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Monday, October 20, 2014

It’s Like a Jungle Sometimes, Volume 3: 1st Mann


I consider myself to be deeply in tune with nature.  You know, the outdoors type nature; trees, birds, sky, etc.  But there are some days and nights when I choose not to see nature through the prison’s version of a window.  

I’ve come to the conclusion these slits within the concrete walls can have a psychological effect on a Mann in tune with nature. 

I mean, the ‘window’ is so small; it makes the visual experience of nature an extreme task-filled with limitations.  So, on those days and nights, I turn away from the visual sensation that nature has to offer.  I tend to lean on my mind’s eye, and relive the moments that my human nature was influenced by the nature I kept inside a box.

Asthma was a part of my nature, in the early years of my existence.  The dander of traditional pets, such as cats, dogs, hamsters and gerbils were forbidden to a lil’ Mann with asthma.  I wanted a pet that I could form a bond with, so fish were out of the question. Na mean?

Somehow my older brother, ‘D’ and I convinced my Moms to allow me to have a boa constrictor.  I was the only cat in the hood with a snake draped around my neck.  Kids my age were in awe of my connection to “Larry Boa” (snake’s name).  Adults would walk to the other side of the street whenever the 9 year old wrapped in boa coils, took to the sidewalk.  LOL.  I guess I don’t have to tell you that I was considered as a weird kid.  SMH.

I decided to enter “Larry Boa” into my school’s science fair.  I came in 3rd place, although I really expected to win.  I mean, some girls with a flowerbed, and some cat named Roberto (8th grader), beat me out.  By the way, Roberto made a volcano that spewed lava.  I can’t front; it was tight, but in no way did it eclipse the feeding of “Larry Boa.” SMH.

The entire science fair came to a halt when I dropped a white rat into the snake’s tank.  All eyes were on “Larry Boa,” as he snatched, squeezed and swallowed the unsuspecting rat.  Even the eyes of the catholic nuns assigned as judges.  Hence, my 3rd place blue ribbon.  For some odd reason, the nuns believed that I was going to feed Larry corn. HIA (hands in air).

The natural order of nature’s food chain is exactly what it’s supposed to be, natural.  But exhibiting this type of nature in a catholic school science fair might not be such a good idea.  Feel me?  I’ll never forget “Larry Boa.” He was a pet like no other.  

Possessing his nature made me an oddity, but it also made me the first in my bloodline to engage with nature in such an unorthodox fashion.  Today, owning a snake is almost commonplace, but I now understand what it’s like to be the nature locked inside the box.  Totally unnatural.  Ya heard?

Still Livin,’

Copyright © 2014 by Leroy Elwood Mann

Sunday, October 12, 2014

It’s Like a Jungle Sometimes, Volume 2: What is the Antidote?


Does it not seem odd that humans will make movies about animals in order to better understand themselves?  I’d find it extremely difficult to ignore the parallel of animals in cages, and humans locked away in prison.

If you haven’t seen, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” I strongly suggest you do so.  This film exhibits the gruesome undertones of living inside of a box, and allowing your circumstance to be the deciding factor in who you were meant to be.

Why would any being grow content with 3 hots, a cot and the “privilege” of going to the rec yard for 1 hour a day?  Life just wasn’t meant to be that simple. Na mean?

A pivotal scene in this film was the primate exchange between Caesar and the circus orangutan.  Caesar’s “Cookie rocket” tactics was their topic of discussion.  

The orangutan couldn’t ingest the concept of Caesar having the intelligence – as well as the desire – to escape their “sanctuary,” but instead, settling for the pilferage of his captor’s chocolate chip cookies.

I’m inclined to believe the writer of this script saw the significance in knowing and embracing your purpose.  This particular writer was also well aware of the differences between aggressiveness and the natural instinct to protect those whom we love.  A very clever means of displaying the human flow of fearing what we don’t understand.  Feel me?

This is a movie in which a chocolate chip cookie was used as a tool to form an alliance amongst potential foes.  Only in Hollywood, right?  Well, dig this: twice a year, several churches donate baked cookies to the prison: a gesture of identifying the humanity that has been forgotten by many.  I’m most appreciative of this gesture.

Some residents will make it their business to get the heads up on the unannounced deliveries of these cookies.  For some reason, the chocolate chip cookies are always in high demand.  So, there’s rarely enough to go around, and with anything in prison, if there’s not enough for everyone, then nobody should get any.  Believe me, this is no code of mine.  It’s just something I’ve witnessed during my time in this box.

Most prisoners simply accept the peanut butter and sugar cookies offered.  And then there’s the handful of inmates more than willing to come to a compromise for the distinguished consumption of a chocolate chip cookie.  

If this compromise was a means of showing others that a cookie is simply a cookie – through the gesture of sharing – their compromise would rarely be seen as an allegiance to the provider of this sugary treat.  It would more so be embraced as a diligent act to taint the overflow of selfishness with the antidote of giving.

Why is chocolate chip such a big deal?  It’s not the antidote to our reproof.  The genuine gestures of a church shouldn’t be so easily road blocked by the complexities of “one-upmanship.” The chocolate chip cookie is merely a metaphor to our reality. 

So I ask; what is your chocolate chip cookie, Blogosphere?  Are you using it as a resource to teach others how to view a much bigger picture, in the direst of circumstances?  Or, are you just taking the bag and chalking it up as just another come-up?

In any case, the chocolate chip cookie seems to go a long way.  Word is bond!

Still Livin,’

Copyright © 2014 by Leroy Elwood Mann

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Its Like a Jungle Sometimes…Volume 1


“Wilderness & Razorwire: A naturalist’s observation from prison” is a gift to anyone behind the wall, deeply in touch with the life forms existing around them.  Reading the works of Ken Lamberton, and all his talk about nature, has got me open like a window.  Na mean?

My “Boss Lady” spent two years on assignment in Kenya.  Living on the continent of Africa – The Motherland – has been a lifelong dream of hers.  It’s been a blessing for both of us.

You see, she understands my connection to nature, and knows that I’m deeply fascinated with lions.  So, she sent me some pics from her day (12 hours), touring the Kenyan safari.

The lion is a beautiful species of feline. The battle scars of a lion’s maturation can be an artful display – depending on how you look at it.  Battle scars give a history.  Living to grow a full mane is an accomplishment within itself.  But it’s an accomplishment that bears its fair share of battle scars.  Feel me?

Even with a baldhead, my soul bears a full mane – groomed in spirituality.  I wear my emotional and physical battle scars with pride, as I etch my footprints in this jungle of an existence.  Know that!

The lions in these pics look nothing like the lions I’ve seen at the zoo or circus.  These lions are in touch with their environment.  They walk with pride’ not shame.  Captivity is foreign to them.  

To be fed by human hands would be the ultimate disrespect to these lions of the Kenyan Maasai Mara.  The human logic is not applied to the dietary habits of these lions.  They eat WHATEVER they want; a gazelle, an impala, or even the occasional water buffalo.

Well fed.  Walking on paws of thunder and balanced by a tail that resembles a steel cable.  These lions are the undisputed kings of the beasts.  It’s simply their nature.  Ya heard?

Some may ask: how does this analogy play out?  How do you maintain the wildness and commanding presence while you are incarcerated?  Simply put; I remain sucka-free, because every eye can’t see, even if they are zoomed in on me.  My mental knows no shackles!  Word is bond!!

My paws of thunder will push this pen and pound the soils of the blogosphere, until the human hands that attempt to break my spirit recognize that I refuse to walk in shame.  I’m well fed on life experience and it’s simply in my nature to hold my place at the top of the survivor’s food chain.

This is my free mind at work, Dr. Kuhns.  Your mission.  My mission.  Our journey.  The roadblocks ahead have already been dismantled by the Creator and quenched the bonfires surrounding our paths.  That’s what’s real!!!


Copyright © 2014 by Leroy Elwood Mann

Monday, September 29, 2014

Voices from the Row: Justice Served?

 Henry Lee McCollum is a free man now.  Being forced to spend 1 year on death row would be a haunting experience for anyone knowing their conviction was tainted by racism, prosecutorial misconduct, and a judge’s abuse of discretion.  

How does a mentally disabled man, in his 50’s shake the injustice of serving 30 years on N.C.’s death row, and move forward with his life as if justice has been served?

Henry’s circumstance is proof that the N.C. justice system is broken, and de facto moratoriums or commuted sentences becoming life without parole, are the results of the metaphorical judiciary broom –sweeping the shards of injustice beneath the hem of the black robes overseeing these lopsided court proceedings – advocating state sanctioned murder.

Published author, Lyle C. May has taken the initiative to speak out against this particular brand of injustice.  The following words were sent to the Raleigh News & Observer’s editorial section, known as the “People’s Forum” just in case his truth don’t make the black and white of the local newspaper, the masses will remain privy to our (the condemned) side of what is being labeled as Justice Served.

Still Living,

Copyright © 2014 by Leroy Elwood Mann


People’s Forum
News& Observer
P.O. Box 191
Raleigh, NC 27602

September 4, 2014

Dear Sir or Madam,

This letter exceeds the word limit for the People’s Forum.  Considering the nature of, and perspective on the subject, it is my hope you will waive the limit this time.

On September 2, 2014, after spending 30 year on death row, a travesty of justice was averted when Henry Lee McCollum was acquitted of the 1983 rape and murder of Sabrina Buie.  Henry’s brother, Leon Brown, was also acquitted of the rape and released.  Had it not been for Brown’s 2009 application to the NC Innocence Inquiry Commission, Henry McCollum would still be on death row.

In fact, had it not been for the connection between the two brothers in the Buie case, the commission would not have reviewed Henry’s part.  For some inane reason, the commission cannot investigate death penalty cases until a prisoner’s appeals have been exhausted and the defendant files a claim.  

The problem with this is, when a death row prisoner exhausts his or her appeals, they are executed.  How incredibly fortunate for Henry there has been a de facto moratorium on the death penalty in North Carolina since 2007.

This one was too close.  As it stands, Henry and Leon had their youth stolen from them by overzealous, blind SBI agents, impressionable jurors, ineffective attorneys and a prosecutor who brags about his oratory power to persuade people rather than relying upon the facts or evidence in a case.  How many more cases on death row are just like Henry McCollum’s?  This is not an aberration; his is the eighth acquittal on N.C.’s death row.

The difference between the previous seven acquittals and Henry is that an objective commission had a hand in clearing Henry and Leon of any wrongdoing.  The first seven had to rely on their appellate attorneys and the minimal resources available to them.  

One wonders why Henry’s attorneys after three decades, were incapable of freeing him; or why, with a little bit of digging, exculpatory DNA evidence was so easily found by the commission.  These questions may seem complex, but they underline a common problem with many appellate attorneys who represent death row prisoners: the bare minimum is the status quo.

In Henry’s case the bare minimum in 1991 put him back on death row after a new trial.  His attorney of the moment, tried to coerce Henry to confess to a crime he did not commit.  This is inexcusable.  With so many people against indigent, intellectually challenged defendants like Henry McCollum, it’s a miracle this man made it home alive.  All glory to God indeed, Henry.

Christine Mumma, Executive Director or the NC Center for Actual Innocence, mentioned some lessons learned from the exoneration of Henry McCollum.  What the public needs to be aware of is that the horrible circumstances of injustice in the Buie case are a culture in North Carolina death penalty cases, not some isolated event.  

Maybe, if the Innocence Commission were to work in conjunction with appellate attorneys to defend their clients, 31-year prison terms by innocent men can be avoided.  At the very least the commission can demonstrate what it means to be true representatives of justice.


Lyle C. May
Copyright © 2014