Skip to main content

Local author, Yusef Shakur offers Window as escape for urban youth


MR: One of many "warehouses" where Yusef Shakur was held captive 

Run the city streets wild and it will land you on a first class trip to either jail or the grave. Pledge your allegiance to the gang you have been initiated into and predatorily wreck havoc in your ‘hood and it will claim the lives of lost souls—many never to be found.

In Yusef Shakur’s book, “The Window 2 My Soul”, readers experience his journey first hand as he takes you to the heart of the ghetto to Zone 8, a “neighbor” hood on its decline to becoming a “hood”. Shakur details his dealings in the street so well that you begin to empathize through this kind of direct observation, with a young man that has become “a product of his environment”— this phrase used often to describe wayward children, making the reader yearn to help the Zone 8 thugs while the preconceived notion that “they should know better” melts away. Growing up in a fatherless home with an abusive, alcoholic, single and poor mother may not ring alarms since many households are faced with even more cruel living conditions. In actuality, some circles may deem that type of domestic condition as “typical”. On the contrary, Shakur’s story is not one of typical nature; one that recounts the perils of a reformed gang member-turned-saint to say the least. How many young men can say their father was their mental and spiritual guide, keeping them strong, while being incarcerated together in a correctional facility? As Yusef Shakur notes in his book, the correctional facilities were not designed to “correct” young Joseph Ruffin’s behavior. If it weren’t for his father, Joseph Ruffin would have returned to the streets as a more seasoned and well-trained criminal with the skills acquired from prison.

What is most impressive about Shakur’s ‘hood tales of his former gang activities and straight thuggism is that he accomplishes what most rappers claim they try to achieve through their music and lyrics: an accurate account of what goes on in the ghettoes of America to create awareness about crime, sex and drugs with the intention of preventing others from making the same mistakes. He conveys the message of the struggle without glamorizing the life of a gang member and drug dealer. Instead, readers become accessories to the crime that has been committed against all youth and lost souls that Amerikkka has victimized through exploitation. Hip hop heads will love this book for its raw and “keeping it real” content, community leaders will envy Yusef’s leadership skills but be drawn by his strong will to succeed against oppression; some will be captivated by the rich history and knowledge he obtained and shares during his story, while others will want to know Yusef, to help him in his quest to put the “neighbor” back in hood.

While incarcerated for 9 years, Yusef Shakur’s transformation from a nigga passionately thuggin’ for his ‘hood to a revolutionary soulja intent on uplifting and teaching fellow men to become nation builders was profound. With his biological father he reconnected to on the inside and other surrogate comrades to nurture his spiritual, physical and mental being, Joseph Ruffin became Yusef Shakur, the man known today as a community leader, author and hands-on father, over 8 years after his release from the “belly of the beast”.

 From Chapter 6, Father Like Son:

     “I observed my father jogging and exercising on the yard. He had long locks and a glow about himself, which was rarely seen under such conditions. He was…’A BEAUTIFUL EXAMPLE OF WHAT A BLACK MAN SHOULD BE!’
     When I was finally able to see my father face-to-face, he gave me a couple of books about the history of Black people and a Malcolm X tape. He looked me directly in my eyes and told me that I needed to do my time because, up to this point, I had been letting my time do me. He also went on to convey to me that a man consists of three folds: spiritual, mental and physical, and that he must keep them all strong to maintain a balance and harmony in his life.
Before I departed from his presence, he told me he was going to sign me up to attend the Melanic service, and that he wanted me to go to the gym to work out with him. As I was leaving, my father hugged me and told me the greatest gift a father can give to his son was to spend his precious time with him.
     My father and I would work out three times a week in the weight room with the machine weights, and I would also see him at the Melanic services once a week. My father was beyond physically fit. He ran between 5 and 6 miles a day, and looked like somebody had chiseled his muscles on him.
Having the opportunity to be around my father consistently demonstrated to me what it meant to be a man of high character and knowledge. I finally felt whole as a human being, having comprehensive knowledge of my mama and my father, and I could act upon my humanity…to embrace all of the information and knowledge that my father was sharing with me, and to use that information and knowledge as tools to rectify my behavior through re-educating myself through the knowledge of self.”

Remember the Million Man March? Remember when the men returned from the pilgrimage to Washington, D.C back to their communities, motivated, ready to become leaders, organizers and mentors? The fire roaring in their hearts and burning in their eyes quickly dimmed because only one day of atonement was not enough mental stimulation and guidance to sustain the thousands of men ready to make a difference. This book will take readers back to the spot where the Million Man March left off, when March attendees were inspired and ready to make a difference in their respective communities. Yusef Shakur illustrates throughout the book that knowledge of self is key.

For a “Scared Straight” approach, this book is recommended for pre-teens who have adopted the new Amerikkkan dream of being a gangsta or drug dealer—not only for young men, but young women too. As readers will discover, it wasn’t smooth sailing for the Zone 8 girls either. As a guide for fathers to nurture their children, this book sheds light on the purpose of a father in a child’s life; no dad will want to be a deadbeat after reading this. For women raising young men, this book offers hope as they find strength in Yusef Shakur’s mother; through her faults and not the least bit a perfect parent, her means for survival for her children offers hope to other mothers that face similar circumstances. Program leaders and mentors will need this book as a trusty reference and to offer this as a reading recommendation for their students.

To purchase the book, Second Edition, “The Window 2 My Soul”, with a new foreword from Dr. Carl S. Taylor, Professor at Michigan State University, please contact Yusef Shakur by telephone 313.459.6008 or by email or

When Yusef Shakur took time out of his busy schedule to chat with’s Detroit Hip Hop Examiner, his goals were clear: to help his community, continue to mentor others and use this book as a tool in his mission. To further the book’s influence on the masses, Shakur’s ambition is to create a stage play and also a movie based upon, The Window 2 My Soul. His plan is to follow-up with another book, coming soon, Letters from an Incarcerated Father 2 his Incarcerated Son.

Listen here to our full-depth interview detailing what “Zone 8” means, the reason Yusef Shakur was incarcerated, and more on how you can help this leader continue his mission.

 For more info: As of today, Yusef Shakur, with the help of many from the community and H.O.P.E (Helping Our Prisoners Elevate), have raised over $1,500 dollars to support the Back to School rally, an annual event to prepare Detroit children for the 2009-2010 academic school year. Monetary donations for Back-to-school supplies are desperately needed to make this event a success. Contact Yusef Shakur directly to learn how you can help or attend the rally on *TODAY* Saturday, August 29, 2009 12 Noon – 6pm at 2243 Ferry Park (at 14th Street) Detroit, MI. There will be fun for everyone. Be there to support the youngsters! Call 313.459.6008 for more info