Study Guide

Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison Chapter 17

By Shaka Senghor

Chapter 17

  • Where: Brightmoor, West Side Detroit
  • When: 1991
  • This chapter starts with Shaka getting asked to DJ a party. He's super excited about the chance to be creative musically, and he's having a great time.
  • When some pals turn up and invite him to drink with them, he hands off his DJ duties and joins them. He and Brenda start dancing together.
  • They're loving it, until the gunshots start. Shaka draws his gun and tells the people in his crew to come with him to the front of the house.
  • Someone tells them that a guy called Derrick shot somebody else in the chest. This is bad, for a bunch of reasons beyond the obvious one.
  • Derrick is part of Shaka's crew, which means it's possible that someone will come after Shaka and his other pals to try and get revenge on Derrick.
  • Nobody can find Derrick, so they can't ask him exactly what happened.
  • Shaka decides that he and Brenda should go back to their own house. Shaka is "paranoid" (his word) that something terrible will happen on the short walk back. (17.7)
  • A Jeep pulls up, and Shaka has his finger on the trigger of his gun. The gun is in his pocket, but Shaka plans to shoot through his jeans if the situation gets sticky.
  • Turns out, the driver just wants directions. Whew.
  • But as Brenda and Shaka are opening the door to their house a few minutes later, a white car stops there.
  • Shaka is really worried that someone in the car may be out to get them. But it turns out to be a customer he really likes, a guy named Tom.
  • Tom is a white guy who lives in the suburbs, but he's popular with Shaka because he talks like someone from the 'hood and spends a lot of money on drugs.
  • Shaka calms down a bit. He suggests that Brenda go into the house, then he and his friend Mark go over to the car.
  • But when they get there, Shaka gets really nervous.
  • Two white guys he doesn't know are in the front of the car, and Tom's in the back with a huge amount of money.
  • It feels like a police setup to Shaka, and he and Tom end up arguing with each other.
  • Eventually, Shaka says they've got five minutes to leave before something bad happens.
  • One of Tom's friends starts arguing with Shaka and won't back down.
  • As they fight verbally, the guy leans forward and Shaka thinks he's going to leap out of the car. Shaka draws his gun.
  • Mark talks Shaka into leaving the argument and heading toward the house.
  • But then Tom's friend does open the car door. Shaka kind of panics, remembering when he got shot. Then he fires at the car a few times.
  • As the car races away, everything sinks in for Shaka.
  • Even though he didn't really see where his shots went, somehow he knows deep down that the guy he shot is dead.
  • Shaka goes back into the house, and everyone looks at him like they know the guy is dead too. He and Brenda decide to lock the house and stay with her cousin that night.
  • At her cousin's house, Shaka tells Brenda that he knows he killed the guy he shot. She breaks down and cries as they realize the consequences of their lives are catching up with them.
  • It's even worse because they know Brenda is expecting their child, and Shaka may not be around to care for his son.
  • A detective comes to arrest Shaka the next day, and Shaka learns that pretty much every friend he trusted has made an incriminating statement to the police about him.
  • Shaka expected those friends to honor the street code of not talking to the police, and he's bitter for years about their betrayal.
  • But looking back, Shaka says he wasn't in much of a position to judge right and wrong at that moment.
  • He says he was a fool at that time, and he had been for quite a while. He'd been gambling his future by living the lifestyle he'd chosen, and now he was out of luck.