GUSF is excited to introduce you to our most recent grantee, the Zakatu Madrasa- bringing about social change for young people in St. Louis through art and expression.

The Zakatu Madrasa is a collectively-framed community-oriented art process housed in a spiritual subscription bookstore and private library. It employs a unique intergenerational method involving artists, educators, activists and young people of color co-creating scholarly-informed art to address regional social issues. This project is a localized and living response to the demands of art intervention in the lives of incarcerated and court-involved youth.

There have been more than 13,000 people shot, murdered, or robbed at gun point in just the last 5 years in the City of St. Louis (SLMPD). A disproportionate amount of victims and perpetrators of violence are young men of color; in 2011, Saint Louis city’s gunshot murder rate for 10- to 19-year-olds was more than three times the average for larger cities (CDC). Since then, the homicide rate has increased by over 30% (SLMPD). Despite these troubling statistics, national experts concur: youth violence is preventable through education, mentorship and arts-based approaches. Unfortunately in St Louis, many troubled city youth are offered these services only after court-involvement and by less-effective traditional organizations which do not involve the arts. And with no tangible economic component, many eager participants recede back into the illegal behaviors which brought on their initial incarceration and court-involvement.

Many community artists-activists assert a growing consensus that local bookstores, libraries, schools and museums make innumerable unhelpful assumptions about literacy and education that end up undermining their relationships with communities who most need their services. The Zakatu Madrasa is a centralized continuation of community-arts methodology brought to ambitious scale for long-term implementation. As a planned cooperatively-owned spiritual subscription bookstore and private library, the goal of the Zakatu Madrasa is far beyond selling books or soliciting subscriptions.We plan to address issues of violence, social degradation, and cultural trauma using art. Drawing on the scholarly works of Jessica Gordon Nemhard, W.E.B. Du Bois, Carter G. Woodson, Haki Madhubuti, Korina Jocson and Ella Baker, The Zakatu Madrasa is an honest experiment in implementing pedagogy for the people.