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Monday, January 19, 2015

The Darkest Hour Before the Dawn

“If I answered all criticism, I’d have time for nothing else.”
President Abraham Lincoln


Why are we so in tune with using a fast food drive thru rather than going inside of the establishment to order our food?  Have we forgotten the monumental “sit-in” of the Civil Rights era?  

Now tell me: at what point did sitting in the back of the bus become the general placement for the cool kids?  Without the legal ramification of being removed from the bus, we will by-pass the empty seats at the front and walk directly to the rear – subconsciously perpetuating the racial injustice that led to the infamous bus boycotts in Montgomery, Alabama during the 1960s.

At the age of 14, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. won an oratorical contest in Dublin, Georgia sponsored by the Negro Elks.  Ironically, the subject matter of his speech was “The Negro and the Constitution.” On the bus ride back to Atlanta, he and his schoolteacher, Mrs. Bradley, were forced to stand in the aisle for the duration of the 90 miles. 

The white bus driver insisted they give up their seats to white passengers.  In an interview with Playboy Magazine (1965), Dr. King describes that moment as the angriest he had ever been in his life.  Obviously, this was a dark period that preceded the dawn of the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycotts, and the historical achievements that labeled Ms. Rosa Parks as the first lady of the Civil Rights Movement. 

The darkest days these pioneers were forced to endure have made way for the dawn of a new era.  An era in which so many of us have elected to stem the progression of civil disobedience by rationalizing the plights of inequality and racial injustice as being the norm.

The persistence of a leader is what gets him/her through their journey.  A leader will reach their potential the best way they can.  It doesn’t matter if the road of travel is paved, riddled with potholes, or leads to a bridge road blocked by angry racist.  The leader will meet his/her destination because there is a purpose etched within their journey. 

In the process, a trail is blazed for upcoming generations to evolve – not regress.  As an elder of the “upcoming generations,” I am obligated to articulate the similarities between today’s platforms for activism (death penalty debate, culturally biased voter registration laws, and same sex marriage) and the quest for seeking equality under the umbrella of civil rights (integration of schools, local sit-ins, the right to vote and interracial marriage).

Dr. King’s legacy is the blueprint for being a societal thermostat; one who changes an environment and molds the popular opinion.  I do not have the luxury of discussing my personal journey with Dr. King, but for some reason I can hear him advising me through his words from 1965:

            “You can’t ride a man’s back unless it’s bent.”

I choose to walk upright as we embark on the 5th years of the W2TM journey.  This brand of journalism is an ongoing homage to the memory of the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his belief in nonviolence being a powerful and just weapon.  I am the change I wish to see in the world.

Peace and Love,

Copyright © 2015 by Leroy Elwood Mann

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Demise of a Transcript

My physical appearance is as simple as black and white.  What you see is who you’ve become.

I am a record that sets the tone for the rest of someone’s life, because whether they like it or not; I am their life.  It is me who decides whether they live or die.

My internal organs are the embodiment of the lies told by courtroom thespians, which periodically makes me a lifesaver when these flaws are discovered before the 11th hour. 

But where’s the fun in that?  I really enjoy being the decisive lie.  At times the pulse within my paragraphs enhance the sting of family secrets or failed relationships.

My retaliation to, No Justice! No Peace! Is inconspicuous compared to the fires burning in Ferguson, or an unoccupied cop cruiser being capsized by justice seekers. 

My sentences have stared into the eyes of the mightiest of men.  The tears I draw from their souls makes my print worthy of bestseller status. 

But there was something different – something oh so rare – on the last day I looked into the eyes of Willie Ervin Fisher.

You see, normally my appetite for disheartenment is satiated by the lack of a will to live.  Men will spend decades dissecting my words to no avail.  The realization of their fate is the unending feast to which I am always receptive. 

But there was hope in Fisher’s gape.  As he ripped me to shreds he looked as if what I had to say would not be the final word.  I could see his hopes for shedding the red jumpsuit for a medium custody placement.

I felt powerless as the weight of my existence decreased as he tore away at my deadly punctuations.  The sound of my dismantling drew the attention of his comrades, emotional supporters.

The truths behind their pupils stirred the exclamation within my remaining pages, then my power is restored.

I laughed as he attempted to console them.  His emotional supporters knew very well that my demise was the sound of his expiration. 

The pause for a pound and some kind words gave me time to decide which set of watery eyes would be my next “vic.”

Everyday I will be the replay of a man’s final judgment.

It’s just him and me behind the closed door, and a condemned man has no say; only my words count.

No one knows more than the transcript.

Still Livin’

Copyright © 2014 by Leroy Elwood Mann

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Voices From the Row: Scoring A Point


With every breath we take, there is a reason to be thankful for something.  I am thankful for my family, loved ones, and a support system made from old friends, new acquaintances, and the anonymous sector within the blogosphere, eager to experience the humanity encaged on North Carolina’s Death Row. 

I am especially thankful for the recent events (9/2/2014) that led to the release of Henry McCollum.  For the first time in 3 decades Henry will sit at a table – not made of steel – and give thanks for being a free man.

Mr. Blue will turn the page of this successful transition, to the chapter where scoring a point for the men who continue to fight for one more day is a story waiting to be told.  Feel me?


Copyright © 2014 by Leroy Elwood Mann

Scoring A Point

The spirit of the entire death row at Central Prison here in Raleigh, NC has been buoyed by the release of Henry McCollum, an innocent man wrongfully convicted and held under threat of death for 31 years.  We celebrate along with him and his family, a happy and joyous day. 

However, though the state of North Carolina was unsuccessful in their attempt to kill him, he was robbed of his life nevertheless.  He entered the penal system as an 18-year-old teenager, and leaves as a 50-year-old middle-aged man.

There was cursory coverage in the news media, but then it was quickly on to the next story.  However, this is a story of monumental importance, and will not be soon forgotten by lovers of justice around the world.

The evidence that eventually freed Mr. McCullom, affectionately known by all here on the row as Big Hen, was obvious 31 years ago.  He was sent off to die capriciously and maliciously, by a system that was supposed to protect him.  The district attorney in the case, defense lawyers, judge and jury are all culpable; their hands are dirty.  However, they will not be called to account for their actions.  The will not face even one day in jail after illegally confining an innocent man for 31 years.

So, while we celebrate Big Hen’s freedom, we do so with blood in our eye.  For we know that his case is not an anomaly. It is standard operating procedure in D.A. offices in every state to withhold evidence favorable to the defense, a violation of the United States Constitution. 

Prosecutors understand that they act with impunity, and where there is no accountability, there is recklessness.  To withhold evidence in any case is morally repugnant, to do so in a capital case is no less than attempted first-degree murder.  Prosecutors, who withhold evidence, act deliberately, willfully and with malice.

During interviews, conducted before and after he left death row, Big Hen said he was able to stay strong throughout his ordeal because of his faith in God.  He is an extraordinary profile in courage.

As we continue to struggle on here, we are encouraged by his example and that a bit more light has been shone upon another unscrupulous prosecutor attempting to do murder in the name of the people of the state of North Carolina; the worst of the worst indeed.

It is easy to understand how a man sentenced to die, told that his life is no longer worth living, no longer of value, isolated from society, cut off by friends and family, would give up all hope; but still, we fight.

At times during the volleyball tournament, tempers flare and points of contention are heatedly debated.  This is an example of the heart, conviction and passion in men, who in spite of decades of brutal oppression and injustice, have not given up.  When these issues are resolved at the net with integrity, humility, grace and mutual respect, score one point for humanity.

Score a point for men who look in the face of death daily, and don’t flinch, but are able to continue to live, learn, and grow; and fight for one more day, one more volley…

We thank Big Hen for the lesson, and we wish him well.  It’s more than just a game.

Mr. Blue
Copyright © 2014 by Paul Brown

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Voices From the Row: The First Noel


God. Family. Hope.

These are the three elements you will find in the following expression.  William C. Gregory, a.k.a. “Chris,” is back to spread some holiday cheer and share with this W2TM audience how humanity can thrive in the direst of circumstances. 

Although our families differ in names and bloodlines, “Chris” will always be my younger brother.  We discuss family dynamics regularly, so its only right that he feel like a member of everything I love.

Happy Holidays, Blogosphere!


Copyright © 2014 by Leroy Elwood Mann

The First Noel

“The best part of life is when your family become your friends and your friends become your family.” Robin Roberts (Good Morning America)

This quote rung true for me over the years.  I’ve spent 20 long weary years on N.C.’s death row.  I’ve met some really good men.  Some made huge mistakes in the heat of the moment; others were at the wrong place at the wrong time, while others were victims of circumstance. Whatever the case may have been, I’ve met some good brothers who I consider family!

Christmas is all about sharing time with loved ones, putting petty differences aside and enjoying the celebration of our Creator’s birth!  I had to celebrate with my family here.  Whether it’s breaking bread together over a meal we prepared ourselves or watching some NBA Christmas games, I’m still grateful for another Christmas each passing year.

Due to the circumstances I’m under, I know I’m not promised another Christmas to celebrate.  So I’ll cherish this Christmas as I have all others!

Our Maker took it upon His shoulders to redeem all of humanity and creation to Himself.  He prepared the way, that Jesus, His one and only begotten son, could reconcile all future generations into His heavenly kingdom.  So as you sit around this Christmas enjoying the festivities, let’s not forget to prepare room in your hearts for the One whose holiday this represents!

The birth of our savior born in a lowly manger.  Continue to keep your eyes posted on the bright morning star.  He gives hope to the hopeless; love to the broken hearted; joy to the broken spirit and peace to the weary!

Every Christmas, the radio stations play a variety of Christmas songs.  My favorite song is by Nat King Cole “The Christmas Song.”  It really brings so many fond memories to my soul.  As I close, may it spark a fond memory for you as well!

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,
Jack Frost nipping at your nose.
Yule tide carols being sung by a choir,
And folks dressed up like eskimos.
Everybody knows,
A turkey and some mistletoe,
Helps to make a season bright,
Tiny tots with their eyes all a glow,
Will find it hard to sleep tonight.
They know Santa’s on his way
He’s loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh!
And every mother’s child is going to spy
To see if reindeer really know how to fly.
And so I’m offering you this simple phrase.
To kids from 1 to 92
Although its been said
Many times, many ways,
Merry Christmas to you!!

Have a wonderful Christmas celebration Rochelle, Daveante, Deuce, Tear, Mr. & Mrs. Dabney, D, Nyse, Deb and all of the blogosphere!!  May the coming New Year be bright and filled with good health.

Peace and Blessings,

William C. Gregory
Copyright © 2014 by William C. Gregory