“A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.”
One thing that I’ve discovered in my seventeen years of living on the earth is that maturity is a trait that many will never get the pleasure of obtaining in their lives. It’s foreign or apparent, regardless of age, gender or race. I searched the internet and all the major dictionary websites and couldn’t find a definition for the word maturity that wasn’t simple in its origin or had something to do with aging fruit. So, after considerable time, I researched heavier and found an article entitled Intellectual Development and Psychological Maturity. The article was exactly what I was looking for and more.
The article, written by renowned American psychologist David Wechsler, defines maturity as “the ability to respond to the environment in an appropriate manner” and “the act of being of the correct time and place to behave and knowing when to act, according to the circumstances and the culture of the society one lives in.” Now knowing what maturity really means, ask yourself if the individuals you come in contact with on a daily basis around you or you yourself display maturity. I know I do! It’s a different story for the people around me though…….
The ratchetness and unruliness that I see on a daily basis is a sign of major immaturity. It’s not cute or cool brothers and sisters! Like I said before, age and circumstances can’t be used as excuses anymore. Think about the quote about diamonds being made under pressure. The most mature, intelligent and advanced people come from very negative circumstances and situations. Take for example author, mentor and motivational speaker Shaka Senghor.
Shaka’s story is simply amazing. He is the epitome of growth and true maturity in every sense of the definition. He went from a drug dealer who caught a body at the age of nineteen to a multiple featured speaker on a global platform like TED Talks. He was recently named the national outreach representative for the BMe Community. Recently, I got a chance to dialogue with him about his life and his rigorous move into the literary industry.
Randall: Many assume they know the author based on the book. Yet, tell us who is Shaka Senghor, the person?
Shaka Senghor: I am a writer and mentor and have shared my story of redemption with youth and young adults at high schools and universities 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. 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 am an invited guest on local radio and television programs.
In 2012, I was awarded the Black Male Engagement Leadership Award and have worked closely with the Knight Foundation to launch the Black Male Engagement (BMe) Community, a network of Black men engaged in their community. I am also a 2013 MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellow and Co-Teach a class at the University of Michigan. I recently did a talk at TED 2014 during their 30th year anniversary that was an audience favorite.
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 my memoir Writing My Wrongs and 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.
Randall: What and who inspired you to become an author?
Shaka Senghor: My inspiration as a fiction writer is Donald Goines, his gritty street tales resonated with me because I grew up in the streets of Detroit that he wrote about. As a non-fiction writer my two inspirations are Malcolm X and Assata Shakur.
Randall: How difficult was it for you to enter the literary field?
Shaka Senghor: It was very difficult to enter the field because I was incarcerated in solitary confinement when I first started writing and published my first book shortly after I was released from solitary into general population, but I found a way to make it happen.
Randall: Is it what you expected?
Shaka Senghor: It was nothing like I expected, because I started writing before Urban Fiction went commercial. I take the craft serious and it was sad watching other authors live out their dreams while I was trapped in solitary confinement. Fortunately I didn’t allow my circumstances to stand in the way of what I envisioned for my future as a writer.
Randall: Where do you get your story ideas from and what’s the process?
Shaka Senghor: When I started writing fiction I reflected on my experiences growing up during the height of the Crack era. I also get ideas from the other side of street life, because I want people to know there is more to life then catching a bit or getting killed at a young age. When it’s all said and done I want to leave a literary legacy that honors the best in our culture, respects the craft of writing and storytelling and inspires the next hungry young artist to go after their goals and live out their dreams.
Randall: In 3 years, where do you see yourself at?
Shaka Senghor: In the next 3 years i plan to be touring the country and sharing my testimony and work with people all over the world.
Randall: Where are you from?
Shaka Senghor: I was born and raised in Detroit up until the age of 19 when I was sent to prison to serve my sentence.
Randall: As a professional, you have to put your personal views and feelings to the side for the sake of business?
Shaka Senghor: I conduct myself with the highest level of professionalism. I believe you should always respect your fans and supporters and be available to them when they come out to support us. People sacrifice their money and time to come into our world and when they do they should be rewarded with a professional experience.
Randall: What genres do you write in and do you have ambitions to dabble in other ones?
Shaka Senghor: I write what I call Conscious Street Lit, however I also write contemporary romance, non-fiction and poetry. I’m looking forward to writing some horror stories in the near future. I am a writer’s writer and I respect the craft, so I am always finding new ways to challenge myself as a writer. I don’t believe in comfort zones and believe when you break those molds, you grow as a writer and storyteller.
Randall: How can we find your titles and future book signings?
Shaka Senghor: I am preparing for a multi city tour coming soon and plan to hit a few cities on the East coast and down south. My titles are available on my website at www.shakasenghor.com
Do you have any questions or comments for me? Is there someone you’d like me to interview? I would love to hear from you! Contact me directly at:
Twitter: @AuthorRandallB & @TeamYGB25
Check out a preview of my debut novel “The Diary of Aaliyah Anderson” on Wattpad today! It’s coming soon!