says Eric Black.
In the large meeting hall breakdancers’ bodies move across the hardwood floor in impossible ways. A young man drops into a handstand with ease, lifts one palm off the floor, and hops upside down. Breakdancing draws the highest number of participants at J.U. i.C. E, where there is enough open space for eight or nine people to dance at once.
Workshops are also given on recording and musical engineering. At events, J.U.i.C.E. provides performance opportunities and displays artwork. Currently some of the performers are touring as openers for major rap artists and most of them have solo recordings. “We’re reaching young people through something they’re already interested in; we’re not trying to force some other information down,” says Monica.
J.U.i.C.E has flourished under the Community Partners umbrella. Monica can often be found in Community Partners’ downtown office where she knows everyone by first name. “Sometimes I feel really bad because I wonder if we’re a headache for them. At one point I was there practically everyday, doing paperwork, or just sitting there and breaking down receipts,” says Monica. “But I understand nothing we need is a headache. Our needs are what Community Partners was built to address.”
Dawn Smith, founder of J.U.i.C.E. and current Advisory Board member, also appreciates the incubator program and staff: "We decided to stay on with Community Partners after obtaining our own 501(c)(3) because of the enormously helpful resources they have provided us, and the dedication of many of the staff to guiding us on our journey."
PROJECT STATUS: J.U.i.C.E. was a project of Community Partners from 2000-2011. J.U.i.C.E. continues to serve between 30 and 100 youth a week as a safe, artistic deterrent to juvenile crime.
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