The California Criminal Justice Funders Group is thrilled to welcome our newest Steering Committee member: Fela Thomas, Senior Program Manager (People Pathway) at the San Francisco Foundation (SFF). We have valued Fela’s active participation as a CCJFG member over the past couple of years and are excited to strengthen our collaboration with Fela as a Steering Committee member. Learn more about Fela below!
A Q&A with Fela Thomas
Tell us about your background and what brought you to this work?
I was 11 years old when my older brother first went to prison and all together, he spent 13 years incarcerated. I felt disconnected from him and a whole mess of other complicated feelings that eventually were the gifts that guided me to start taking action. While I was trying to support other folks on the inside through corresponding and sending books, I was learning about political prisoners. It was being part of the fight to stop Mumia Abu Jamal's execution that got me actively engaged in the work that I identify with now: the work of building movements for love, justice, and self-determination. Learning about other political prisoners in the US in particular helped me to understand the political nature of my brother's incarceration and the other millions of people under some sort of state supervision.
What are the values that keep you grounded in the work?
I have always had a hard time with values questions, I appreciate the frame of principles. Some of the principles that ground me in this work are self-determination, inter-dependence, servant leadership (building on the example of the Black Panther Party's approach) and love as an action (as expressed by Bell Hooks, through acts of care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as honest and open communication).
What is strengthening you at this moment?
The transformative nature of the relationship I have with my eldest child (18 years old as I write this)...it's an expression/manifestation of possibility for me. The transformative relationship I get to have with her is similar to the rest of my chosen family, one where we are supporting and challenging each other to grow into our best and highest selves.