Our Founder: Rahim Buford

Rahim was paroled in 2015 after being caged for 26 consecutive calendar years. A native Nashvillian, Rahim has seen and felt how poverty negatively impacts people in the criminal legal system. Arrested at age 18, he spent 26 years of his life caged within seven different prisons across Tennessee. During that time, he completed course work for Lipscomp University, Ohio University, and Vanderbilit Divinty School. Rahim was a co-founder of Salt (Schools for Alternative Learning and Transformation), an inclusive undergraduate program that provides a safe learning space for non-tradtional students at Riverbend Prison. While incarcerated, he also self-published his own book, Save Your Own Life. Upon his release from prison, Rahim received a Presidential Scholarship to American Baptist College, and worked part time as an organizer for Children’s Defense Fund Nashville. In 2017, he founded Unheard Voices Outreach to empower formerly incarcerated persons to be leaders in reentry, community building, and to raise awareness about “felonism.” Rahim graduated from American Baptist College with a bachelor’s degree in Entrepreneurial Leadership in 2019. He now manages the Nashville Community Bail Fund, where he has bailed out over 500 low-income Nashvillians since May 2018. Rahim continues to use his voice to advocate for decarceration and transformative justice. 

MY REASON, MY WHY, MY WORK

I discovered “MY WHY” and inspiration from the pain, misery, and suffering from individuals confined in prison with me, including my very own biological brother's and our tragedies combined. I believed that I could help to change fear-based stereotypes of how society viewed prisoners and formerly incarcerated citizens by becoming a Voice for transformative justice. It became apparent to me that WE had to challenge the labels of criminal, convict, and felon as our identities and present narratives of our humanity through OUR own authentic voices. I clearly realized that we had to be accountable for behaviors that harmed our communities and demonstrate that WE have value to contribute to society from our transformations and desires to make amends. My work is to advocate for criminal legal reform in partnership with the incarcerated, formerly incarcerated, and our affected communities. JUSTICE includes MERCY and second chances. Social Justice involves equity and empowering disenfranchised persons. My vision is to build bridges of freedom, reconciliation and work to empower formerly incarcerated persons to become self-determined human beings who contribute their value to the community.

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