In her Detroit Free Press column, Rochelle Riley writes about Shaka Senghor, an ex-con, who has dedicated his life to helping young people escape violence through an online literary arts project. His story highlights how some ex-cons can regain control of their lives by helping others.
Shaka Senghor was on a bad road traveling fast when the knock came at his door.
At 18, he was selling drugs for a living and had been shot about a year earlier on a corner in Detroit's Brightmoor neighborhood, so Senghor was carrying a gun when a friend came by with two strangers.
"I refused to sell them drugs," Senghor recalled. "I got into an argument and told them to get off the block. We made threats back and forth … I shot several times and tragically caused his death."
He tragically caused a death. That's how Senghor describes it now. But in 1991, he killed a guy. Was charged with second-degree murder. Got sentenced to 17-40 years. A month after his 19th birthday. His girlfriend was three months pregnant.
Senghor is the kind of guy that used to be written off. But everybody gets second chances. His came eight years later in a letter from his son.
"He just really was talking to me about why I was incarcerated," Senghor said. "It was a moment of epiphany. I realized that, although I was incarcerated, I had a responsibility to set an example for him. I made up my mind that if I was released, I would have some type of positive impact on his life and the lives of young people in the city of Detroit."
Senghor found a way with his Live in Peace Digital and Literary Arts Project, which he founded in 2010 after his release from prison.
Read Rochelle Riley's entire column at the Detroit Free Press.