Shaka Senghor is a storyteller. He discovered his love for words while serving 19 years in prison. Convicted of second-degree murder at age 19, he went to prison angry and bitter. But, books saved him—they freed his mind long before he walked out of prison. “I devoured everything I read,” Shaka says. “From novels to biographies to books on philosophy and history.” Shaka spent his time reading and writing, clinging to words—his own and others—as he pulled himself out of the anger that led him to prison and kept him from reaching his full potential.
It was through journaling that he discovered he had accumulated emotional trauma from his childhood and his life in the streets that he had not processed in a healthy way. “When I realized what I was experiencing,” Shaka says, “I knew that there were countless young men and women in our communities like me, who had been victims and perpetrators of gun violence. But, they had not adequately dealt with the trauma of their experiences. Ultimately, it is this unprocessed emotional trauma that is at the root of the violence we see in the ‘hood.'” This epiphany led Shaka to write his memoir, Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death and Redemption in an American Prison. “I didn’t want another young person to live with the burden of taking someone else’s life,” Shaka says. “This has become my life’s work—my soul’s work.”
Shaka’s story has become an inspiration to many because he dared to dream beyond those prison bars and because he did not allow his past or what others thought of him to define or deter him. “Knowing I have been an inspiration to so many makes the pain of telling my story worth it,” he says.