True pioneers often set out with limited resources, no clear path and no instructions. Nonetheless, they move boldly forward.
In 1984, Douglas Lasdon launched the Urban Justice Center in much the same way: working from a burned out building in East Harlem with almost no funding. We arrived at soup kitchens, jails and shelters (places others would not go) and set up free legal clinics. Today, in spite of social opposition and division, we remain champions of change.
Every year, we incubate groundbreaking new projects that are fighting new wrongs or bringing new approaches to longstanding issues. By providing them with material support, guidance, and a community of fellow advocates with hundreds of cumulative hours of experience, we help them leap over the early, difficult stages of nonprofits growth, and get directly to affecting change in their issue area.
Our longstanding anchor Projects serve tens of thousands of people a year, on critical issues ranging from homelessness, to discrimination, to seeking asylum, to escaping intimate partner violence. The freedom we give our advocates has enabled the creation and growth of groundbreaking initiatives, like our Sex Workers Project, which is the first program in the country to focus on the provision of legal services, legal training, documentation, and policy advocacy for sex workers.
Via our new Social Justice Accelerator, we incubate regular classes of new initiatives, giving them the resources, experience, community, and infrastructure to leap over the hurdles of being an early stage nonprofit and get directly to serving their constituencies.
This two-pronged approach allows us to meet the ongoing advocacy needs of our clients, while allowing us to stay nimble and meet new and emerging social justice issues.
Artist, activist, and frequent UJC collaborator Molly Crabapple created this animation to bring our work to life:
We were generously given permission to use the photo at the top of our home page by its creator, Yuki Iwamura, a freelance photographer based in New York and originally born and raised in Nagano, Japan. He is the 2020 recipient of the Ian Parry Scholarship Award and a recent graduate of the Documentary Practice and Visual Journalism program at the International Center of Photography in New York.