Justin Mayo Says He’s ‘Grateful’ for Kardashian-Jenners Saving South Los Angeles Community Center (Exclusive)
By Latifah Muhammad
Youth activist and philanthropist Justin Mayo is “grateful” for the Kardashian-Jenner family after they saved a South Los Angeles community center from shutting its doors.
Mayo is the executive director of the non-profit Red Eye and the Watts Community Empowerment Center, a community safe haven located in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.
The youth center, which offers after-school tutoring, sports programs, music arts and dance theater, is open to neighborhood youth as well as families who reside in the nearby Imperial Courts housing projects. In March, Kris Jenner and her boyfriend Corey Gamble, Kourtney Kardashian and Kim Kardashian West visited the center to celebrate the grand opening of the state-of-the-art facility featuring brand new laptops, flat-screen TVs, a basketball court and more, thanks to the family's help.
“Our charity has the honor of often helping connect the up-and-in with those labeled as 'the down-and-out,' while treating everyone with the dignity and respect that they deserve,” Mayo told ET on Thursday. “I’m so grateful beyond measure.”
On Sunday’s episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Mayo sits down with Kris to discuss the WEC’s dire financial needs. She didn't hesitate to offer up her financial resources and some of her business contacts.
“I asked Kris, ‘Hey, can you help?’ and it was just a matter of moments before she responded," Mayo explained. "That’s just who she and her family [are]. Many often only see them in front of the camera but they do a lot behind [the scenes].”
The realty TV family has supported Mayo in other charity efforts over eight years, including in the Watts Housing Project, as well as providing meals and Mother’s Day makeovers to the homeless living on Skid Row, located in Downtown Los Angeles.
Mayo clarified that he’s usually the one reaching out to Kris, not the other way around. “She’s a genius business person,” he pointed out, adding that the family matriarch is constantly brainstorming about how to use her “platform to be a catalyst for change.”
By his own estimation, the Kardashian-Jenners have “invested” around $350,000 in financial and product donations, in an effort to make a “local impact” on a community that can “never repay them.”
“People will get on a private jet to fly to a third world country but won’t even travel to the other side of town,” Mayo said. “It’s no judgment, but it’s like ‘Hey, let’s not overlook our own backyard.'”
The Chicago native, whose family founded the Mayo Clinic, moved to Sydney, Australia, after earning his Master’s degree where he worked as a youth communications director before moving back to Bel Air, California. Mayo has been working in Watts for more than a decade and he’s proud to say that the community has “adopted him.”
“I feel safer [in Watts] than in Beverly Hills and Malibu. The community really shows me what having someone’s back is about,” he said.
“The reality is these kids deserve a fair chance,” Mayo said of children in Watts and other underprivileged and low-income areas. “I realize [that] it doesn’t matter if someone is living in a penthouse or on the streets of Skid Row, everyone just wants a real friend and to know that they are loved, seen and heard.”
In the future, Mayo wants to hire more people in the community to work at the center, especially convicted felons who often have trouble getting work.
“One of the guys [in the community] just got out after being in jail for eight years," he shared. "We don’t have the money to hire him and I know he has kids, he’s trying to find ways to provide for his family. They aren’t lazy, they aren’t looking for handouts, they just need another chance and we want to give them opportunity and hope. That’s what we strive to do.”