A conversation with Eric Riddick and NOI Prison Ministry
The Nation of Islam Prison Reform Ministry, Delaware Valley Region, recognizes “wrongfully convicted” Brother Eric Riddick. In 1992, Bro. Eric was convicted of a murder that he did not commit. He was accused of murdering his childhood friend. The state used the testimony of one alleged eyewitness to convict him and Bro. Eric was then sentenced to a “life sentence without the possibility of parole.” Bro. Gregory Muhammad of the NOI Prison Reform Ministry conducted an hour-long phone interview with Bro. Eric about his challenges and triumphs.
Brother Gregory Muhammad (GM): Brother Eric, tell us a little about your relationship with Philadelphia rap artist Meek Mill.
Brother Eric Riddick (ER): I met Meek Mill when he came to prison three years ago while incarcerated at SCI-Chester, Pennsylvania. The first words I said to him, (when) he came out and sat on the unit, I walked up on him, I said, “how you are doing Black man, get yourself together, we’ll talk.”
We wind up talking and we wind up being close friends. My whole intention with communicating with the brother (is) the same with any young brother I ran across over the years.
Since I been introduced to the teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and introduced with the duty that came with embracing those Teachings—which is to help raise our people, myself first and then help raise our people to functioning into their true self, the best version of themselves. So, I did not do nothing different dealing with the brother that I did with thousands of other young brothers I’ve been blessed to deal with and introduce this knowledge to.
He immediately gravitated toward it. I explained to him that the Nation of Islam introduced me to my true self. It introduced me to a potential to succeed in many things that I did not know that I had. I explained to him the value of that especially in the position he was in. I told him that he represents an idea that is in season. In representing that idea, Allah is sufficient to take us where we need to go.
However, in the same breath Allah helps those who help themselves and you helping yourself, you have to qualify yourself to be the best version as you walk into the power that brought you in and that you created.
So, those were the initial conversations that we had. My primary objective was to introduce him to a teaching that will allow him to tap into that hidden potential that lay within him, that excellence. He gravitated towards it. As we talked, ideas was coming out regarding our community and low and behold, the brother does have a passion, a major passion for creating something or some program to help raise our people out of the condition that they in.
I am saying, (he has) a sincere desire to do that. That is what impresses me about the brother. I told him he has the type of finance where he can just remove himself.
But he understands that’s not his plight. He knew that he is in a position for a reason. He does not know exactly how but he is wise enough to embrace the people that he feels that can enlighten him. That’s how it all started.
GM: Can you go into your fight now and all that you been through that Allah blessed you to regain your freedom?
ER: A good brother that I grew up with lost his life November 6, 1991, and I was falsely accused of taking his life. He was a friend of mine. And I was naïve at the time in regard to the true nature of the corruption within institutions that (are) supposed to serve the people like the judicial system or the police department, all those things. I never imagined that I would be found guilty of 1st degree murder for a crime that I had nothing to do with.
Nevertheless, that is exactly what happened. From the very beginning, me walking into that courtroom not understanding that the courtroom, literally was the “new noose.” That was the “new noose.” I did not know that I was walking into the “new noose.” Later, during my growth and development, I heard the words of Malcolm X, “lynching by any other name is still a lynching.” Then it hit me. I said, I been judicially lynched.
Lynching is not just based on a tree and a noose. It is an injustice, it is an unjust adjudication, a racist motivated adjudication, whether it is carried out by a noose, a firearm, a knee to the neck or gavel by a judge. When I walked into that court, I walked into a whole new level of White supremacy. I was an easy target. I had attorneys that willingly violated sacred principles of their oath to office. So, I never received effective representation. Because I didn’t know the language it appeared that they were representing me.
At the end of every loss, there is a lesson. That is what happened to me in the courtroom. I am listening to my lawyers speak and it sounds good, pretty words. Because I could not understand the language, I was vulnerable. I allowed myself to be lynched. That is one thing that I learned. I said, from that day on, I am going to seek everything I can learn, whether it’s medicine, law, politics, religion, or spirituality; because everything I don’t know I am vulnerable too.
I studied many things. I studied all Black scholars: John Henry Clarke, Dr. Naim Akbar, Wade Noble, many of whom come out of the sacred circle of the Nation of Islam. I love all our scholars. But, when I was reintroduced to the Messenger, I say reintroduced because my Uncle Clifton 14X Smith, was the first example I got from the Nation of Islam when I was younger. I was always attracted to it. The Teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught me how to be a good fighter. I had to fight, a situation, a whole system. It was practical not a mystery concept. It did not come out the sky. It explained to me that if you want to fight the legal system you have to learn the law.
I credit my liberation to the teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. Period.”
Student Minister Keith Muhammad of the Chester Pennsylvania Study Group served our Study Group at SCI-Chester. He had this to say about his contact with Brother Eric:
“What I observed of Brother Eric over the years was that through all the ups and downs of his case, he displayed a consistent faith that allowed him to remain optimistic. He would often say to me that he knew there was a reason he was going through this ordeal and that ultimately it’s in the hands of Allah.”
At the end of my interview with Brother Eric he said: “I am excited over the day the Mosque opens so that I can physically fellowship with the believers.”
Welcome Home to Brother Eric Riddick!
—by Gregory Muhammad
Student NOI Regional Prison Reform Minister NOI Prison Reform Ministry Delaware Valley Region