#68144: Zudy Rivera's Story

17 April 2020

#68144: Zudaydah Rivera’s Story

“As long as I live
I will always be
Daddy’s lil girl to my daddy…”
– Zudaydah Rivera

In late January, the entire staff of the Osborne Association gathered at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan for an all-staff meeting. Just before the lunch break, Zudaydah “Zudy” Rivera strode to the stage and shared a poem she composed a few years ago: #68144. She left the stage to thunderous applause and a standing ovation from her colleagues.  

#68144 captures her experience as the daughter of Rafael Luciano, who was incarcerated for most of Zudy’s life. First incarcerated in 1981, Rafael Luciano spent thirty-six of the 38 years since completing two sentences in a maximum security facility in New Jersey. Zudy was just four years old when he first went to prison, and she grew up in New Jersey, mostly raised by her father’s grandparents in Jersey City and then Newark.

Writing is an important part of Zudy’s life. “A lot of how I got into writing - poetry and otherwise - was because I had to write him letters descriptively”, she said, “so letters and phone calls were the way we communicated.” As a child, Zudy usually visited on Saturdays for about an hour and a half. She regularly too the bus she mentions in #68144 to reach his facility.  

Last September, Mr. Luciano came home. On parole, he lives in a shelter in New Jersey and is unable to visit Zudaydah and her two sons, who live in Harlem. Zudy tries to visit him in Newark a few times a month, but as a professional with young children who is active in criminal justice reform efforts, Zudy admits “I have a hard time seeing him as much as I’d like, because of, well, life… New Jersey is far sometimes.” In addition to Zudy’s sons, Rafael is also a grandfather to Zudy’s sister’s three children.  

In April, 2019, Zudaydah joined the Osborne Association as a program assistant in the Workforce program in Brooklyn. She supports the staff working with numerous programs in Brooklyn and in Rikers Island jails, and describes her role as “making the work happen”. In addition to her professional commitments, Zudy is a Beyond the Bars Fellow for Columbia University. She says that Beyond the Bars “has been a blessing in my life. I’ve learned so much through trainings and workshops there… it has opened my eyes and some doors for me.” She looks forward to the annual conference, which takes place from March 5 to March 8 this year.  

Zudy has always been invested and involved in social justice work, and is particularly committed to improving our criminal justice systems. “On a personal level, Osborne jumped out, because of our mission… It mirrored what I was going through for my life. Visiting, prison re-entry programs, these are things I believe in from my own experience, and here I get paid to make it happen. Osborne helps me fulfill my purpose in life.  

Last fall, she shared #68144 at a gala for Houses on the Moon, a grassroots theater project. Zudaydah hopes that her by sharing her poetry with wider audiences she can amplify the experience of children with incarcerated parents

In the near future, Zudy’s work will be shared with even wider audiences. Zudy’s poem is part of an ambitious theater project called “Shared Sentences”, a play that explores the impact of incarceration on family members and loved ones. Created by Emily Joy Weiner of Houses on the Moon and directed by Kimmarie Lynch, “Shared Sentences” is a combination of first person storytelling, spoken word, movement and dialogue developed directly from stories by and interviews with a wide range of individuals, each with an incarcerated loved one.  


By Zudaydah Rivera

Incarceration is the

Separation And Isolation of families,

which leads to the

interrogation of visitors that imposes the humiliation and Defamation of their characterization.

I’m not the one who is punished - but your assassination

of my dignity

when I go through the detector,

Makes me feel lessor,

all cause I have a loved one behind bars-

You take this too far

Check my background

Check my pockets,

Am I dressed right?

Did I violate

Your code

Of ethics?

this is just your method

To make sure we all see

What prison life really means.


tell one

tell all

How the incarcerated affects us all

We the people

are not at all

Equal as you all recall

Separation and segregation

We’re not united in this nation.

I visited my dad..

couldn’t sit on his lap

CO gave my dad a tap

That’s enough of that

Couldn’t give my dad an embrace

Without a CO all up in our my face

4 years old I would never see

my dad be there for me

I was an orphan

just like Annie

Hard knock life for us

I used to ride the joint connection bus

From Newark to Trenton, NJ

State prison to see my daddy


Rafael Luciano, I am his daughter

Forever grateful

Never shameful

My maker

My strength

Comes from he

I am him and he is me..

Society can’t make me hate you

These laws are made to break you

And me apart

Because our skin is tan and dark

But I won’t let them make me think

Less of you daddy

Forever and ever you are father

I will cherish you like no other

They took you away from me

To make me struggle

To make our legacy buckle

As long as I’m conscience I will speak

Of all the injustice done to thee

It’s not right

It’s not fair

I’m 40 and you’re still in there.

As long as I live

I will always be

Daddy’s lil girl to my daddy...