Beautifully Misunderstood stopped Shaka Senghor of Drop A Gem Publishing for the “Happiness Quest” inquiry. Mr. Senghor is a writer, mentor, and motivational speaker whose inspiring story of redemption has captured the hearts and minds of young adults across the nation. During a 19 year prison stay, Senghor discovered his love for writing. In total six books have been written, including a NEW memoir about his life, Writing My Wrongs. He is the “King Pen” behind the detective series Crack: Volume 1 and 2, and a book of his writings entitled Live in Peace: A Youth Guide to Turning Hurt into Hope, a companion piece to his mentoring program. Shaka has worked with youth at the Detroit Job Corps and many area high schools; has lectured at the University of Wisconsin–Platteville, the University of Michigan, Fordham University, Wayne State University, Marygrove College, and Pace University; and is an invited guest on local radio and television programs. Most recently, he has been working with the MIT Media Lab on a project to strengthen Detroit through a creative initiative. Now, I met him out here in cyberspace and had the opportunity to get to know him personally and build a genuine friendship. He calls me his “Business Partner.” I won’t deny that. After taking an active role in promoting his literary works through several groups and reading the books – my respect for him, what he’s doing, where he had been and more importantly where he wants to go, grew. Beautifully Misunderstood asked him the same questions we ask everyone and he had not problem in answering.
Who inspired/encouraged your movements/change? My greatest inspiration for changing my life is my father James White. He is the epitome of a father and a great man. He encouraged me to always maximize my potential and to never give up in life. He was by my side during my lowest points and encouraged me along the way.
What risk (if any) did you take to follow your happiness? The risk I took to follow my happiness was trying a new route and understanding that the road would be harder to travel, because I had to pave it as I went along. The easiest thing would have been to go back to my old ways, but instead I risk it all by embracing a new way and starting a new path.
When did you discover what would make you happy? I think I am still discovering what makes me happy on a very personal level. It is part of learning myself in different situations. Being in prison most of the things I learned about myself was theoretical and in my head, but now that I am free I am learning more about what makes me happy and what makes me the man I am today. I know succeeding and accomplishing my goals are a part of it, but waking up to the smile of my son Sekou is a part of it in a different way. I can honestly say I am growing into my happiness. (Sidebar: One of the cutest and sweetest little guys I’ve encountered lately.)
How long did it take you to embrace the move toward happiness? It took a very long time for me to embrace the move toward happiness. Prison isn’t an environment where happiness is celebrated or embraced. I had to do a lot of soul-searching and cleansing internally and externally. I had to get rid of all my negative and toxic thoughts and then get rid of the negative and toxic people in my life. It was a process because some things are habitual including the company we keep. However, I love that I am still growing into my happiness and embracing the positive side of life and all it has to offer.
Where would you be had you NOT followed your happiness? If I hadn’t embraced my happiness and the things I now believe in, I am sure I would be just another statistic caught up in the same destructive cycle. The thing is I can’t imagine being trapped in that sick twisted world anymore. I am happy my spirit of determination keeps me progressing toward the positive light. It’s a great feeling to be in control of my destiny instead of having my destiny controlled by someone else.
Sum up your journey in one sentence…. Obstacles can be overcome and broken spirits can be mended, it’s all a matter of having the will and determination to do it.
Beautifully Misunderstood shined the spotlight on Shaka for his steadfast and genuine transition from being a part of the problem to making strides toward finding solutions and becoming an impactful factor in the community. There’s always so much focus on the negativity in the city that we miss real turn around stories such as this. Detroiters and people across the globe have embraced his literature and programs that he has concentrated his energy into. He has by far become one of the people I truly enjoy conversing with even if all we do is laugh. I admire him for taking a chance and creating a life for himself, a legacy for his family and most importantly dispelling the idea that he would return to the life he emerged from. That summary of his journey will probably stay with me for the rest of my life.. Might even make it up there to be one of my all-time favorite quotes. To learn more about Mr. Senghor go to his website http://www.shakasenghor.com/. Here you can make contact for speaking engagements, locate events and most importantly purchase books and I must say (unbiased in any way) that “Writing My Wrongs” was a real page turner.
As always keep dreaming, moving in the path of your HAPPINESS and :).