Today I finished reading Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison, by Shaka Senghor. I’m still in that phase, which occurs just after I read an engulfing book, where the words, moments, and emotions are still very much alive for me.
In his book, Senghor recounts the 19 years he spent incarcerated for a crime he committed as a teen. He provides an intimate, honest, and raw account of his time in prison. From being placed in solitary confinement for four consecutive years, to the personal growth he experienced while behind bars. Throughout his story, he flashes back to his childhood leading up to the very night that placed him in the hands of America’s prison system.
What drew me in the most was Senghor’s dedication to writing, especially during times for which his hope was tested, and his belief in the power it has to bring about change and to heal. From keeping his own journal, to using writing to help the youth he mentored.
Senghor’s story takes you on the personal and honest journey of an individual’s self-growth, and the power of the human soul to continue to grow and push forward.
In college, a great deal of my focus within my studies was in the American penal system. I took part in conducting research on our penal system, and worked with previously incarcerated individuals on examining the benefit of the arts for those currently serving time behind bars. For this reason, amongst others, this book was particularly moving and motivating for me.
There were many moments within the book that intrigued me, and had me stop to make note. I included some of them below:
“Looking back, I believe the crack epidemic is partly to blame for the misogyny in our community and in hip-hop culture”
“Each day in the hole was a test of my will to survive, as the insanity continued to unfold around me, but the act of writing about the things I saw helped to take away their power”
“Our community needs you brothers to return as strong men, teachers, leaders, and mentors for the children who are growing up looking up to you” (A line stated by Ebony)
“Even amid the pain, fear, and destruction I had experienced and inflicted in these streets, there was still hope. And there still is” (On his hometown of Detroit)
Writing My Wrongs is an incredible book, which allows the reader to see behind a wall that hides a culture and way of life that is too often pushed aside and ignored with little question. That wall is the American penal system, and that culture which exists behind it engulfs those who are spending time within its walls.