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Monday, May 18, 2015

The House of Stingin B Will Always Be Home

This was supposed to post on May 10, 2015, Mother’s Day.


Life is art. How could it be any less?  As I look out of this slit of a window, I see a single wasp diligently building its place to rest.  As this goes to press, the size of this insect domicile is no larger than the eraser at the tip of a No. 2 pencil.  

At this point, I welcome such an inviting spectacle of nature.  Although I am sure I will be cursing my obstructed view by the end of the summer.

Nature’s tireless work ethic will eventually be my blind spot, but will not handicap my view of the masterpiece before me.  I have to wonder if the builder of this dependable structure – crafted to withstand the elements of every season – will, in some way, be remembered by the future generations of insects claiming this to be their residency.  

This is the instinctive pattern of a wasp I speak of, but it is the actions of a “Stingin B” that makes this observation closer to a homecoming.

You see, “Stingin B” is a magnificent species of mother.  In my earliest years, my mental framework was molded by her survival intuitions. Throughout the stormiest of seasons Moms’ aptitude for providing refuge was impervious to the statistical demise of a four-year-old Mann losing his Dad to tragedy. 

I was nurtured with her love and groomed in the spirit of her community activism.  She stood toe-to-toe with the daily struggles of the urban parent-teaching me to embrace resistance at a time when most little boys my age were just figuring out how to pedal a Big Wheel.  Word is bond!!

By the time my proverbial wings were steady enough to take on the elements beyond the threshold of Stingin B’s domain, my course in this life was predestined for hardships.  It is the design behind Moms’ lessons that propels me to fulfill my purpose no matter how drastic the circumstances may appear. 

She is the author of my character.  Depending on who you ask, that could be good or bad.  I’ll admit I am not well-liked in the state of North Carolina, but thanks to Moms, I refuse to allow the next person’s negative perception of me to be an accurate testimony to my reality.

Much like the rigorous efforts of the wasp, Moms’ configuration of stability and self preservation continues to bear the reward of sanctuary for the offspring “buzzing” in her wake.  This is what home means to me.  Stingin B is not just a sobriquet for the matriarch of my fam.  It is a title of endearment that solidifies the spirit of moxie surging between mother and son.  I love you madly, Moms!

Happy Mother’s Day to you and all the matriarchs in this blogosphere.  Nana and Ms. Rissi, your presence in this realm is greatly missed.  

All the same, you have inspired generations of artists constructing their own masterpieces, which we commonly refer to as, ‘Home.’ Rest in peace.

One Love,

Copyright © 2015 by Leroy Elwood Mann

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Souls to be Fed


Recently, lawmakers of Salt Lake City, Utah proposed a bill that would reinstitute the firing squad as a solution to debates pertaining to the lethal injection cocktail.  

The ongoing litigation stemming from the lethal injection protocol is obviously getting the best of some chosen political leaders.  The facts exposing the misuse of capital punishment in this country are irrelevant when the blood lust for euthanizing a death row prisoner is at stake.  Give the people what they want, right?

Well, as a republican representative of the people anxious for state sanctioned murder, Paul Ray argues that a team of trained marksmen is faster and more humane that the drawn-out deaths involved when lethal injections go awry (e.g. Oklahoma and Arizona).  SMH.  Ideas must be bulletproof because that is one that should have been shot down long before it transitioned into words leaving the mouth of a state representative.

It is this type of closed-mindedness that often leads to the popular perception of death row prisoners being no more than soulless bodies awaiting the “justice” that will release them from their own misery.  This is why writing this particular article is somewhat equivalent to making the arsonist the fire chief.  

You see my current placement on North Carolina’s death row qualifies me as one of those “soulless bodies” anticipating a “humane” expiration by the hands of the state.  But I represent a demographic of death row prisoners maintaining famished souls – seeking nourishment through the platform of learning chess. 

Just follow my lead:
On 3/16/15, chess master, Mr. Eugene Brown returned to domicile of North Carolina’s so called “worst of the worst.” Not only did he bring masterful chess maneuvers and inspiring stories about his recent teachings at Howard University, he was accompanied by Revrend Reggie Longcrier, author of “From Disgrace to Dignity.” 

It’s a memoir about the life of a street hustler that refused to accept the cancellations created by anyone other than himself.  The good reverend makes it crystal-clear that cancellations have no place in a spirit-filled existence.

“Changes override cancellations.  You can’t let people tell you that there are cancellations in your life.  Only changes will be made.” Somehow, I can see myself in these cool “old-heads.” Two ex-offenders who got it together; figured it out and now relate so well with those who currently combat the desolate rooted with incarceration.  

The actions of these men are far from being gratuitous, while emblematic of their wisdom indoctrinating hope into the minds of future Lifers, as well as ex-offenders like themselves.

Mr. Eugene Brown speaks what I feel:  “Brothers leave the prison and never give anything back.” He even refers to his interactions with us as his “journey.” It is rare for a volunteer to engage so closely with death row prisoners. Whenever he takes a seat across the board from one of our chess representatives, the silence of the room screams a harmonious pitch that proves to be therapeutic for the volunteers and the prisoners alike.

A stalemate, resignation or checkmate is secondary to the feast enabling our souls to swell with the aspirations of becoming something more than a ward unable to see past the revolving doors of recidivism.  Every eye within that conference room collaborates in witnessing the history at hand.

“I want to talk to people that lived the life I lived.” Rev. Longcrier has an unmistaken affinity with death row prisoners.  In his early years of “doing time” he was mentored by prisoners released from the “death house.” The reverend’s words are my interpretation of giving the people what they want.  Someone’s great idea that remains bulletproof.  Let the fire burn!

Keepin it 100,

Copyright © 2015 by Leroy Elwood Mann

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Voices from the Row: A Word From the Wise

Mentor: A wise and trusted counselor or teacher.
American Heritage College Dictionary

In 2015 W2TM will be the reflection of men taking care of business by reaching out to the future.  Leadership should not be predicated on a spotlight’s center, or who stands at the podium.  

To lead means to teach.  Illuminating minds can transpire in the settings of a classroom, bus stop, hospital bed or a correspondence from a death row prison cell.

Too many times I have witnessed a man’s pride impede the progression of his teachings.  For some, teaching works hand-in-hand with learning; a teacher is a student as well.  For others, teaching can be a one-sided experience; head of the table and slicing the meat.  Otherwise, they will have no part in the feast at hand.

Throughout the course of time, youth has been synonymous with ignorance or misdirection.  As we look into these modern times it is apparent that these particular labels are not exclusive to the up and coming generations.  Today’s “elders” have proven on various occasions the actions which display ignorance and misdirection are not solely attributed to the early years of human existence.  

Callowness can last for a lifetime.  Therefore, the trusted counselors must step forth despite the inconvenience or belittlement of their present circumstance.  Whether it’s cutting meat at a supermarket; dispelling trash from the back of a garbage truck; standing in the midst of a snow laden prison rec yard; or assembling the podium for a selected leader.  Mentoring is essential to the furtherance of societal development.

John D. McNeil has endured the threat of North Carolina’s poisonous cocktail for nearly a quarter of a century.  He is the fixture of reliability within our death row community.  A comrade who has exercised mentorship on both sides of the wall, his words of enlightenment paint a clear picture of why a death row prisoner should not be excluded from the future construction of a free society’s landscape.

Always 100,

Copyright © 2015 by Leroy Elwood Mann

A Word From the Wise

In many families, both parents hold down jobs trying to keep up with the familial needs, house, car, and many other things.  

Parents tend to be so busy with their jobs or careers; it is too easy to overlook the fact that their children should be their top priority.  

They think giving a child money and gifts is a quick fix.  Children want love, attention, support and encouragement from their parents.  When they are deprived of this, it shows in their behavior.

When they don’t get their parents’ attention, children have been known to journey into unfamiliar places.  This is why it is important to establish a trustworthy friendship between yourself and the youngster through letters or conversation. 

When I get the opportunity to speak with a youngster who has turned from “the way,” I try to do my best to share my life experiences and how I wouldn’t want any of them to travel that path.

I tell them the truth and importance of getting a quality education.  Always encourage them to do their best and allow them to make decisions on their own.  Remember, a youngster mimics what he/she is close to. 

Sometimes mentors are the guiding force in shaping your child’s thoughts and moral standards.  If not, we have become the primary influence in the life of a youngster.  It means a lot to me when I’ve made a difference in the life of a child.

Peace and Blessings,

John D. McNeil
Copyright © 2015 by John D. McNeil

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Fear of Acceptance Volume 1

“Leroy Mann, I am giving you a direct order to push that buggy up the tunnel.”

It was June of 2002.  Most of the Unit 2’s death row occupancy had been transported to the much heralded $20 million facility, known as Unit 3.  

I was living on E-block at the time, and we were the last of the death row residency to be hauled into this pristine box of an existence.

For months I read about this “state of the art containment unit” in the newspapers.  It drew such a high degree of media coverage; some inmates convinced themselves the state’s intentions worked in favor of the death row prisoner.  Prior to the mass exodus from Unit 2, I overheard one inmate asking the unit manager, “how much longer before we go home?” Home?  This is what it’s come to?  The lair of your captors has subjugated your mental to conceive this unjustly placement as home.

This inquiry of defeatism tickled the unit manager similar to the way a skipper enjoys watching the fish jump out of the water and into his boat; if the fish are clueless to its new environment, it simply makes the skipper’s job that much easier.  These times have been tempestuous, and have put me down like a George Foreman right hook, but I’ll never lay face down on the canvas, and call it home.

“I’m not pushing that buggy.” The sergeant squinted her frog-like eyes at my anticipated defiance.  She knew this would be my responses before she volunteered me to push this trashcan dumpster – converted into a transport cart – for the personal property of the remaining E-block residents.

“Oh really?” Her tone indicated she took pleasure in my display of insubordination.  You see, once an officer resort to the term, “I am giving you a direct order,” you either comply, or you pay the $10 penalty that comes with inevitable time in “the Bing.” My mind was already set on the latter.

Moving to this new facility meant more than having a larger dayroom.  It means so much more than having our own canteen.  To me, this building represents the feather in the hats of politicians that want the public to believe there is a drastic need for the death penalty in this state.  This building is the embodiment of capital punishment weaving its way into acceptance.

The brief standoff between the sergeant and myself was interrupted by a male officer (the good cop).  “C’mon Leroy, just push the buggy so you won’t get in no more trouble man.” Trouble? That was the last thing going through my mind.  At that time, my thoughts were occupied with the retracing the steps of an 11 year old boy at Veteran’s Stadium in Philadelphia, standing stiff in the middle of a dark, dank jail cell – subjected to this same “good cop, bad cop” routine.

It was obvious the sergeant’s intent was to make an example of me.  In the weeks prior, she made it known that our Unit 2 lifestyle would not be tolerated in this new building.  She stressed boiling water or cooking our own food would trigger the fire alarm and sprinkler system.  Then there was the oversold hype about the security cameras.  Before the migration began, it was believed all movement was monitored; there was no privacy.  A closed door meant nothing.

“I ain’t pushing shit!”

Nuff Said...for now,

Copyright © 2015 by Leroy Elwood Mann