This has been a year where the golden rants from my soul were not exclusive to my W2TM audience. Your support has been phenomenal, but here is the other side of my expressions appearing on your screens:
On 12/18/14, Lynden Harris and her Hidden Voices team shared an incredible holiday meal with us; string beans sautéed in a mouth-watering sauce, sweet potato and egg plant pies, turkey, homemade chocolate chip cookies, and dark chocolate that was so hard it had to be cut with a knife. Word is bond.
Lynden gave each of us gift-wrapped writing paper and ink pens. Needless to say, these gifts didn’t last long. I went through the paper before spring was in the air, and I am writing this entry with a state-issued BiC. Real talk.
It felt good to sit at a table eating with a fork and knife while taking my time and engaging in some wholesome conversations with good people.
We began the New Year with a project in which we created individual life maps. My map resembles a Monopoly board. I call it Concrete Exposure – a hard life. This exhibit – along with copies of our Lethal Injection magazine – were featured at the Re-visioning Justice Conference, at Vanderbilt University this past April. It was monumental!
Our exhibits were a hit, and caught the eye of a top tier criminal defense attorney named Bryan Stevenson. In hindsight, I can clearly see it was inevitable for he and I to share the same space. Feel me?
My Born Day (7/22/15) was simply incredible. I hailed victorious at our inaugural Story Slam. I performed a piece called, Between the Lines. Telling a story about my teenage ambition to win my first trophy caught the ears and eyes of accomplished writer/novelist, Allan Gurganus, another golden moment where my soul was freed from bondage. Ya heard?
On 8/17/15, I met Bryan Stevenson. I stood before him and performed one of the most powerful pieces I have ever written. The experience was surreal. I stumbled over my words in the first stanza, but Reverend Ann Beck preached a sermon the day before titled, “Redo.” And that is exactly what I did.
It felt like I fumbled the ball at my own first yard line; recovered it; then ran the distance of 99 yards to “pay dirt.” Everyone was screaming, touchdown!! Afterwards, Bryan Stevenson autographed a copy of his book, Just Mercy, for me:
With respect, appreciation and hope for justice. Keep your eyes on the prize. Hold on!
This holiday season is already something special for me. The fall session began with six students from Duke University being added to my creative writing Fam. We have been reading and discussing the literary works of James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Richard Wright and M. Nourbese Philip.
We are a circle of friends defying the odds. Chris, Caleb, Megan, David, Zack and Mike bring a presence to our class that is a gift wrapped in words. Asante Sana my friends!
By the time this goes to press, six death row prisoners (Team FFLOW) will share their lives in a play called, Serving Life. It is an incredible way to close out a life-changing year. I’ll tell you all about it in 2016. Happy Holidays!
Copyright © 2015 by Leroy Elwood Mann