Students pen their pains to ‘Live in Peace’
By Jazmine Steele
Special to the Michigan Citizen
DETROIT — Before you judge their future, make sure you read their stories about their past. A group of students have recently compiled a memoir of the real-life growing pains they experienced being raised in Detroit. The book is loosely titled “Can anybody hear us?” and will feature a foreword by their project leader, Shaka Senghor.
“I’m excited for people to learn who they really are and not what the media says they are,” said Shaka Senghor, 39, of the Live in Peace Digital and Literary Arts Project.
Last fall, Senghor was awarded $25,000 as a Black Male Engagement Challenge winner to implement the Live in Peace Project at Cody High School in Detroit and Tri Country Education Center in Southfield. The program serviced a combination of 25 students. Senghor came up with the title of the project to counter the Rest in Peace mentality and T-shirts usually embraced by the community.
“I felt it was important for the young men and women in our community to have an outlet to deal with some of the hurts that they keep bottled up, which I believe leads to the high levels of violence that we see in our community,” Senghor said.
Lexus Reynolds, 17, participated in the program at Cody and says she experienced a variety of emotions.
“It was hard but it was easy,” Reynolds said. “It was hard to read what I wrote in front of a crowd. I was letting people know how I feel and what happened to me. That was hard but it was easy to write. Eventually I got over it and I wasn’t embarrassed by it.”
In her essay she detailed a personal account of how she developed a dislike for boys. She also learned another girl in the class shared a similar story. Reynolds now has accepted her past and views Senghor as a mentor or big brother.
“I feel like I can tell him anything and just be myself,” she said. “It’s amazing how you can come from the life he had and turn it around and make something of your life.”
Senghor led the students through a written healing experience by sharing his story of being incarcerated for 19 years for second degree murder.
He was released from prison nearly two years ago and has achieved many accomplishments in such a short time. In addition to the Live in Peace Project, he is soon to release his third book, a memoir titled “Writing My Wrongs.” He and his significant other are writing a memoir about their unique love story titled “No Ordinary Love.” Senghor has also become a new and very proud father of their son, Sekou.
“Sometimes it feels surreal and like it’s a big dream,” Senghor said. “But I also planned for a lot of this. I took the last five or six years of my incarceration and put great stock into planning for my future. I planned to be an asset to the community instead of a liability.”
Senghor said reading in jail opened his mind significantly. Reading made him realize that when he returned to society, he had to change his approach to life.
“I couldn’t see walking out of jail with nothing to show for it in my life; I might as well (have) been dead,” he said. “I said I can’t return to my community as a criminal, even though I made some poor decisions in my youth. But at the end of the day I had to step up to the plate and accept responsibility as a man.”
“Can Anybody Hear Us” will be released in the fall. Students will be gifted a portion of the books to sell and develop entrepreneurial skills. The community is encouraged to support the project and go online to purchase a T-shirt that reads, “Dear Youth, I’m listening.”
For more information about the Live in Peace Digital and Literary Arts Project, visit www.lipeace.com
Contact Jazmine Steele at firstname.lastname@example.org