Non-profit

Unheard Voices Outreach (UVO)

Website:

www.unheardvoicesoutreach.org

Location:

Nashville, TN

Tax ID:

81-5151117

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Type:

Criminal Justice Advocacy Group

Formation:

2017

Executive Director:

Rahim Buford

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Unheard Voices Outreach (UVO) is a left-of-center criminal justice advocacy organization founded by former prisoner Rahim Buford focused on support for the previously incarcerated and decreasing incarceration rates. UVO claims that the root problem of mass incarceration is racism and “felonism,” defined as discrimination against felons. 1 Notable 2022 donors included the labor union-associated Amalgamated Charitable Foundation and the left-of-center Roddenberry Foundation. 2

Background

Unheard Voices Outreach is an organization advocating for decarceration in Tennessee. It was founded in 2017 by Rahim Buford, who served 26 years of a life sentence in Tennessee prisons. 3

UVO works to provide support to the previously incarcerated in transitioning into the community and in preparing for parole hearings and post-conviction hearings. It has focused on organization and education to promote left-leaning criminal justice policies associated with decreased incarceration. For instance, UVO supports releasing prisoners held longer than the minimum required sentences. 4 5

Programs

Unheard Voices Outreach’s Watcher’s Project encourages members to attend parole and post-conviction court hearings to show support for current and formerly incarcerated individuals. Court watch programs invite citizens to observe court proceedings to ensure the effectiveness of the legal system and the fairness of the judges. 6 7 In April 2019, UVO encouraged community members to attend a parole hearing to show support for Cyrus Wilson, who had been convicted of murder and had served 27 years in prison. 8

UVO facilitates restorative justice circles and workshops. 9 Restorative justice is a left-of-center concept that brings the offender and the victim together to discuss the harm done and determine how to find healing  without court proceedings. 10

Activism

In April 2021 members of Unheard Voices Outreach marched to the Tennessee state capitol in Nashville to demand the release of Donald Clemons, a 40-year-old man who was sentenced to prison for second-degree murder and aggravated battery at the age of 16. 11

UVO endorsed the Inclusive Democracy Act in December 2023 which would restore the right to vote for incarcerated citizens and an end to felony disenfranchisement in federal elections. Other organizations that have endorsed the Act include the Prison Policy Initiative, the Sentencing Project, Organizers in the Land of Enchantment, Human Rights Watch, the Center for Popular Democracy, Black Voters Matter Fund, and Common Cause. 12

Partnerships

Unheard Voices Outreach partners with Free Hearts, No Exceptions, and the Choosing Justice Initiative in its efforts to advocate for legislative changes related to parole, life sentences, and freeing prisoners from Tennessee prisons. 13 Free Hearts is an organization led by formerly incarcerated women to support families of Tennesseans in prison. 14

The Choosing Justice Initiative is a non-profit law firm located on the campus of the American Baptist College in Nashville, Tennessee that represents low-income individuals charged with crimes. It advocates against the criminal justice system, including cash bail and perceived structural racism, and supports the concept of restorative justice replacing the criminal court process. 15

Financials

Unheard Voices Outreach’s most recent available tax return is for the calendar year of 2018. UVO’s 2018 return reported $91,648 in revenues and $57,813 in expenses. 16

Donors to UVO include the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund in 2018, NEO Philanthropy in 2019, and Amalgamated Charitable Foundation and the Roddenberry Foundation in 2022. 17 18

Leadership

Unheard Voices Outreach founder Rahim Buford grew up in Nashville, Tennessee. He was arrested for murder at 18 and served 26 years in prison. While in prison, he took courses at Lipscomb University, Ohio University, and Vanderbilt Divinity School, and published a book entitled Save Your Own Life. In 2015 he was paroled and received a scholarship to attend the American Baptist College. He worked as an organizer for the Children’s Defense Fund for almost two years. In 2017, Buford founded UVO and served as its executive director. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 2019, and from 2018 to 2021, Buford worked as the director of bail operations for the Nashville Community Bail Fund. Buford is a 2023 Galaxy Gives Fellow. 19 20

Board member Dawn Harrington is the executive director of Free Hearts and a director of the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls. Harrington was previously incarcerated. 21 22

Board member Terrence Williams-Bey is the president of the building management company MOOR Enterprise. He was in prison for over 12 years and has been on parole since then. He joined the board of UVO in 2016. 23

References

  1. LinkedIn – Unheard Voices Outreach – About. Accessed June 9, 2024. https://www.linkedin.com/company/unheardvoicesoutreach/
  2. “Unheard Voices Outreach.” Instrumentl. Accessed June 9, 2024. https://www.instrumentl.com/990-report/unheard-voices-outreach
  3. “About UVO.” Unheard Voices Outreach. Accessed June 9, 2024. https://unheardvoicesoutreach.org/about-uvo/
  4. “UVO’s Work.” Unheard Voices Outreach. Accessed June 9, 2024. https://unheardvoicesoutreach.org/
  5. “Unheard Voices Outreach.” How To Justice. Accessed June 9, 2024. https://howtojustice.org/directory/unheard-voices-outreach/
  6. “UVO’s Work.” Unheard Voices Outreach. Accessed June 9, 2024. https://unheardvoicesoutreach.org/
  7. “What is a Court Watch?” ALC Court Watch. Accessed June 9, 2024. https://alccourtwatch.org/what-is-a-court-watch/
  8. “Friend hopes community comes to support Cyrus Wilson during parole hearing.” News Channel 5 Nashville. April 9, 2019. Accessed June 9, 2024. https://www.newschannel5.com/news/friend-hopes-community-comes-to-support-cyrus-wilson-during-parole-hearing
  9. “A Few of our Accomplishments.” Unheard Voices Outreach – About UVO. Accessed June 9, 2024. https://unheardvoicesoutreach.org/about-uvo/
  10. “Restorative Justice.” Tennessee Voices for Victims. Accessed June 9, 2024. https://www.tnvoicesforvictims.org/restorative-justice/
  11. Levi Ismail. “Protestors chant clemency for Clemons as Nashville man faces parole board for the 6th time.” News Channel 5 Nashville. April 12, 2021. Accessed June 9, 2024. https://www.newschannel5.com/news/protestors-chant-clemency-for-clemons-as-nashville-man-faces-parole-board-for-the-6th-time
  12. “Pressley, Welch Unveil Historic Bill to Guarantee Right to Vote For Incarcerated Citizens.” Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley. December 6, 2023. Accessed June 9, 2024. https://pressley.house.gov/2023/12/06/pressley-welch-unveil-historic-bill-to-guarantee-right-to-vote-for-incarcerated-citizens/
  13. “About UVO.” Unheard Voices Outreach. Accessed June 9, 2024. https://unheardvoicesoutreach.org/about-uvo/
  14.  Free Hearts website. Accessed June 9, 2024. https://freeheartsorg.com/
  15. “About CJI.” Choosing Justice Initiative. Accessed June 9, 2024. https://www.cjinashville.org/about-cji
  16. Unheard Voices Outreach. Return of Private Foundation. (Form 990-PF – Part I). 2018.
  17. ProPublica Nonprofit Explorer search. Accessed June 9, 2024. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/full_text_search?q=81-5151117
  18. “Unheard Voices Outreach.” Instrumentl. Accessed June 9, 2024. https://www.instrumentl.com/990-report/unheard-voices-outreach
  19. “Rahim Buford.” Galaxy Gives. Accessed June 9, 2024. https://www.galaxygives.com/fellows/rahim-buford
  20. LinkedIn – Rahim Buford. Accessed June 9, 2024. https://www.linkedin.com/in/rahim-buford-714b1914a/
  21. LinkedIn – Dawn Harrington. Accessed June 9, 2024 https://www.linkedin.com/in/dawnharrington/
  22. “Meet our Board of Directors.” Unheard Voices Outreach – About UVO. Accessed June 9, 2024. https://unheardvoicesoutreach.org/about-uvo/
  23. “Meet our Board of Directors.” Unheard Voices Outreach – About UVO. Accessed June 9, 2024. https://unheardvoicesoutreach.org/about-uvo/
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: March 1, 2017

  • Available Filings

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Unheard Voices Outreach (UVO)

    323 E OLD HICKORY BLVD
    Nashville, TN 37115-3924