Shaka Senghor transformed his life while serving nineteen years in prison, seven of which were spent in solitary confinement. A leading voice in criminal justice reform, Senghor’s story speaks to the human impact of mass incarceration. He has inspired mothers of murder victims to forgive, inspired young men in the streets to choose a college degree over a prison number, and shifted the thinking of tough-on-crime advocates from the lock-em-up-throw-away-the-key mentality to believing redemption is possible.
Today, Shaka is director’s fellow of the MIT Media Lab, college lecturer & author. He also teaches a class as part of the Atonement Project, a partnership between him, the University of Michigan, and the MIT Media Lab. His memoir, Writing my Wrongs, was published in March 2016. Senghor was named to Oprah’s SuperSoul 100 list of visionaries and influential leaders in 2016.
“I am a storyteller, a lover of words, painting an unforgettable picture with each story…with my story.
I was sent to prison at the age of 19 for second-degree murder. I spent my time reading and writing, using books to free my mind and expand my thinking. I clung to words – my own and others – as I pulled myself out of the anger that led me to prison and kept me from reaching my full potential. My story has become an inspiration to many because I dared to dream beyond the prison bars; because I did not allow my past or what others thought of me to define me or deter me; and because I have the courage to share my story, unfiltered.
My work in the community has earned me numerous awards and fellowships and in 2014 I shared my story on the world-renowned TED stage. I use these platforms to speak to the power of hope and our unlimited potential as human beings, no matter what we’ve been or how we’ve fallen short.”
“And that’s the thing about hope. In the moment it can feel foolish or sentimental or disconnected from reality. But hope knows that people change on a timeline that we can’t predict. We can never know the power that a word of kindness and or an act of forgiveness will have on the person who needs it most.”(Excerpt from Writing my Wrongs)