When talking to Abdul, we heard about his feelings on his recent release from prison and it was so moving to see his emotions overtake him as he spoke. He talked about waking up some days and just trying to process how he now is a free man while just weeks ago he was incarcerated. He has been trying to meet with his family first. While talking about his family we could see a pain in his eyes as he mentioned that he had a lot of family reconnected from all the missed years. From there he wants to get a job and eventually go to school at Community College of Philadelphia. He also eventually wants to work with at risk youth. When we asked him about his life inside prison, he told us how his first few years he still considered himself to be a bit of a rebel, but as time went on he became more involved in his faith, Islam. He also became involved with organizations such as the Redemption Project, and of course Ubuntu.
Abdul is a big believer in breaking down the structure of the whole criminal justice system, which is a very divided topic and uses everyone's emotions against each other. We’ve talked to Mike Lyons, Professor at Saint Joseph’s University, co-founder of the Redemption Project and Ubuntu, about this division as well as what we heard when Abdul told us about it in the interview; while in court for sentencing, judges will try to get victims to their most emotional and angry state and use it to be completely one sided. Abdul would rather have people talk to each other, human to human and connect. During his resentencing he got the chance to talk to his offender’s family, with no one else present, and shared a very powerful 10-15 minutes with them, which ended up changing their views on who he was. Abdul did not go into detail about what was said in his conversation with the victim’s family; he told us that he did not think it was his place to share their private conversation, but he did say that by the end of their talk he and the family came out of the room they spoke in crying and hugging each other which is something that is never seen in cases like this.
Towards the end of our talk, Abdul talked about how we should be more aware of those who are in prison and to understand their struggle in the very inhumane setting of prison. When we asked Abdul if he had anything to say to people who were considering attending Ubuntu, he talked about how lots of people who are incarcerated wake up every day and try to make the world a better place even while incarcerated and struggling through their time in prison. Abdul wanted people to be aware not only of those who are sometimes forgotten and incarcerated, but also of those who are affected by crimes and have lost loved ones.
Overall, we were very moved by our interviews with both Abdul and Julie. The process of interviewing can be a very intimidating one, especially when the topic is incredibly personal and emotional. However, it is incredibly important to us and Ubuntu that we will be able to share Julie and Abdul’s stories through the videos we are creating.
While interviewing, both Maureen and Jessica felt as if it was only the them and the interviewee in the room; the discussions were conversations between two people who were interested to hear one another’s story. They both found it hard not to speak out loud to confirm or acknowledge what Julie and Abdul were saying, but they understood the importance of staying quiet for the cameras. Nodding definitely helps. It’s also important to accept whatever emotions come while interviewing. Both Maureen and Jessica found themselves getting emotional at times during their respective interviews, but they both agree that it helped them connect to their interviewee.
Julie’s vibrant spirit and immense enthusiasm was evident, especially as she shared her poem with us. By hearing her story, as well as her experience with the Ubuntu event last year, we were able to gain a better perspective on the healing circles of Ubuntu.
Hearing Abdul’s perspective on the criminal justice system, as well as his motivation and perseverance for the future, was both enlightening and inspirational. By talking with Abdul, we were able to more fully understand his humanity and the essence of who he is.
We are so thankful for the conversations that we have had the opportunity to have, as well as the individuals that we have met through Ubuntu. Going forward, we hope that we are able to create content and videos for #UbuntuPhilly that reflect the words and hopes of those individuals behind Ubuntu, such as Abdul and Julie.