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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,

MannofStat
Copyright © 2015 by Leroy Elwood Mann

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Painfully Aware that Change is Seasonal

Painting by Lamar Whidbee

I continue to be amazed by the progression of W.O.R.D. to the Masses.  Reaching the five year anniversary is a monumental accomplishment.  

This labor of love and struggle against capital punishment by Leroy Elwood Mann, both humbles and inspires me.  His work has gained the support of prominent individuals in the fight against capital punishment.  

I always knew Leroy was capable of great things.  As the late Dr. Maya Angelou says, "When you know better, you do better." Leroy is living that reality everyday of his life.  Congratulations on five years Lump.  Keep pushing that pen.

Rochelle
Editor-In-Chief
--------------------------------------

Congratulations on 5 years W2TM!!


Hotep,

Changes in this world are as common as a Black Friday sale causing the “civilized” consumer to loose their wits.  As analogous as this may sound, the Black Friday shopping fits will probably NEVER change.  As these shoppers have remained true to their annual tradition, a monumental degree of change has transpired within these past 5 years. 

It’s no doubt I continue to be mesmerized by the sight of an orange-colored full moon gracing a 7:08 p.m. sky.  And yes, watching the sun set on my side of this compound remains essential.  Nature symbolizes change but it is the nature of a select few that seem to make the sunshine a little brighter on the men shaded by reproof.

2014 birthed events that embodies the ray of hope spreading across the gloomy horizon of North Carolina’s statuesque positioning on capital punishment:
  •      In late February, the Hidden Voices Foundation forged a union with our literary ensemble team FFLOW.  Together we paint a clear picture of how an entire society is merely 6 degrees of separation from capital punishment.
  •      Henry McCollum took giant steps from the row, to the streets after serving 30 years for a murder he did not commit.
  •      Chess King, Eugene Brown made himself to be an illuminating fixture in the low visibility of North Carolina’s basement; death row.  A place where hopelessness decimates the will to push forward, when the opposing army has you outnumbered.  Through the game of chess one thing is clear: the game doesn’t end until the KING can no longer make moves.  Ya heard?

I take pride in being a part of this embodiment of change.  At the same time, I am painfully aware that relations between young black men and law enforcement officers hasn’t changed much since the birth of the Civil Rights movement. 

While so much progress comes about in a place where men are sentenced to die, futures are atrophied by the fear behind a badge and the programmed racism that sparks a trigger finger, which inevitably precipitates the expiration of dreams.  Feel me?

More change arrived in the form of a website (http://noexceptions.net ), in which North Carolina’s death row displays a collective voice.  This is a groundbreaking experiment that should keep tele-ologists glued to the screens of their laptops. 

And, as they absorb the realness of our humanity, I am painfully aware that I have been locked up so long the birthday and Christmas cards become reruns.  The days behind this wall haven’t gotten any easier, but life has not been easy for the families of Troy Davis, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner either.  The struggle that parallels us is unchanging.

Five years I’ve been blogging!  Who knew?  Much has changed, but more remains the same.  I’m still wearing a red jumpsuit.  My Moms’ pretty smile remains untouchable and I still have yet to meet my grandseeds.  I am painfully aware that this is my life. 

However, my ever-growing support system has revealed the heart of change, and my life becomes more purposeful every time I pick up this pen.  December 18, 2014 was a heartfelt conclusion to a year’s worth of progression.  Much love to the staff of Hidden Voices for making that possible. 

A very special appreciation goes to my Editor-in-Chief, the amplifier to my microphone, Rochelle.  Your belief in my purpose has attributed to a cyber existence that is changing the general perception of capital punishment.  We’ve got 5 years in, and more change to come.  Expect the unexpected.
 
100,

MannofStat
Copyright © 2015 by Leroy Elwood Mann

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Being the Architect of My Real Identity



Hotep,

July 14, 2016 is the expiration date on my current prison I.D.  Whenever I make a canteen purchase I am reminded – not only of this date – but the mustard colored box beneath this date, which displays the letters, F-E-L-O-N.  A distasteful branding that accompanies a number by which I am identified by people who never knew me in the first place.  My head takes a proverbial spin at the mere thought of someone expecting me to accept this state – induced identity crisis.

My written words can only leave this prison compound under the condition that the number, 0255136, is included in the return address.  And as if that wasn’t degrading enough, all mailing envelopes are stamped with the words, “Mailed from Central Prison.” A state tactic that may embarrass family members or loved ones while your existence within the box becomes the elephant in the room; an unspoken truth in social circles that you, yourself, once deemed as intimate company. 

In some cases, an attempt to humanize one’s self to complete strangers (lawyers, judges, pen pals and churches) is predetermined by the specification on the outside before the dynamism of the sender is revealed within the pages on the inside.

All throughout history, lineage is identified by names.  Royalty is yoked to a name.  A name is a person’s title.  A name is how generations to come will discern our accomplishments.  To be stripped of our names when entering the system, is no different than emancipated slaves losing all rights as citizens for breaking the law. 

Whether it be the 17th century or the 21st; chattel or Neo-slavery, this dehumanizing practice perpetuates the low self esteem and inferiority complexes that wash away potential before the seed of enlightenment is sowed within the soil that bears diligence and knowledge of one’s purpose.  Once the name has been replaced with a number, you become nothing more than a file to the eyes of society.

I am non-receptive of the barcode by which the state of North Carolina chooses to identify me as, but I embrace this degree of adversity because it has introduced me to my true self; the MannofStat.  An identity that debunks the deeply despised brand the state has stamped onto my existence.  Years before I started blogging.  I would chronicle the annual death row basketball tournament through a weekly commentary. 

It sparked a flame within the morale of the row and it gave me an opportunity to memorialize my fallen comrade, Earl J. Richmond, a.k.a. “E.” Officers as well as inmates enjoyed the commentary that was somehow bridging the gap between the two sides.  At the same time I was chronicling a more personal account of history through a series of essays and monologues I referred to as, W.O.R.D. to the Masses.  This is who I am.

With executions in North Carolina being held in abeyance since 2006, I find it disturbing that the various flaws within our justice system are gradually being acknowledged, yet the mainstream media satire continues to identify me as a monstrous killer.  I shared this displeasure with my brother, during a recent visit (non-contact).  As always, his guidance recalibrated my focus:

“To be a catalyst for change you gotta rise before you shine.”

Writing for the love of it, is how this came to be.  The decades of being locked away, in this basement will prove to be essential to the ascent of a Mann that is the architect of progression, a stimulus to detractors of capital punishment.  Get to know me.

Always 100,

MannofStat
Copyright © 2015 by Leroy Elwood Mann

Sunday, February 15, 2015

What We Really Know


Hotep,

Wisdom.  Why is it’s meaning such a complex topic of discussion?  In my early years, Wisdom was defined as, “one who knows all.” 

As an adult I understand that only my Creator can hold claim to such a feat.  No man can know everything, and knowing everything is not exclusive to religion, science, or politics.

To say a person is wise beyond their years would imply this person is knowledgeable of things they have yet to experience.  Reading is fundamental, which makes such a statement plausible.  In my experience, knowledge, wisdom and understanding began with the female anatomy.  I was always aware of the difference between a girl’s body and my own. 

I routinely referred to their breasts as ‘hearts,’ a terminology that won favor with the women in my family, but my brother expeditiously corrected this flaw of believing females possessed three hearts.  From that day forth, I knew their bounce had nothing to do with a heartbeat.

As a teenager, I absorbed all of the knowledge within conversations between my brother and his friends, about male and female relations.  With this smidgen of knowledge, I thought I was before my time; wise beyond my years; a legendary playa in the making. 

The females would be outmatched when in my presence.  Well, on more than one occasion I learned that wisdom should have been knowing that a condom, is not solely for the use of pregnancy prevention.  Trust me, acting on “burning” emotions without the benefit of intellect is not wisdom.

Today, as a mature adult, I see wisdom wherever I choose to place my focus.  Wisdom can be buried beneath the consequences of one’s actions.  Or, it could be found under the ruins of a church bombing and continuously resonates through the names of four little girls: Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley.  Wisdom is what perpetuates the memory of how ugly racism can truly be and that all that really matters is love.  It really does conquer all.

Who says I’m locked away with no key insight?  Writing has opened doors that I never knew were there; doors that have liberated my soul and replenished my perspective on life.  Wisdom is the pulse of my liberation.  And, that is all I know.

Hoping You Enjoyed Your Valentine’s Day,

MannofStat
Copyright © 2015 by Leroy Elwood Mann