by Daleel Jabir Muhammad
BRIDGEPORT, Conn.—Frederick Hodges, a well-known and respected community activist was sworn in to fill the vacancy of the 136th Council District in Bridgeport, Conn. The popular advocate for justice reform and services for the incarcerated and those formerly incarcerated has been championing the issues since 1989. He now has a chance to bring justice as a city councilmember.
As the program manager of Family Re-Entry, a Department of Corrections residential program, and the Director of Community Affairs for the institution, Mr. Hodges has been an advocate and change agent for causes of inmates and for those formerly incarcerated. His causes ranged from combating illiteracy in prison, to seeking gainful employment for those who were released through this program, to restoring the rights and benefits of those who successfully completed their time within the system.
Mr. Hodges was determined to not let prison life define him or to hold him back. He started studying the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and reading the illuminating book “Message to the Black Man” early on when he was confined in the Somers Prison in Somers, Conn.
“Once I became interested in the teachings, I studied more about Islam in prison to help myself and others by setting up study circles in there” stated Mr. Hodges. “The more that I understood the truth of these teachings, the more I knew there was more work that I had to do. I remember when Minister Farrakhan taught on faith without works is dead and faith will carry you where your knowledge can’t bring you,” he said, referring to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.
Those two principles made a difference in the life of Mr. Hodges. “While in prison in 1989, I went on to becoming an advocate for change and I set up self-improvement classes or what was known as life skills training and literacy classes for the inmates. Years later I had started studying the laws of ‘ex post facto’ to help with legal issues the inmates were facing back then,” he added.
“I accepted the teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad under the guidance of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan in 1989 but didn’t register to become a member (of the Nation of Islam) until 2006 after being released from prison.”
The work that Mr. Hodges took on was to speak on the crisis affecting Bridgeport residents and advocating for change at community forums, stop the violence rallies, crisis intervention and stopping gang violence meetings. His diligent efforts within the communities garnered him many awards of recognition for his advocacy and community service.
“I have worked tirelessly with Brother Fred for years in the area of criminal justice reform and he’s always been there for individuals striving to get a meaningful second chance. This is an historic moment and I’m looking forward to working with him as he serves the City of Bridgeport in this new position,” said Scot X. Esdaile, president of the Connecticut NAACP State Conference.
“This will be a great opportunity for Bro. Fred who is a proven champion for our people!” he added.
“Councilman Hodges has been a longtime friend and supporter and I want to congratulate him on becoming the newest member of the Bridgeport City Council. Fred’s continuous work on reentry and justice-impacted individuals has changed the lives of many across our great state. I’m excited for what he is going to do at the local level,” said Christopher Rosario, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, 128th Assembly District (Bridgeport).
“I have known Brother Fred for the majority of my life. We have worked together in the field of prison reentry for the past 13 years. We began this work together in the penal institution. I have always known Brother Fred to be a man of principle, a man of integrity and he always had a good heart for the people in our community,” said Da’ee Muhammad Ibn McKnight.
“Brother Fred will be a great asset to the city of Bridgeport and he is the right man for this right time,” he added.
“Brother Fred,” as he is affectionately referred to in communities, recalls the phone calls and in-person meetings with the now deceased Nation of Islam Eastern Regional Student Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad who encouraged and counseled him over the years to keep up the great work that he was known for doing in prison reform and for advocating equity and justice for the formerly incarcerated.
“Minister Hafeez, may Allah be forever pleased with him, advised me that the Honorable Minister Farrakhan said, ‘words matter.’ So, I don’t use words like criminals, offenders, ex-cons, etc. They all have a negative connotation. He reminded me that when you change the language, you change the thinking. I will never forget that advice he gave to me,” said the newly-sworn in councilmen.
“I was encouraged and inspired by so many residents from the City of Bridgeport to accept the city councilmember position for the 136th District due to the work that I’ve done over the years. I accepted the position, and I will serve the districts of The Hollow and portions of the East Side and North End.”
Along with justice reforms and being an advocate for change, he has been an outspoken leader for quality jobs for the formerly incarcerated. He is a co-founder of Nothing About Us Without Us and co- founder of the Ex-Offenders Alumni Association.
Mr. Hodges will be serving as a member of the City Council Committees on Education, Contracts, Redistricting and Social Services.