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By Social Justice Learning Institute, 11/04/2021

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The Social Justice Learning Institute Selects Its Next Executive Director

After an extensive national search, the Social Justice Learning Institute’s Board of Directors is pleased to announce the selection of Mr. Derek Steele as its next Executive Director.

Derek succeeds SJLI co-founder Dr. D’Artagnan Scorza, who transitioned to serve as the inaugural Executive Director of Racial Equity for Los Angeles County.

Our board chair and SJLI co-founder Dr. Omai Garner said, “After an extensive search, Derek was the clear and ideal choice. His leadership style, deep understanding of the organization, and vision for SJLI’s future will lead us forward in our next decade of impact and beyond.”

Derek, an experienced problem solver who started his career as an electrical engineer at Northrop Grumman, joined the Social Justice Learning Institute over 10 years ago as a volunteer.

Early in his career at SJLI, Derek realized the equity lens he saw the world through, along with his systems-building approach, could be effective in transforming paradigms that cause inequity.

Under his leadership as the Health Equity Programs Director, he stewarded a team that taught over 10,000 families in nutrition, physical activity and urban agriculture, built 126 gardens in the community, began the Inglewood Certified Farmers’ Market and Inglewood Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA), and during COVID provided over 1,000,000 lbs of produce to community members.

He and his team also significantly influenced the passing of two major state bills impacting food insecurity in California: Assembly bills AB551 – Agriculture Incentive Zones, AB2561 – Neighborhood Food Act.

With his advanced skills in program development and implementation, building and maintaining relationships, managing grants, contracts, budgets, audits and more, Derek was promoted in 2018 to serve as SJLI’s first Associate Director of Operations and Finance.

In this role, he worked alongside Dr. Scorza to standardize operational and financial processes and procedures, preparing the organization for regional and national growth. Now he is using his unique skill sets garnered over his 11-year career to lead SJLI as they create equity solutions for communities of color, particularly the Black community.

“I am thankful for the Board’s confidence in me,” Derek said. “I’m especially grateful for Dr. Scorza’s guidance, mentorship and friendship. SJLI is strong today because of his tireless leadership over the last 14 years. I see this as a continuation of my life’s work and I’m excited for the opportunity to steward such an amazing team that is keenly focused on forging a more equitable future.”

With Derek as the Executive Director, SJLI will continue its trajectory as a preeminent community voice for greater equity in education, health, policy and advocacy. Derek will work closely with SJLI’s board, leaders, and team members to further expand the organization’s programmatic reach, deepen the expertise in research & action, and as always, vigorously serve the community.

The entire SJLI team is extremely excited that Derek will bring his drive, wealth of knowledge and collaborative spirit to lead the organization into its second decade of impact.

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