In 1991, Shaka Senghor entered prison for committing second-degree murder. Today, he’s a best-selling author, lecturer at universities, and leading voice on criminal justice reform.
Senghor is the Head of Diversity, Equality & Inclusion at TripActions, Director's Fellow Alumni of the MIT Media Lab, college lecturer, author, and was convicted of murder in American courts. As of October 2015, 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.
Raised in a middle class neighborhood on Detroit’s east side during the height of the 1980s crack epidemic, Senghor was an honor roll student and a natural leader who dreamed of becoming a doctor. But at age 11, his parents' marriage began to unravel. The beatings from his mother worsened, sending him on a downward spiral that saw him run away from home.
On the streets, he quickly turned to drug dealing to survive, running crack houses and getting caught up in the hopelessness of the life that surrounded the epidemic. At 18, he was shot in an altercation in front of his home. By 19, he was in prison for murder, fuming with anger and despair.
During his 19 years incarcerated—including seven in solitary confinement—Senghor began a journey of self reflection, inspired by reading and writing as a means of understanding his past, his present, and his future potential. By embracing forgiveness, hope, and everything that’s possible when you refuse to be defined by your past, he’s become a leading voice on the potential inherent in us all when given support and a second chance.
In the decade since his release, he’s garnered awards and fellowships, lectured at universities, started and worked with nonprofits seeking to lift people up, visited the White House, been interviewed by Trevor Noah and Oprah Winfrey, given award-winning TED talks, featured in a song with Nas, and tirelessly worked to help create the personal and societal change we need for a more inspired, just, fulfilling future.
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