Study Guide

Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison Chapter 9

By Shaka Senghor

Chapter 9

  • Meanwhile, back in Shaka's teenage years in Detroit, things are not going well. He's living with his sister Tamica, and unfortunately he's discovered that her three-story apartment building is full of drug addicts who are potential clients.
  • He's managed to stop smoking the crack-laced pot, but he's soon selling crack again.
  • Shaka starts buying stuff with his drug gains and gets the attention of neighborhood girls by being generous with his drug money.
  • Tamica lives not far from Palmer Park, a spot known for prostitution and drug use.
  • Middle-aged white men from the suburbs often turn up in the neighborhood looking for drugs and sex, and Shaka and his friends hang out at a local restaurant and laugh at them.
  • But now as he looks back on it, Shaka sees this as one of the sad contradictions of his community at the time.
  • Rich white men could just turn up and pay for sex and drugs, and they rarely got in much trouble for breaking the law, even though they were feeding money into a situation that made urban neighborhoods unsafe for the people who actually lived there.
  • Shaka keeps selling drugs that year. When his two older brothers move to Detroit from Chicago, they work together in the drug trade.
  • Shaka eventually moves in with his brother Alan in their old neighborhood. Alan's girlfriend and the couple's daughter also live there, and their presence makes the house feel like a home to Shaka.
  • But one day when Shaka is hanging out, his neighbor runs down the street crying loudly. The neighbor, a girl who goes by the name Pig, says her cousin Shannon Bell has died from a gunshot.
  • Shaka is startled because he knows Shannon slightly, and now he's dead. Shannon was only fifteen.
  • Detroit is experiencing a lot of violence at the time, so no one is very surprised. But everyone gets worried and tense as they wonder who else will be killed and when.
  • Shaka becomes desensitized to life and convinces himself he doesn't care if he lives or dies.
  • It actually gets even worse than that. Shaka starts to look forward to death.
  • This warped idea gives him some sense of control over his life. He becomes deeply afraid of living, because it just seems too painful when he's constantly afraid of being shot and killed.
  • Shaka starts to believe that it's only a matter of time until he has to choose between killing someone or being killed himself. Looking back now, he wonders how a child could live in his world at the time and not go insane.
  • Eventually, a violent act does happen at Shaka's house.
  • He hears loud noises and looks out the window to see a man pointing a gun at his brother Alan. Alan's girlfriend is also there, with her hands in the air.
  • Shaka runs outside with a pistol and tells the guy to back away. The guy shoves Alan but then leaves. Shaka fires a few shots after him but fortunately misses.
  • Nobody gets hurt, but Shaka gets an adrenaline rush. He's never shot at anyone before.
  • Alan moves to a different neighborhood soon after this incident. Shaka keeps living in the same house, now with an old friend of Alan's and her daughters. The friend tries to take care of Shaka, but she can't stop his dangerous behavior.
  • Shaka's brother Art tells him to move off that street.
  • Shaka decides to clean up his act, and he calls his dad and says he wants to come home.