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UCLA Magazine Summer 2004
Of God and Blue-Footed Boobies
The Providential Scholar
Of the Community, By the Community, For the Community
Good Fellows
The Perfect Storm
The Next Step
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Summer 2004
Of the Community, By the Community,
For the Community
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Executive Director Dawn Smith of J.U.i.C.E.
Executive Director Dawn Smith of J.U.i.C.E.

Three years ago, Marcus Napuri was lost in the rave scene. He pulled all-nighters spinning discs at dance parties, taking and selling ecstasy and other drugs, and break-dancing in his free time. Then friends told him about J.U.i.C.E. — Justice by Uniting in Creative Energy — a community center that provides facilities and training for people to develop and expand their skills in the four elements of hip-hop: dancing, rapping, deejaying and mural art.

So Napuri visited the Pico/Union-Koreatown church where the community center operates every Thursday evening. What he found was an open dance floor where he could practice his moves and upbeat people who helped to redirect his creative energy. Today, Napuri says, he is drug-free, working full-time as a painting contractor, and coming to the weekly community center to break-dance and introduce others to the positive side of hip-hop.

"J.U.i.C.E. is like my church; it makes me feel good," says Napuri, a fit 27-year-old decked out in the hip-hop uniform of baggy jeans, white and gray mesh jersey, sneakers and a white bandana beneath a black baseball cap with "Los Angeles" emblazoned across the front. "I know it's a cliché to say, but hip-hop saved my life."

Community center staff aim to replicate that sense of belonging and personal betterment with other programs throughout Los Angeles County. J.U.i.C.E. plans to use its $18,700 grant to gather population, crime and other demographic data, as well as information on the musical, artistic and cultural history of various neighborhoods, to look at how these factors influence the success of the current program.

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2005 The Regents of the University of California