Shaka Senghor, a formerly incarcerated individual, launches media startup

At TechCrunch Sessions: Justice today, New York Times bestselling author Shaka Senghor unveiled Mind Blown Media, a new media company that aims to create high-impact content focused on the criminal justice system and mass incarceration. Senghor, who spent 19 years in prison — seven of which were in solitary confinement — founded Mind Blown Media to tell the stories of people who have been impacted by the criminal justice system.

“I came out to this very different world, and I knew that there were stories that weren’t being told,” Senghor told me ahead of Justice. “But I also knew that there was a lack of connection between what was happening in our criminal justice system and what was happening in technology.”

Senghor started Mind Blown Media because no one would hire him, he told me.

“I haven’t had a traditional job since I’ve been out of prison,” he said. “People would tap me for information and I’ve helped develop other companies to a very high level. It was time to make a pivot and invest in myself. I want to make sure that other people are getting paid for their art.”

Mind Blown Media’s first piece of content will be a monologue show — a live event the company is currently developing to premiere in theaters. The show, called The Cell, will tell fictional stories based on the lives of real incarcerated people in a way that is authentic, accessible and filled with social impact, Senghor said.

“Prior to writing my memoir, I started off writing fiction and I believe that fiction offers us the greatest opportunity to tell the truth because it doesn’t make people put up the walls they do when they hear a personal narrative,” Senghor said. “But if you tell non-fiction stories in a heartfelt way to people that don’t come from that environment, they’re more open to hearing them.”

The idea with Mind Blown Media is to utilize current technologies to bring these untold stories to the masses — the stories of people who don’t have access to tech, who are at risk or come from underserved communities. With “What’s Good in the Hood,” Mind Blown Media will create a digital series showcasing people and places in misunderstood cities in America, and enable people from those communities to connect with each other and the masses online.

Down the road, the idea is to do a national tour in major cities and create an hour-long special with a digital content provider like Netflix, Amazon and HBO, and even bring the monologue show on the road in a Vagina Monologue-esque way. Just like the Vagina Monologues were helpful in getting “us neanderthal men to understand the complexities of vaginas,” Senghor said. The Cell aims to help people better understand what it’s like to be part of the criminal justice system.