The Early Concept:
As a graduate of Morningside High School in Inglewood, CA, Social Justice Learning Institute Founder and Executive Director, D’Artagnan Scorza was intimately aware of the health, environmental and educational equity access issues impacting his community. As a McNair Undergraduate Research Scholar at UCLA, Scorza was motivated by the belief that a humanizing shift in pedagogy, which emphasized critical thinking and research training skills, could transform academic outcomes in urban communities of color.
With a focus on mentoring youth and providing a critical lens to analyze race, class, and gender, the Black Male Youth Academy (BMYA) was born at Morningside High School. Initially supporting 30 African American youth, the program has since spurred the development of the Social Justice Learning Institute.
Formalized in 2008, the Social Justice Learning Institute (SJLI) grew out of the early vision and success of the Black Male Youth Academy (BMYA). Now, SJLI is thriving with programming developed by and for the larger community, which addresses a plethora of health and education equity concerns. BMYA has expanded its outreach to support the needs of all youth of color under the umbrella of Urban Scholars. Also, access to fresh food is blooming in Inglewood thanks 100 Seeds of Change, a CSA, and a soon to be Farmers Market.
Looking to the Future:
Supported by staff, educators, politicians and most importantly the community, SJLI has created a model that works. Over 250 students have completed Urban Scholars programing with SJLI, and 87 percent have pursued secondary education. More than 36 gardens have been built and maintained in a community that’s landscape has traditionally been punctuated by fast food establishments and liquor stores. The future of Inglewood is looking healthier and stronger with the promise of new possibilities. SJLI looks to expand and replicate these proven models of success, which empower communities to be informed and to be leaders in creating their own conscious identity. SJLI looks to lead the state and national discourse on what is possible for all urban communities of color.