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How the Worst Deeds Define a Person in Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison

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As Shaka Senghor describes in Writing my Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison, our worst deeds do not define us. He describes his life as a troubled teenager and adult, going through many major events that impacted his future greatly. Although his life had taken a turn for the worse when he was sent to prison, his worst deeds do not show who he is. He was determined to turn his life around for the better, and change who others thought he was. He knew he couldn’t change the past, but he wanted to do his best to fix what he had done to prove that his worst deeds did not define him.

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Senghor had grown up in a very though environment, with violence and death all around him in his early life. His parents had divorced twice, which made his childhood miserable. He turned to the community around him, which was full of killing and drugs. He was shot once as a teenager, but survived. After the incident, he carried a gun with him wherever he went, and that gun was what led to being locked away from the world. As Senghor was selling drugs, he experienced a conflict with a customer, which had resulted in the man getting shot. Senghor was sent to jail, and had been transferred many times over the years. At the beginning of his sentence, he realized that he “had to forgive the people I hated. Most important, I had to forgive myself. Senghor knew he couldn’t change without accepting what had happened, forgiving the people he had hurt, and forgiving the people who had hurt him. Although he killed a man, it does not show who he truly is.

Wanting to change shows how much you are devoted to becoming a better person, and believing that it can happen. Senghor writes, “my desire to change would do battle with the old instincts, angers, and fears I had carried into prison”. Although he had gone to prison and was seen as a bad person, he was truly inspired and devoted to changing for the better. He knew all of his past actions would make him struggle with this change, but he was committed to making his life better. He knew he needed something new to change, and that’s when he discovered religion. He played a major role in religion at the prisons, and was a leader to many of the younger men. Senghor was later nominated to become a spiritual leader. He created study guides, and “instead of the Bible and the Quran, which we used for spiritual development, I encouraged the brothers to read more revolutionary literature by authors like Assata Skakur and George Jackson”. He encouraged change in the groups, and the changes helped people understand the material better than the old way of memorizing pieces of literature. Senghor also wrote a piece for the prison newspaper and received many compliments for it, saying he had a future in writing. As Senghor said,”it had been a long time since someone said something affirming about me that wasn’t connected to violence”. He felt proud of his work, and it made him feel like he was more than someone who hurt people and sold drugs. He felt like he could become a changed man, and that’s exactly what he did.

Senghor thought a lot about his family in prison, and he thought about them even more when the time for his release came closer. He had many years to reflect on what he had done, and how it affected his family. Senghor describes,”it had taken me years to realize that no one goes to prison alone; my imprisonment had impacted my family as though they were sitting in the cell with me”. When he was released from prison, he described how his younger sisters had changed into young women. That helped him realize exactly how long he had been locked away from the people he loved. Senghor deeply regretted going to prison, since he missed so much of his son’s life. He missed his son’s birth, his childhood, and his teenage years. Senghor regretted his actions, and tried to fix everything he could. He also wrote letters, kept a journal, and wrote books to keep his emotions in control. He later met a woman named Ebony who he connected with very well, and they loved each other very much. She was one of the biggest reasons why he wanted to change, since she would always visit him, even if they were hours away. Senghor decided to put his past behind him, and started looking towards the future. Senghor said,”we grew tremendously as a couple during that time, and on my roughest days, I would keep myself grounded by thinking about the dreams we shared and the future we hoped for”. Whenever Senghor was struggling, he thought about Ebony and the future they could have together once he was released from prison. He knew he had to look towards the future to get back on his feet, and be ready for any challenges in the real world. Being dedicated to changing his ways and looking towards the future shows how positive and hopeful Senghor is, and shows that his worst deeds don’t define him.

Senghor’s life had taken a turn for the worst when he killed a man and was sent to prison. In prison, he learned many things and became an inspiration to many of the younger men there. Senghor had changed the image of who he used to be, and is now a hopeful person who has his heart set on wonderful things in the future. Although Senghor’s past seemed to define him, he changed into a new person after prison, showing that his worst deeds did not define him.

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