I am a writer and mentor and have shared my story of redemption with youth and young adults at high schools, universities and conferences across the nation. While serving nineteen years in prison, I transformed my life, and once I returned home, I began mentoring young males who were headed down the same destructive path that led me to prison.
Despite the crime I was convicted of or the lengthy sentence I served, I refuse to allow my past to define who I am or what I am capable of. I use my story to inspire and motivate others and unpack the causes of youth violence. I have worked with youth at the Detroit Job Corps, Cody High School, Don Bosco Hall, Osborn High School, Henry Ford High School, and Tri-County Educational Center, to name a few. I have also lectured at the University of Wisconsin–Platteville, the University of Michigan, Fordham University, Wayne State University, Marygrove College, and Pace University, and now teach a course as part of The Atonement Project, a project I created to help victims and violent offenders heal through the power of the arts. In 2012, I was awarded the Black Male Engagement Leadership Award and serve as the national spokesperson for Black Male Engagement (BMe), a network of Black men engaged in their community. I am a 2013 MIT Media Lab Director's Fellow and a 2014 W.K. Kellogg Community Leadership Network Fellow. I also recently did a TED talk on the main stage at TED's 30th Anniversary Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia. My talk at TedxMidwest in 2013 was an audience favorite and is featured on my homepage.
While incarcerated, I discovered my love for writing, eventually penning six novels, including the highly addictive street lit series, Crack: Volume 1 and Crack: Volume 2 Lockdown. Most recently, I published some of my writings in a book for misguided youth entitled Live in Peace: A Youth Guide to Turning Hurt into Hope, which is a companion piece to my mentoring program, Live in Peace Digital and Literary Arts Project. Just as I had used writing to process my emotions while I was incarcerated, I now help youth address emotional, physical, and sexual abuse through the power of writing.
Whether I'm writing or speaking to youth, I always speak the truth about the oppressive conditions of the 'hood and the not-so-glamorous side of the streets.
© 2014 BY SHAKA SENGHOR