“Even amid the pain, fear, and destruction I had experienced and inflicted in these streets, there was still hope.” – Shaka Senghor, Writing My Wrongs
People like to talk a lot about “the system”. It’s this big, ambiguous thing in our lives that controls everything: politics, schools, housing, transportation, healthcare, and so much more. Depending on who are you, the system could either work for you or work against you. It controls whether you go to a good or bad school, get the social services you need or not, and, in some cases, when and how you lose your life.
But what people forget sometimes is that the system doesn’t really shift; only people’s situations do. So when Shaka Senghor’s world began to unravel with his parent’s divorce and beatings and feuds with his mother, the system didn’t change; but Shaka’s situation did. He left home and eventually turned to drug dealing as a way to survive. In a whirlwind of selling and using drugs, partying, and even getting shot, Shaka came to the moment that so many would define him by: at 19 years old, he killed another man and was sent to prison.
Like many things in life, things have to get worse before they can get better. Over the course of 19 years in prison, 7 spent in solitary confinement, Shaka struggled to move forward. There were fights with other inmates, an assault on a guard, and the horrors of solitary. There was also budding love, deep and passionate learning, reunions with family, and gaining the power of his own words. Shaka’s story is one of redemption from the depths of personal and systemic tragedy. It’s a powerful attack on “the system” and all that it stands for. More than anything, it’s a deeply personal exploration of our communities and world, and how we must do better.
If I could sit across from Mr. Senghor right now, I would thank him for his courage. The courage to fight hatred, racism, fear, and doubt and live the life he deserves. I would ask about his family, what books he’s reading, and about the ways to fight the cruelty of Trump and Sessions. Finally, I would thank him again for his inspiring actions. All of his hard work and persistence was for himself and his family; but I want him to know that he is inspiring thousands of people to make our world better for themselves, their families, and the world.
If you’re ready to learn more about the incredible Shaka Senghor, check out his website and pick up a copy of his book Writing My Wrongs.
Note: I wrote this review after receiving the book from the Blogging for Books program.