Study Guide

Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison Chapter 21

By Shaka Senghor

Chapter 21

  • This chapter is pretty much all about Shaka and Ebony's growing romance. Ebony comes to visit Shaka.
  • She looks different–she's wearing a scarf around her head and her long hair seems to be shorter, and she's recovering from what looks like pretty severe acne.
  • Shaka is a little bit worried about this, but not because he's sexist or shallow. He respects Ebony for who she is and really wants a relationship with her.
  • But Shaka's also heard stories about how sometimes people who are going through a change in their appearance build relationships with prisoners more as a way to boost their own confidence than out of sincere romantic attraction.
  • But Ebony does seem genuinely interested in Shaka, and he quickly gets over his worry. They have long conversations about social justice, urban gardening, writing, and more.
  • Shaka reflects on how clear it is that Ebony is the kind of woman he's looking to date.
  • He needs someone who will challenge him to become everything he can be and who has the courage and stamina to stick with him as he works to be freed and transition back into his community.
  • Ebony is all those things, and Shaka is excited to see that she clearly returns his affection.
  • Shaka has to be realistic, though: he knows that the way the prison system is set up often makes it super-hard to maintain relationships.
  • Among other problems, most of Michigan's prisons are in the north of the state, but most prisoners come from the southern parts of it, so it's hard for friends and family to make the trek to see them.
  • Soon after Ebony visits him, Shaka is shipped to a different prison.
  • They're both excited, because it's closer to Detroit and that will make visiting easier. It's also minimum security, and that's an important step for Shaka.
  • The prison, called Cooper Street, is a transitional step to the camp system. What is the camp system? It's basically a network of the lowest security prisons. Prisoners there can even work outside the prison.
  • But like so many things in prison, getting one step closer to the camp system is sort of a good news/bad news deal for Shaka.
  • Upside: he's closer to release and re-integrating back into normal life.
  • Downside: some of the prisons in the camp system are in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Believe it or not, that means Shaka could end up a twelve hour drive from Detroit.
  • Obviously, that wouldn't be so great for Ebony's chances of visiting him often.
  • But Ebony encourages Shaka to hope for the best case scenario, and he does know some people who managed to stay in the same place at a similar point of their incarceration rather than get shipped to the Upper Peninsula.
  • Shaka also finds hope in the atmosphere at Cooper, the facility he's currently in. Because it's a place people get moved not long before their release, most of the inmates there are hopeful and optimistic.
  • Shaka and Ebony manage to keep up a routine of talking on the phone and seeing each other, even though they face challenges like phone calls costing eight dollars apiece for fifteen minutes. Prison guards also watch them kiss and sometimes stop them almost right away.
  • But in spite of these troubles, Shaka's relationship with Ebony is going fantastically well. He describes just how awesome it is and closes the chapter.