At the age of 19, Shaka Senghor was sent to prison for second-degree murder. In 2010, after being incarcerated for nearly two decades, he walked out a changed man. In this SuperSoul Session, Shaka uses the power of his story to share the surprising universal life lessons he learned in prison.
Shaka says he was six years into serving his sentence when he was smacked in the face with his first big lesson. “It came in the form of a letter that was sent to me by the victim’s family,” he says. “The letter opened by saying, ‘Do you know who David is? Well, if you didn’t know, David is the man that you killed. He was a father. He was a loved son. And he was a husband.'”
Reading those words crushed Shaka, but he continued reading. “And when I got to the bottom, it said, ‘Despite all of the pain you have caused our family, I forgive you. And more importantly, I love you.'”
It was through this letter that Shaka learned the grace of forgiveness. “But it wasn’t a quick fix,” he adds. “It would take years before I was mature enough to accept and appreciate and value those words.”
Forgiveness is a process, Shaka says, and one that takes time. “But I also realized that we’re worthy,” he says. “And that once we become visible in how we see ourselves, if we become available and vulnerable in our willingness to accept forgiveness, but also to extend it, our world becomes that much better.”
Shaka’s next lesson presented itself to him in 1999, when the still-troubled man found himself in solitary confinement. A gut-wrenching letter arrived from his 10-year-old son. “In his letter, he said, ‘Dear Dad, Mom told me that you’re in jail for murder. Please, Dad, don’t kill. Jesus watches what you do.'”
It was the moment Shaka had been dreading because it forced him to look at his true self. Shaka says that to do that he had to strip down the masks he had worn his entire life and find his authentic self. “And I began to realize that the man, or the male, that I was at the time was really a broken little boy with accumulated years of mask, hurt and abandonment.”
Watch to see what other powerful lessons, or “life blessings,” Shaka has to share in this session.