Click to toggle navigation menu.
Liberty Hill Foundation Speaks to Executive Director Derek Steele on “Conversations from the Frontlines” Podcast

Liberty Hill Foundation’s new podcast series, “Conversations from the Frontlines”, recently featured Social Justice Learning Institute’s Executive Director Derek Steele. 

In the special two-part episode titled, “Grassroots vs. GrassTops in L.A. Multi-Racial Coalition Politics – Part 2,” Derek sits down with Liberty Hill’sPresident/CEO Shane Murphy to share his inside-out strategies as a community leader and social justice advocate working in solidarity with South Los Angeles communities and leaders to tackle local politics and the nonprofit industrial complex.

“All of us are going to have to change the way we think,” says Derek regarding how community-based organizations, government, philanthropy, and other industries are making changes for Angelenos.

Among the variety of topics discussed, one was about the allocation of funds for Measure J and how the Care First Community Investment Advisory Committee of Los Angeles was created, in addition to the committee’s philosophy.

Derek states, “It starts with what the youth and the community have to say, and is about going in a different direction, rather than the status quo.”With Derek’s humble beginnings at SJLI as a volunteer turned Health Equity Programs Director, he encourages those wanting to get involved to figure out what role they want to play, to listen first, and show up with open hearts and open minds.

Listen Now!

Explore our website to learn more about SJLI, our work, and how we’re implementing the philosophy of community members living “whole, free, healthy, and thriving lives”.

Los Angeles Sentinel Features 2023 Nonprofit of the Year: Social Justice Learning Institute

Assemblymember Tinna McKinnor of Inglewood named the Social Justice Learning Institute as the 2023 Nonprofit of the Year. This special recognition signifies the growth of the organization, as well as its impact in the communities they serve throughout Inglewood and South Los Angeles. SJLI’s work to meet the needs of the community through addressing food insecurity, developing youth leadership opportunities, and elevating their voices on the housing crisis has made the organization a leader and change agent in the community. 

“We’re so grateful for this wonderful opportunity,” says Executive Director Derek Steele. “Thank you to Assemblymember McKinnor for being a continued supporter of the work we’re doing in the community.”

Read more in the Los Angeles Sentinel on Page 5 here.

Watch Assemblymember Kinnor interview Executive Director Derek Steele and Director of Development and Communications Megan Hayward. 


Social Justice Learning Institute’s Youth Justice Fellowship Calls for Applicants

The Youth Justice Fellowship (YJF)  is seeking youth who are interested in being change-makers in their community.

YJF is an intensive leadership development program that engages an annual cohort of 10 youth leaders in community building, international travel,  and research skill development over the course of 12 months.

Participants will receive rigorous training in the academic and organizing skills needed to be transformative leaders. This immersive experience will serve them personally and in their community work for the rest of their lives. They will likely build lifelong friendships while studying and critiquing the harms generated by existing institutional models and practices concerning their research focus. They will investigate, analyze, and develop policy recommendations on the issue.

In parallel, we will experience the joy and depth of our own learning community. Participants will explore their personal passion and drive for social justice. They will meet other leaders and build community beyond their home place. We will also have a lot of fun! We will travel and bond over the course of this incredible learning journey and our lives will be changed for the better as a result. If this feels like a fit for you,  join us for this one-of-a-kind opportunity!

Click HERE for the video recap of our first cohorts’ Puerto Rico Tour!


Please complete your application by clicking HERE. Be prepared to upload a cover letter and your resume/cv.


Applications will be accepted through June 30, 2023, 11:59 pm (PST). If you have any questions, please email Gabe Regalado at

Everyone in LA Advocacy Town Hall Invites Executive Director Derek Steele and Others to Talk Homelessness in LA

The state of homelessness has been an ongoing issue in Los Angeles County. To add Black unhoused individuals add another complex layer to the challenge. 

Social Justice Learning Institute’s Executive Director Derek Steele was a panelist on Everyone in LA’s virtual Advocacy Town Hall discussing the state of Black equity and homelessness in Los Angeles. The purpose of the town hall was to hear advocacy updates from Los Angeles County Affordable Housing Solutions Agency (LACAHSA), a debrief of the Black Experience Action Team report and learn more about Miracle Messages, a nonprofit organization that helps unhoused people build their social support networks.

In 2022, the Los Angeles Housing Services Authority counted about 69,000 people were unhoused in Los Angeles County; however, about 12,000 were Black. Derek presented the contents of the “The Path to Justice Runs Through Equity: Ending Anti-Black Racism in Los Angeles” report, which details policy recommendations and initiatives to ensure Black Angelenos can live well and thrive. While the report is broken down into sections addressing employment, housing, education, mass incarceration, health and wellness, advocacy and policy, and environment, it also addresses the intersectionality, like the needs of the LGBTQIA2S+ and gender nonconforming communities.

The advocacy town hall focused on housing and how to reverse the Black exodus out of Los Angeles. Derek summarized the report and offered many solutions to the challenge of housing Black Angelenos, but one that stands out is to provide wrap-around services with affordable housing developments. “We can’t solve X, without solving Y.” By providing wraparound services, we are leveling the playing field in equity and giving a leg up to Black Angelenos in need.

The report was comprised in partnership with USC and UCLA, and in solidarity with the LAHSA Ad Hoc Committee on Black People Experiencing Homelessness and Los Angeles County’s Anti-Racism, Diversity and Inclusion Initiative.

Read the full report here:

A Look at the Youth Justice Fellowship’s First Year

The Youth Justice Fellowship program is a year-long cohort for 10-12 Fellows ages 18-25 who will operate as a think tank and action team research, training, and organizing to improve their communities. The Fellows delve into systemic barriers impacting education, economics, health, environment, and others, learn about the history of social justice, and partner with other agencies and organizations, all while working in a healing and safe space.

Our first cohort from 2021 to 2022, collectively focused their research on state-sanctioned violence and alternatives to community safety, but each Fellow narrowed down a particular issue to tackle like anti-Black racism in the school-to-prison pipeline and alternatives to school policing.

Over the course of the year, Fellows engaged in convenings, retreats, research essay workshops, and a solidarity tour to Puerto Rico. 


Fellows met 22 times for their political education, research design, and community organizing strategy sessions. 


Fellowship youth leaders traveled to Carlsbad, CA for a 3-day series of workshops and sessions focused on analyzing the dynamics of healing in harm from the structural, institutional, interpersonal, and personal levels. Facilitators from the Oakland-based Ahimsa Collective guided them through reflective activities and introduced them to restorative justice practices. 

They also underwent a 4-day retreat that consisted of research workshops over two weekends. Participants completed their individual 7-page essay assignments and each gave a 10-15 minute presentation on their writing on the first weekend. They then proceeded to craft the design for their action research project as a team the following weekend.

Research Essay Workshops

After gathering for more than a dozen workshops, each of the 9 Fellows wrote a 7-page research essay focused on a particular issue on the subject of state-sanctioned violence. They were required to include an annotated bibliography, citing at least 5 primary sources and at least 5 secondary sources. 

Kahlila Williams

Title: Anti-Black Racism in the School-to-Prison Pipeline and Alternatives to School Policing

Marshé Doss

Title: Racial and Class Disparities in the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Cristian Yanes

Title: Insidious Entanglements: The Reliance Between Healthcare and the Police State

Anthony Ayala

Title: Restorative Justice Alternatives to Addressing Community Violence and Harm

Aminadi Anorve

Title: A Genealogy of Racial Disparities in the History of Criminal Prosecution in the U.S.

Nisha Joseph

Title: Say Her Name: Issues of Gender Violence in Anti-Black Policin

Daniel Bisuano

Title: An Autoethnographic Reflection of State Violence and the LGBTQ Experience

William Patrick Oliver

Title: Anti-Black Racism in Issues of Police Brutality

LeQuan Muhammad

Title: Re-thinking the Historical Significance of Neighborhood Gangs

Puerto Rico Solidarity Tour

To engage Fellows in political education and cultural exchange with grassroots activists and organizations who are similarly focused on issues of state-sanctioned violence, we partnered with Fundacion Comunitaria and Kilometro Zero to host a Puerto Rico Solidarity Tour so that our fellows could draw a comparative analysis of the state-sanctioned violence, policy and public safety issues between Los Angeles County and Puerto Rico.

While there, our youth participated in a historical exploration of La Perla, Old San Juan, Ancón de Loíza, and El Yunque National Rainforest. They engaged in workshops on state-sanctioned violence in Puerto Rico with Kilometro Cero and workshops on the Afro-Puerto Rican freedom struggle with Fundacion Comunitaria.

To learn more about YJF, click here. Or, to discover how you can participate, please contact SJLI Youth Justice Organizer Gabriel Regalado at


The Youth Justice Fellowship Gets Ready to Make its First Policy Recommendations

When Fellows returned from Puerto Rico, they used what they learned from their convenings, retreats, research essay workshops, and solidarity tour to begin a youth participatory action research (YPAR) project to expand their solidarity efforts with PR.

The project is a comparative analysis evaluating the similarities and differences between Puerto Rico and Los Angeles in select focus areas of social justice and detailing Fellows’ own personal experiences and perspectives as youth scholar activists. 

There are 5 areas of analysis looking at systematic oppression shared between Los Angeles County and Puerto Rico:

  1. Statehood vs. Independence 
  2. Anti-Black Racism
  3. Police Violence
  4. Inaccessibility to Healthcare
  5. Housing Justice

Currently, Fellows are conducting a series of semi-structured surveys with Los Angeles County residents that will assess L.A. perceptions and opinions on their lived experiences with the 5 areas of focus in relation to the experiences of Puerto Ricans. They will compile their findings and their reflections into a comprehensive Youth Justice Fellowship Report that they will present at a culmination event in February 2023.

SJLI’s Youth Transform the Landscape of Education Through Youth Bill of Rights Workshops

Social Justice Learning Institute youth don’t pursue knowledge for themselves, they use it as a tool to create thriving communities and change systems for future generations of color. 

The youth leaders you see here are participating in one of several Youth Bill of Rights Workshops that are designed to arm young folks, ages 14 to 25, with the strategies and mobilization techniques needed to transform the landscape of education.

Back in 2018, the Brothers, Sons, Selves Coalition—a group of 9 youth-serving organizations—did a survey with over 3,000 students, including SJLI’s Urban Scholars and youth leaders. 

The survey assessed youth perspectives on law enforcement and took into account their priorities, experiences, challenges, and solutions to improving Black and Brown student success.

The responses were then synthesized into three (3) pillars that guide the bill:

        1. Defund school police and reduce youth contact with law enforcement

        2. Invest in school-based resources like restorative justice coordinators, academic counselors, mentorships, leadership development, and mental health counseling 

        3. Include youth in decision-making processes 

Since then, our youth have locked arms with other youth leaders to move these agendas forward, having successfully reduced the presence of police on campuses throughout the Los Angeles Unified School District and moving almost $100 million toward Black student achievement. 

The bill, which contains policy recommendations and actionable items, launches next year and will be presented to lawmakers, school boards, LA County Supervisors, community members, and stakeholders.

For now, our youth are strategizing, preparing to mobilize, engaging early stakeholders, and finetuning their public comments. 

Support the Social Justice Learning Institute When You Shop, Then Vote Through Target Circle

We are honored and excited to announce that the Social Justice Learning Institute has been selected by Target Circle as an impact partner who is eligible to receive funding for its work empowering youth through education, creating thriving communities, and inspiring more equitable systems for people of color.

From now until December 31st, you have a chance to help direct funds from Target’s Community Giving Program directly to SJLI when you shop, then vote for us through the Target app or by visiting Target Circle.

With every eligible purchase you make, you earn one vote. That means the more you shop, the more votes you can cast for us.

Existing Target Circle members can find eligible votes under the available earnings section of the app. So, check it out and start voting today using these five easy steps for in-store and online purchases!

How to Earn Votes in Target Stores 

Step 1: Scan your “Wallet” barcode in the Target app at the time of purchase, or scan the barcode on your receipt with the Target App within seven (7) days of purchase.
Step 2: Choose “My Target” in the Target app.
Step 3: Tap on “Target Circle™”.
Step 4: Select “Vote for Nonprofits”.
Step 5: Find Social Justice Learning Institute and vote!

How to Earn Votes Online at

Step 1: Log in or sign up for a account.
Step 2: Make sure you are a Target Circle member. If not, join.
Step 3: Stay logged into your account while you make your purchase.
Step 4: After your purchase is complete, tap Target Circle and select “Voting”.
Step 5: Find Social Justice Learning Institute and vote!
SJLI Executive Director Derek Steele Responds to Racist Remarks by Key Los Angeles County Officials

Social Justice Learning Institute Executive Director Derek Steele shared the above video message in response to the hurtful and racist statements from Los Angeles City Councilmembers Nury Martinez, Kevin de León, Gil Cedillo, and L.A. County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera.

Here is a transcript of Mr. Steele’s remarks:

It has been a whirlwind couple of days here in Los Angeles County.

I’ve had the privilege of working with many of my peers and our goal has been making sure that the voices are heard on this issue, and I wanted to make sure I shared mine on behalf of my team here at the Social Justice Learning Institute.

Let me start by saying this:

Racism, particularly anti-Black racism, has no place anywhere in Los Angeles County, the state of California, the United States of America, or even the world. This is why it was so infuriating, appalling, and disheartening to hear racist and derogatory remarks from elected officials—people that we, as voters, selected and chose to represent our interests.

A sacred trust was broken.

Listening to the entire audio, the casualness of their conversation about manipulating the redistricting process for political gain showed that the disenfranchisement of Black and Indigenous Angelenos was just business as usual.

You also got to hear first-hand the pervasiveness of the system of white supremacy and how its application is still fundamentally anti-Black, even if the wielders of its power are people of color like Nury Martinez, Gil Cedillo, Kevin De Leon, and Ron Herrera.

This type of energy is not new.

Black people are consistently displaced and disregarded. Black Angelenos make up more than 40 percent of the unhoused population and continue to deal with mass incarceration and police brutality.

There is hope though.

Today, as I contemplate all the things that have transpired in the last 48 hours, I think about my team, our youth, our families, and our communities.

It is an honor to work in concert and solidarity with leaders of color here at the Social Justice Learning Institute, the majority of whom are Black and Brown.

We have the privilege to engage with youth and community members in several L.A. County communities, empowering them to use their own individual agency to work on behalf of their fellow neighbors and residents—people they know, but most they may not.

We all have a role to play in making sure our communities are thriving places to live.

We are one of many organizations committed to this type of work with full heart and soul. We do not shy away from it because we understand that lives are in the balance of the change we work to create every day.

Many of us have been doing this work for years. Our elected representatives are supposed to be our allies. They have the responsibility of codifying the change we want to see while we take care of business every day in our communities and stand in the gaps that exist.

This work is not easy. It’s actually really hard to do. It’s made even harder when there are forces out there driven to divide and conquer, rather than unite and prosper.

If we are really about the business of creating a Los Angeles County that has racial equity leading the way—that has equity as the bridge that leads people to living whole, free, healthy, and liberated lives—then this type of egregious behavior, especially from leaders who sit in high spaces of influence and power, CANNOT BE TOLERATED.

So here is what needs to happen to begin to rectify the harm done:

1. We call for the immediate resignation—without question—of all parties, not just Ron Herrera. There is no way we can go back to a world where people who are anti-Black, anti-LGBTQIA+, and anti-solidarity still hold power. Not with what we know now. An example needs to be set to show we are serious about this care-first, equity-focused, people-centered agenda.

2. We call for a thorough investigation. This recording that we listened to happened a year ago. I was there when the redistricting process was taking place, like many of you were. Since then, there have been decisions made, redistricting has been completed and people have been impacted, people have been appointed, and issues have gone ignored. We need an investigation to know how pervasive these anti-Black racist ideas and sentiments are so we can correct the course.

3. We need to come together around a solidarity agenda. The elimination of anti-Black racism should be at the core of the agenda’s efforts in order to achieve racial equity. The Black Experience Action Team has already begun this work, and we need to take their lead. There is harm that needs to be repaired, making it crucial for the agenda to be care-first and most importantly, people-centered. This agenda also needs to be adopted in a way that impacts the political landscape, so things like this never happen again.

We are here, alongside so many others, with our Black and Brown brothers and sisters during this time as we fight against the systems that try to tear us apart.

We stand ready to do our part to change those systems in ways that create thriving communities that we all can live in, together.

SJLI Executive Director Derek Steele Speaks at 2nd Annual California Association of Black Educators Conference

Executive Director Derek Steele spoke at the 2nd Annual California Association of Black Educators (CABSE) conference in Napa, Calif. The focus of this year’s conference was addressing the systemic de-education of Black boys and discussing strategies for addressing implicit bias. Steele sat down with SJLI Co-founder and current Executive Director of Racial Equity at Los Angeles County Dr. D’Artagnan Scorza to define anti-deficit approaches to education, life course outcomes that impact academic success, and how to transform the structure of education and adopt a care-first model.

Watch the conversation here.

Executive Director Derek Steele Participates on 2022 Nonprofit Finance Fund Panel

On June 29, 2022, the Nonprofit Finance Fund released the results of the State on the Nonprofit Sector Survey for Los Angeles County, which collected data, stories and advice from more than 200 nonprofit leaders in Los Angeles about the impact of the pandemic and racial justice.

Executive Director Derek Steele participated on a panel with other leaders in the nonprofit sector to discuss the survey findings and what needs to be done to develop a more equitable Los Angeles, particularly for BIPOC-led organizations.

“We can’t use 20th century ways of operating as if they can be the solution for today’s issues and needs. If we are going to have a people-centered, care-first centered and focused way of living and a way of being, we’re going to have to reformulate how we think about the nonprofit space. This is the centerpiece to transform the way that life can be for all of us to live whole and free lives,” Steele said.

View the recorded webinar here.

Read the survey results here.