Sha is an entrepreneur and OSS enthusiast who’s learned through Python.
How did he get there, and how did he get here afterward?
“I definitely wasn’t born [a violent high schooler].” #pycon2019
[This story is immensely powerful. The room is completely silent.]
One night, while walking through SF, Sha’s friend was shot and died; his brother took him home and said “don’t ever let someone do something like that to you.”
The feelings of powerlessness and shame came rushing back in. #pycon2019
“I felt like the only place where I was wanted or where I belonged was in the streets.” #pycon2019
Watching the prosecutor lay out the case against him, that he should be taken away from society, and realizing that this case was going to work on the jury, brought Sha crashing back to reality. #pycon2019
Due to his age at the time, Sha was held in a separate cell from the other prisoners at the courthouse. #pycon2019
“Stabbings were a frequent occurrence. To protect yourself, you needed to carry a knife. But if you had a knife, it was inevitable you’d get caught.” #pycon2019
Sha discovered nobody ever went home from that prison. One inmate who’d been in for 20 years said he’d never seen anyone paroled. #pycon2019
Step one: don’t carry a knife.
Step two: minimize the time spent on the recreation floor, where most violence occurred. #pycon2019
This plan had a strong risk of making Sha be perceived as a coward, so he needed a good reason to do it. He developed an obsession with learning the law that convicted him. #pycon2019
Just like Sha, these men thought the street life was where they belonged. #pycon2019
Chair of the first chapter of the society of professional journalists in a prison. #pycon2019
And then a couple of Silicon Valley VCs started an entrepreneurship program at San Quentin. #pycon2019
Sha got inspired. And when he started learning about programming, he discovered that he wanted to do tech, and he wanted to write code. #pycon2019
And then, in August 2018, the governor’s office called to tell Sha his sentence was being commuted. #pycon2019
Here’s why he thinks Python and programming are so important: he’s 37, Black, and has virtually no work experience. Very few communities will look past this background to give him a chance. #pycon2019
Sha’s challenge: “expand your thinking about inclusion”. #pycon2019