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#1187 The Hope Smuggler - Shaka Senghor

Different episodes resonate with different people, but from the almost 1,200 episodes of TYP that I've recorded, this conversation sits comfortably in my all-time top 5. I truly loved it and wish it could have gone for longer. In 1991, Shaka Senghor entered prison for committing second-degree murder. Today, he's a best-selling author, lecturer at universities, and leading voice on criminal justice reform. Raised in a middle-class neighbourhood on Detroit's east side during the height of the 1980s crack epidemic, Shaka was an honour roll student and a natural leader who dreamed of becoming a doctor. 

But at age 11, his parents' marriage began to unravel. The beatings from his mother worsened, sending him on a downward spiral that saw him run away from home. On the streets, he quickly turned to drug dealing to survive, running crack houses and getting caught up in the hopelessness of the life that surrounded the epidemic. At 18, he was shot in an altercation in front of his home. By 19, he was in prison for murder, fuming with anger and despair. During his 19 years incarcerated- including seven in solitary confinement -Shaka began a journey of self-reflection, inspired by reading and writing as a means of understanding his past, his present, and his future potential. By embracing forgiveness, hope, and everything that's possible when you refuse to be defined by your past, he's become a leading voice on the potential inherent in us all when given support and a second chance. In the decade since his release, he's garnered awards and fellowships, lectured at universities, started and worked with non-profits seeking to lift people up, visited the White House, been interviewed by Trevor Noah and Oprah Winfrey, given award-winning TED talks, featured in a song with Nas, and tirelessly worked to help create the personal and societal change we need for a more inspired, just, fulfilling future.