Malik Shakoor is the first Muslim religious coordinator, or chaplin, for the Washington State Corrections Center in Shelton, Washington. He prefers to think about his position this way: a religios corrdinator who happens to be Muslim.
When Shakoor was growing up in Huntsville, Alabama, a pastor predicted that someday Shakoor would become a man of God.
Back then, Shakoor loved basketball. He was talented, too. One day at church, the pastor laid hands on all of the children and announced what their futures would be.
“There were maybe about 50 of us. One by one he put his hand on our head, and I’m thinking NBA, right?” Shakoor remembers, “He got to me and said, ‘Man of God.’ I said, ‘No, you’ve got that wrong, you know, basketball player,’ and he said, ‘Man of God.’”
After that, everyone who was there that day, when they saw Shakoor they’d say, “There goes the preacher man, there goes the man of God!” But Shakoor still had his sights set on basketball.
Shakoor was a point guard. Along with the love and support of his parents, basketball was something he could rely on. School wasn’t easy for him. He failed the seventh grade.
“My teachers would say that I would never amount to anything. That I would be another black male incarcerated,” Shakoor said.
Shakoor got a scholarship to the University of Maine, where he earned a business degree. He even played on a USA Athletes International Basketball Team in Barbados. Shakoor was defying the predictions of his middle school teachers — that he’d end up as another African-American man in prison. But, he was nowhere near the prophecy of becoming a man of God. In fact, Hammond was struggling.
“I lived my life appeasing people, trying to fit in," Shakoor said. "I didn’t know who I was.”
In this story, we hear how Malik Shakoor overcome addiction, homelssness and the low expectations of his teachers in middle school.
Shakoor got help from someone who was living a life that Shakoor didn't know he wanted to emulate until he met this particular individual.
Shakoor’s story is a reminder of the positive impact one person can have on another if there is common ground between the two. Finding common ground is at the heart of what Shakoor tries to do every day with the men incarcerated at the prison in Shelton.