Project KnuckleHead is a national 501(c)3 non-profit organization operating community-based programs. Our mission is to empower and inspire vulnerable youth to reach their potential through education, music, art, and mentoring programs. Our programs address the critical social, emotional, and behavioral needs of youth. We aim to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline by investing in the redirection of youth, and equipping them with pro-social skills for self-expression. We serve youth involved in the juvenile justice system and schools in low-income communities. View our latest newsletter here!

Founder and Director

Headshot ACLU.jpg

Dr. Amir Whitaker Esq. AKA Dr. KnuckleHead

Amir is an educator, author, and civil rights lawyer. He is the founder and volunteer director of Project KnuckleHead, a nonprofit organization empowering youth through music, art, and educational programs since 2013.

Often referred to as “Dr. KnuckleHead,” Amir was introduced to the criminal justice system as a child when he visited both his mother and father in prison. At age 15, Amir himself was arrested and entered the juvenile justice system. Problems at school eventually led to him being expelled. Despite these hardships, Amir went on to complete five college degrees.

As a lawyer referred to as a “civil rights and education stalwart” by the Daytona Times, Amir has negotiated settlements and policy changes that have improved the lives of thousands of youth across the country. Amir is currently a staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California. At the Southern Poverty Law Center, Amir worked on a class action lawsuit on behalf of incarcerated youth receiving inadequate education, mental health, and rehabilitation services. Within the Juvenile Division of the Miami-Dade County Public Defender’s Office, Amir represented incarcerated youth and developed training materials.  He has taught varying grade levels and in different educational settings for over a decade, and has held teaching certifications in Florida, California, and New Jersey. He has delivered keynote speeches to thousands, and written for leading publications across the country, including TIME Magazine. Amir's recently released autobiography has been featured on ABC News and in The New Yorker. Amir is the current board chair for the Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network in Los Angeles, a collaborative of 12 organizations providing arts programming to incarcerated youth throughout the county. He received his doctorate in Educational Psychology from the University of Southern California, juris doctorate from the University of Miami, and his bachelors from Rutgers University.

He can be contacted at amir@projectknucklehead.org. His resume/CV can be downloaded here.

1Ivan Headshot2.jpg
 

Associate Director

Ivan Malespin

 

Director of Music Program and Music Therapist (Miami)

Natalie Cole, MT-BC

 

 After-school Program Coordinator (Los Angeles) 

Michelle Sanchez

 

 

Jorge Alvarez Self.jpg

 

 

Director of Program Management

Jorge Alvarez


SCHOOLS AND PROGRAMS SERVED

ARIZONA

Ak-Chin Indian Community

 

CALIFORNIA

Linda Marquez High School HPIAM

Ánimo Jackie Robinson High School

Crenshaw High School

William & Carol Ouchi High School

USC East College Prep

 

NEW JERSEY

Hubbard Middle School

Stillman Elementary

Clinton Elementary

Emerson Elementary

 

MEDIA APPEARANCES

Television

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z30MUXBKiik

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpFVpy5ikRA

 

The New Yorker

http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/the-long-term-costs-of-fining-juvenile-offenders 

 

Miami Herald

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/coral-gables/article9548309.html

 

Daytona Times

http://daytonatimes.com/2015/09/quality-education-for-students-the-focus-of-flagler-naacp-banquet/

 

South Florida Times

http://sfltimes.net/uncategorized/real-talk-panel-about-trayvon

 

Miami Times

http://miamitimesonline.com/news/2014/jan/30/incarcerate-or-education/

http://miamitimesonline.com/news/2014/jan/23/mediocrity-new-standard-black-students/

 

University of Southern California

http://rossier.usc.edu/knuckleheads-wanted/

http://rossier.usc.edu/amir-whitaker-me-08-edd-11-speaks-at-rossiers-masters-commencement-ceremony/ 

 

Daily Bruin/UCLA

http://dailybruin.com/2015/05/04/alumnas-spilt-arts-offers-creative-outlet-for-underserved-youth/

 

University of Miami

http://www.law.miami.edu/news/2013/march/turning-dreams-goals-law-student-helps-youths-avoid-pitfalls-delinquency-and

https://vimeo.com/120394276

 

Ak-Chin Indian Community

http://www.ak-chin.nsn.us/run/2014/12.pdf (Page 7)

 

Other

http://rockstartatted.com/peter-justice-featured-artist

 

ANNUAL REPORTS

https://us3.campaign-archive.com/?u=b445544bea201900cb0f4a150&id=8ccde6d0da

http://eepurl.com/bONUyv  

http://eepurl.com/bnAx0L

 

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Nejla Esmeralda, President

Equal Justice Works Fellow at Legal Services of Greater Miami Inc.

 

Pauline Green, Vice President

Director of Community Initiatives at Miami Coalition for the Homeless

 

Kevin Yombor, Treasurer

Fowler White Burnett, PA

 

Gwen Richards, Secretary

 

FOUNDING BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Marie Osborne Esq., Chief Assistant Public Defender, Juvenile Division

Keon Hardemon, MBA, Esq., County Commissioner of Miami-Dade District 5

Jan Jacobowitz, University of Miami School of Law, Director of Professional Responsibility & Ethics Program, Lecturer

Brother Lyle Grandison, Co-Director of Respect for Life Educational Services

Ashley Midkiff, LCSW MSW, Therapist

Dr. Amir Whitaker Esq., Founder

Ryan Lodish (Advisory Board) 

FLORIDA

AMI South Juvenile Justice Program

PACE Center for Girls

COPE Center (Dorothy M Wallace)

Miami Edison Senior High

Carol City Middle School

Booker T Senior High

Miami Central High

AMI North Juvenile Justice Program

Empowered Youth

One Grove Foundation