Using literature as a lifeline, Shaka Senghor escaped a cycle of prison and desperation. Now his story kindles hope in those who have little.

Why you should listen

At the age of 19, Shaka Senghor went to prison fuming with anger and despair. Senghor was a drug dealer in Detroit, and one night, he shot and killed a man who showed up on his doorstep. While serving his sentence for second-degree murder, Senghor discovered redemption and responsibility through literature -- starting with The Autobiography of Malcolm X -- and through his own writing.

Upon his release at the age of 38, Senghor reached out to young men following his same troubled path, and published Live in Peace as part of an outreach program bringing hope to kids in Detroit and across the Midwest. His activism attracted the attention of the MIT Media Lab, and as a Director’s Fellow, Senghor has collaborated on imagining creative solutions for the problems plaguing distressed communities. His memoir, Writing My Wrongs, was published in 2013.

Shaka Senghor’s TED talk

More news and ideas from Shaka Senghor

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8 books to lift you out of darkness

September 8, 2014

Shaka Senghor spent nineteen years in prison for shooting and killing another man. See the eight books that taught him a powerful lesson on the inside: Your worst deeds do not define you.

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In conversation

Can prison be a place of redemption?

June 23, 2014

In 1991, Shaka Senghor shot and killed a man, and spent 19 years in prison for his crime. He talks with neuroscientist Daniel Reisel about the challenge of rehabilitating in prison -- and why it's so important to restore people to society.

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TED Talks in context

Why I believe the death penalty is wrong

June 23, 2014

Three men were executed by lethal injection in the United States last week. Helen Walters argues that the death penalty is wrong -- and a new philosophy of criminal justice is desperately needed.

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