For more than 40 years, the Liberty Hill Foundation has been Los Angeles’ epicenter for social justice. It’s work has helped incubate cutting-edge social movements, transform neighborhoods, and empower the leaders of tomorrow. Julio Marcial serves as Senior Director of Youth Justice at Liberty Hill and serves as a convener and facilitator in the L.A. County youth MBK efforts. Hear about his work in his own words.
I grew up and went to elementary school in Pacoima, a neighborhood northeast of downtown Los Angeles that was rich in culture and history, however, it was labeled a “gang reduction demonstration site” by both the city and county of Los Angeles because violence was 400 percent higher there than in other neighborhoods across the region. Sadly, it was always much easier to find a gun in my neighborhood than a grocery store. But I was fortunate that I was provided a safe place after school, which encouraged me to play sports. This experience, coupled with academic support and mentorship, helped me excel at baseball and school, and provided me a pathway to go to college, where I was able to study the root causes and consequences of the criminal justice system.
After college, I was afforded the opportunity to join the California Wellness Foundation, one of the largest private health foundations in California. In the 19 years I spent at Cal Wellness, I gained meaningful experience working with nonprofits committed to improving the lives of boys and young men of color, specifically supporting strategies to reduce violence against youth.
My experience working at Cal Wellness helped me understand the role philanthropy plays in social justice, and the need to support frontline service providers, advocates, and community organizers working to keep young people out of harm’s way.
Recently, I had the absolute privilege to join the Liberty Hill Foundation, a 43-year-old public foundation that is 100 percent unapologetic about supporting community organizing and social justice movements. There, I lead a youth justice team that is supporting multiple regional coalitions of advocates and organizers to shrink and close the largest juvenile justice system in the world, while investing in the largest government-funded youth development system in the nation.
Over the past two years with the support of the Obama Foundation, other funders and individual donors, we have had great success, including 25 percent reduction in the number of young people getting arrested and incarcerated, the closure of eight youth prisons, and the reallocation of $100 million in county and state dollars to support youth development strategies, including mentorship.
I’m motivated to continue to do this work because this movement works towards investing in youth development on the front end. The reality is that no one foundation, government agency, school, nonprofit, or community organization can do this work on its own. We need to see beyond our own silos and invest our time and energy to support a comprehensive set of strategies to ensure all our young people of color thrive.