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J.U.i.C.E uses Hip Hop culture to empower youth

Juliana D. Norwood | 9/19/2012, 5 p.m.

Justice by Uniting in Creative Energy (J.U.i.C.E.) is a nonprofit weekly Hip Hop arts program that seeks to develop youth leadership and technical skills, creative expression and self-confidence through the artistic elements of Hip Hop, which include breakdancing, urban art, deejaying, emceeing/spoken word and music recording.

J.U.i.C.E. was founded in 2001 in the Rampart District of Los Angeles. The area roughly includes Westlake, Echo Park and Pico-Union.

"We teach visual arts workshops, paint large-scale and legal graffiti murals in the community, record and produce music, emcee, and B-boy/B-girl," said executive director Monica Delgado.

"We create unique opportunities for underserved young artists to showcase their work, network with peers and professionals and engage with their communities in a positive manner through the arts."

The program is free for all age groups and the organization's vision is to sustain a safe and permanent home for youth where the elements of Hip Hop are used as a tool for social change, youth empowerment and art education.

"Our mission is to address the root causes of juvenile crime and of youths' need for belonging by providing a safe center run by and for young people, focused on skill building in the arts of the Hip Hop culture," said Delgado.

A major accomplishment for the organization was hosting their first Hip Hop artist exchange program this year.

J.U.i.C.E. partnered with Amagezi Gemaanyi Youth Association, a nonprofit organization committed to creating safe, supportive, sustainable learning environment where youth can develop leadership skills and express themselves creatively, which took Los Angeles-based MC and Hellfyre Club recording artist, Open Mike Eagle, and producer/recording artist, Ras G, to work with Ugandan rapper Mon MC, youth artists, and other local musicians in Uganda for three weeks in May.

The program set out to accomplish four major goals:
1. Exchange knowledge about the musical traditions of Hip Hop, both its roots in African music and the unique styles of rapping and production born in Los Angeles, paying particular attention to similarities and differences in rhythm, melody, harmony, instrumentation and content.
2. Support the growth and development of Hip Hop music in Uganda through artist-led workshops for emerging artists in Uganda, focusing on production and rapping.
3. Collaboratively produce works of art, culminating in the production of five-track CD, which is now available for free online, called "Kampala Blackouts."
4. Provide public benefit and experience of the arts through a live performance for the general public at the Ugandan National Theater in Kampala, Uganda.

The nonprofit Hip Hop collective meets every Saturday from 12 to 4 p.m. at the MacArthur Park Recreational Center at 2230 West 6th St., Los Angeles, and every Thursday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Chuco's Justice Center at 1137 E. Redondo Blvd. in Inglewood.

This evening and on the third Thursday of every month, the J.U.i.C.E collective participates in "Fighting Words," an open mic night where citizens of Inglewood take peaceful action through poetry and music to stop police brutality. The event is an outlet for those who have been affected by controversial police violence to gather and share their stories through rhyme and rhythm.
On Saturday, Sept. 22, J.U.i.C.E will host their fifth annual Hip Hop Dance Festival at the Ford Amphitheatre in Hollywood. The festival began as a way to allow local artists to explore and present commonly recognized styles of street dance with their own unique interpretations.

Tickets for the event are $25 general admission and $12 for students and can be purchased online at http://www.fordtheatres.org/en/events/details/id/220.

For more information on the organization, visit the website at www.rampartjuice.com