Why UFD

Why UFD?

By Mfalme Sikivu

April 20, 2020

Mumia Abu-Jamal wrote in his book Jailhouse Lawyers: “Social movements give rise to other social movements, and open up social spaces for people who historically have been oppressed.” UFD is more than just a mentorship program. In fact, UFD isn’t a mentorship program at all I only use UFD as a means to mentor young prisoners as part of UFD’s overall social platform. UFD is actually a mutual self-improvement fraternity devoted to the socio-economic empowerment of Black and disadvantaged people. What does this mean? It means UFD is a brotherhood and sisterhood of those of like mind, both men and women, joined together in mutual aid. Our Core Purpose addresses itself to the legacy of white supremacy in this country and to the failure of Black people to effectively organize Ourselves to counter it. Our Conscious Money Philosophy addresses itself to socio-economic inequalities and to the need for one to take personal responsibility for their own success and prosperity while working together with others to achieve collective wealth and power through Our practice of Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics). 

 

UFD is a social movement born out of prison. As a natural consequence of this, it just made sense to organize and educate other prisoners, especially young prisoners, because they are often most capable of accepting change and betterment. I knew this instinctively having grown into adulthood behind prison walls. Then brain science research confirmed my intuition. Young prisoners aren’t fully formed until after their 25th birthday. DOCCS doesn’t seem to get that. So, DOCCS keeps these young prisoners scattered in this negative and hostile environment that corrupts and damages them, graduating them deeper into violent and criminal behavior. Recognizing this, I intervened by utilizing UFD as a platform to positively organize, motivate, inspire, educate, and mentor young prisoners and to steer them away from gangs, drugs, and violence. 

 

Understanding the reactionary and harmful nature of the carceral system, is it any surprise that my efforts have been met with resistance? I have been repeatedly disciplined for my organizational work. For a long time, I refused to seek “approval” from DOCCS to do this work because I knew DOCCS would never do so. Organizing prisoners is one of the things prisoncrats fear the most for the very reason the King of England refused to give political freedom to the American colonists: we are a cash cow. You don’t want your subjects to believe they can survive and succeed without you. UFD would make prisoncrats irrelevant by proving their incompetence and indifference. They do not care that young prisoners are being corrupted and damaged, because violent and criminal prisoners who get released reoffend and come back. Can you imagine DOCCS’ embarrassment if UFD succeeded where DOCCS is failing in reforming and rehabilitating prisoners, in decreasing prison violence, and in lowering prison recidivism rates? UFD is a threat to DOCCS not because We promote radicalization, rebellion, violence, obstruction, disorder, criminal activities, racism, sexism, escape, or disobedience, but because We promote change, betterment, mutual aid, education, and freedom. 

 

I am a “jailhouse lawyer,” but my legal fight for UFD isn’t due to any illusion of “justice” within the American judicial system. My federal lawsuit is meant to expose the fact that the idea of “justice” in this country is a lie.  The United States District Court for the Northern District of New York is one of the most biased and hostile tribunals toward prisoners. And, in typical fashion, I’ve pissed them off because I “speak truth to power.” I’m not going to capitulate or yield to judicial intimidations. Even when a Federala judge is abusing their power, I’ll speak up. 

 

So, why UFD? Why this fight? Because UFD is a social movement that deserves to be. We deserve to be heard. We deserve to be free. But my question is, who will stand with me as I defend UFD and “speak truth to power,” even to federal judges?