Assemblywoman honors Social Justice Learning Center

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By Emilie St. John

Contributing Writer 

INGLEWOOD — The Social Justice Learning Institute has been named the 2023 Nonprofit of the Year by Inglewood Assemblywoman Tina McKinnor.

“The Inglewood renaissance is underway in large part because of incredible community partners and nonprofits like the Social Justice Learning Institute who work selflessly to meet the immediate needs of neighbors, while helping to build a new generation of young leaders,” McKinnor said. “For over 15 years, [the institute] has done the essential work necessary to build a vibrant community and I am proud to recognize them as the 2023 Nonprofit of the Year.”

The Social Justice Learning Institute was started by former Inglewood school board member D’artagnan Scorza, and began as a tool to get residents to have healthier food options.

Derek Steele, worked alongside Scorza, and took over as the nonprofit’s executive director after Scorza left in 2020.

“This is a tremendous honor,” Steele said. “2023 has been an amazing year for Social Justice Learning Institute and this is the perfect way to underscore the impact and success that our team has contributed to Inglewood, the County of Los Angeles, and the state of California.

“The need is growing and so will our work and dedication.”

Since Steele took over, the institute is focusing on bringing affordable housing to Inglewood and hosted a series of workshops on the topic in 2022 in conjunction with Venice Community Housing.

According to its website, the Social Justice Learning Institute is dedicated to improving the overall education, health and wellbeing of youth and communities of color by empowering them to enact social change through research, training and community mobilization. Beginning 15 years ago with a focus on transforming the life trajectories of youth of color in Inglewood and South Los Angeles, the institute’s growth as an organization lies in the responsiveness to community and their focus on equity — in education, in health and in policies leading to systemic change.

The Social Justice Learning Institute empowers through education with programs that provide culturally relevant teaching with academic support through a social justice and youth development lens. The Urban Scholars program now partners with five school districts at 25 school sites in both California and Texas, teaching youth to advocate for themselves and their communities. 

It also works to transform neighborhoods into thriving communities by improving access to health in the built environment. Its Health Equity programs make affordable, healthy food accessible to residents while also providing knowledge to create the changes they want to see in their communities.

The program began at Scorza’s alma mater, Morningside High School.

The Social Justice Learning Institute also builds capacity for community members to identify and rectify injustice and advocate for their needs on a local, regional and statewide level. Students and community members have testified before legislative bodies, presented at national conferences and helped pass statewide policies.

The Social Justice Learning Institute was part of the Uplift Inglewood coalition that strongly advocated for rent control in the city of Inglewood, which was implemented in 2019.

“You can count on us to continue pressing forward until all people are able to live liberated lives that are whole free, healthy, and thriving,” Steele said.

Emilie St. John is a freelance journalist covering the areas of Carson, Compton, Inglewood and Willowbrook. Send tips to her at

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