Shaka Senghor is a leading voice in criminal justice reform, a Senior Fellow with The Dream Corps, and President/Creative Director of Mind Blown Media. His memoir, Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison, was released in March 2016 and debuted on The New York Times Bestseller List as well as The Washington Post Best Seller List.
An unforgettable tale of forgiveness and second chances, Writing My Wrongs reminds us that our worst deeds don’t define who we are or what we can contribute to the world. Shaka’s story has inspired thousands and serves as a powerful testament to the power of hope, compassion and unconditional love.
Shaka is a former 2013 MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellow, and a former Fellow in the inaugural class of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Community Leadership Network. He has taught at the University of Michigan and shares his story of redemption around the world. Shaka’s TED Talk, which he delivered at TED’s 30th Anniversary Conference, received a standing ovation and has been viewed more than 1.3 million times; TED later featured his talk in its Year in Ideas roundup, a collection of the most powerful TED Talks of 2014.
Shaka is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2012 Black Male Engagement (BMe) Leadership Award, the 2015 Manchester University Innovator of the Year Award, the 2016 Ford Man of Courage Award, and the 2016 NAACP Great Expectations Award. He was recently recognized by OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network) as a Soul Igniter in the inaugural class of the SuperSoul 100, a dynamic group of trailblazers whose vision and life’s work are bringing a higher level of consciousness to the world around them and encouraging others to do the same.
Shaka is a 2016 Ebony Magazine Power 100 Honoree for his leadership and positive impact on the black community. He is also the 2017 recipient of GLIDE’s Rev. Cecil Williams Legacy Award. Shaka has been a guest on CNN, CBS This Morning, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Good Day New York, NewsOne Now with Roland Martin, and C-SPAN’s After Words. He has also been a guest on numerous radio programs, including All Things Considered, The Lenny Lopate Show, The Maggie Linton Show, and Power 105.1 with Angie Martinez.
Main Questions Asked:
- What inspired you to write your book Writing My Wrongs?
- After working with young men and women who are largely written off by society, Shaka decided to write his books and try to improve the criminal justice system.
- Shaka takes the reader deep into the dark side of the criminal justice system and the drug lifestyle and how it can affect your life.
- “Hope knows that people can change on timeline that we can’t predict.”
- Reading with purpose and finding powerful mentors changed the direction of Shaka’s life.
- People need hope to motivate them to go in the right direction.
- Learning how other people have overcome the obstacles they face in their life can be life changing.
- Forgiveness is the key to unlocking your mental and spiritual prison that many of us find ourselves in.
- “You have a break down before your have a breakthrough.”
- You can’t understand the fullness of your being until you face adversity.
- Why are stories of redemption so important right now?
- Society and politics is currently very controversial. Building a narrative that encourages thought and empathy is very important right now.
- What can the everyday person do about the current criminal justice system?
- Criminal justice is an everyday person’s problem, we all foot the bill.
- Does your local school lay the groundwork for success or is it creating a situation that makes incarceration more likely.
- Volunteering or sending books into prisons is a good way to get engaged.
- Start a conversation.
- We undervalue the power of artistic expression when it comes to learning.
- Our education system needs to be overhauled as much as the criminal justice system. Removing the profit motive from the prison system is a start.
- We treat people differently depending on who they and what they have, and that’s not justice.
- How do you reach at risk kids when they are struggling?
- Kids are often berated and rushed in school.
- Listen both verbally and holistically to what the child is saying, they are giving you more information than you know. When you listen you can understand where they are coming from.
- Had someone taken some time to reach out and ask Shaka why his grades were failing in school, it could have been the turning point in his life. This experience led Shaka to being the mentor he is today.
- Do you talk to them about spirituality and meditation?
- Spirituality is a foreign language to a lot of people.
- The power of meditation is easiest to understand through examples.
- Take every excuse of the table and master your thinking.
- Students that meditate are more engaged and often have better grades and improved experiences.
- The expectations should be the same for the students and the teachers in terms of being ready to work.
- Humanity starts with seeing the humanity in someone else, try not to think of people in prison as “prisoners”.
- When you show up fully embracing who you are you will be more able to see the humanity in others.
- What can we expect next from Shaka?
- Shaka will dedicating more of his time to creative work. There is no greater entry point to create change than art.
- Shaka is releasing a monologue for the stage in January 2018 and is also the producer on a new show that will be coming out on Oprah’s network.
FB: Shaka Senghor