Leroy Mann's Scalawag Magazine Article

Monday, November 7, 2016

Freedom Is…


Opening my eyelids without the pain of a sore sight.
That’s what freedom is…
Freedom, is finding a new approach
To an old dream,
Remaining true to self in the process.
Yeah, that’s what freedom is…

It is the truth exhaled through literary expression
Or the knowledge that written words can be erased
But ones that are spoken can never be taken back.

Reading… Writing… Running:
Exercise of escaping the prison plantation.
Using the leaves from trees to be heard
Rather than hanging from its branch without a last word.
Feel me?

The recognition of a freedom writer
The commitment to doing what was once prohibited
For my kind,
Speaking my heart and mind, that’s freedom.

See, this writing thing is no gimmick; it’s resistance,
That goes beyond penmanship.
Every word represents the blood I deny my captors

Every syllable symbolizes another heartbeat that
Escapes them, who see me as no more than livestock.
Damn right! I got something to say.

As long as my vision has focus
I’ll be the eye of the storm.
Just give me one breath and I can resuscitate
The embodiment of reform.
That’s what freedom looks like.

The 3rd strike ain’t right,
But neither is the 2nd or 1st
When the worst of the worst
Is handing down sentences
And putting babies behind fences
Decimating their malnourished mental defenses,
Leaving families as slaves to the penal system.

I know what freedom is,
It’s the words I have to say.
I know where freedom is,
At this point, I’d rather show than tell,
So I’ll see you when I get there.

Copyright © 2016 by Leroy Elwood Mann

Thursday, October 13, 2016

To The Moon and Back

People are funny.
When life is sweet, oh what a treat!
Everyone wants a big slice of that.
Lots of laughs, joyous hugs, the festive moods seem to be unending.

But when the last bite is gone,
Nothing there but a plate full of reality,
The supporters and well-wishers become health conscious.
No one wants a slice of that life.

Your world may have potential,
Humans who never knew you begin to see evolution is inevitable,
They come forth with a mouth full of smiles
And bearing ostentatious credentials.

They all want to explore that axis until the
Rotations are no more
Life stands still for some but there is the
Luxury of departure for others.
My Moms is an alien, Yo.  She got to be an alien.

I have intentions that are genuine, yet difficult for the human eye to see.
My role in this life seems to be,
That of a castaway living amongst a lost colony.

An environment where love is a parasite
Foreign to the air we share
But somehow gestates within the breath of a few.
My Moms is an alien Yo.  Does that make me one too?

Nearly deceased at birth,
I was an emergency C-section.
Removed from the ailing womb of an alien
Who refused to leave this space.

Her will to live was passed down to me.
I wonder if her fellow celestial beings can see that.
I wonder if they have record of her newborn
Growing strong enough to take his first steps.

Have they recorded her offspring riding a
Big Wheel with reckless abandon?
Pedal a bike without the aid of training wheels?
Pushed the pedal of a rental car enroots to
His senior prom?

And eventually being condemned to die,
Under her watchful eye,
By the indigenous of this watery planet.

Moms always went against the grain.
From her days of community activism
To the stain on her last names; Mann.

The name at the top of a death certificate
Is the same name given to me.
The pitfalls within life’s terrain didn’t make
Living so easy.

Many humans have tried to discredit Moms
But they could only make her my inspiration.
“I love you to the moon and back.”
Is how she concludes our visits and phone

Is this just some old saying?
Or, is it a reminder that she is not from here?
My Moms is an alien, Yo.
I guess that makes me on E.T.

Dying to get back home.

Happy Birthday Stingin' Bee!
I love you to the moon and back Moms.

Copyright © 2016 by Leroy Elwood Mann

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Contact: No Longer Long Distance

Seminal – highly influential in an original way; constituting or providing a basis for further development.
The American Heritage College Dictionary

It is 3,000 miles and various barriers of concrete, steel and Plexiglas impeding any physical contact between myself, and the tribe that bears my last name.  

Regular access to a telephone allows me to feel closer to my son and his beautiful family.

For example, on July 23, 2016, I experienced the celebratory crescendo of my granddaughter’s (Tear) 4th birthday.  

Now, the actual date of her born day is July 20th, but the festivities that put a smile on my face took place on the following Saturday.  And let me tell you; I would never have thought a four year old’s birthday party could get so “crunk.”

It was simply incredible talking to my son and his wife, while hordes of children were enjoying themselves in pure amusement park fashion.  My inaugural G-Dad born day song was merely an appetizer to this grand event.  SMH, LOL.

Two weeks later, I was on the phone with my son while he attended my grandson’s (Deuce) Pop Warner football game.  Again, the liveliness of children in the background helped me to feel closer to this familial experience, when the long distance has been known to be a primary factor in excluding loved ones from such events.  

Long distance may blind the eyes, but the heart soaks in a clear view of the cycle of life that becomes a landmark within my family history.

My soon-to-be eight-year-old grandson loves the sport of football.  I am told he is one of the better players on his team (The Cerittos Steelers), and he doesn’t shy away from contact.  

In a sport that is plagued by violent contact, my chest expands with pride when his father tells me that “Lil’ Mann” embraces every aspect of the sport.

In our postgame conversation, I asked “Lil’ Mann” if he scored any touchdowns.  Without the slightest hint of embarrassment he replied, “No. I had some tackles.” I wondered if he could feel my smile through the phone.

“I love you Lil’ Mann”
“I love you too.” 
What a Mann!

Happy Born Day Deuce!!

Your brief existence is seminal to an old Mann who feels much closer to you when the long distance is no longer an issue.  I love you.

Copyright © 2016 by Leroy Elwood Mann

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Rehabilitation Trumps Mass Incarceration, Recidivism and Capital Punishment


I was talking to my son while he was preparing my grandson for football practice.  The sound of his fatherhood continues to instill a great sense of pride within my being.  At the same time, when I hear his fatherly instructions, and my grandson’s obedient responses, I become overwhelmed by the reality of my political handicap.

Capital punishment and mass incarceration cripples a free society with the psychological effects of knowing one poor decision can lead to spending the rest of your life living in captivity.  Everyone you know and love continues to thrive – making new memories day-after-day, while your eyes and ears absorb the same walls and routines of day-to-day life inside of the box.

Once the gates close and the steel doors are locked, failure eats away at any aspirations to be more than your circumstance, similar to a terminal illness deteriorating its host.  There are no light switches, thermostats, or windows for me to control.  Prison extracts that most minute forms of independence – making success seem like a distant pipe dream.

Prison rarely grants the opportunity to unleash success from the shackled grips of failure.  As a first time offender, I long for the second chance to show the most extreme failures can entail progression.  Rehabilitation for death row prisoners in North Carolina is unsettling to a society who trusts that their political leaders’ core values are what fuels the potent engine of justice.

These same leaders ignite their megaphones and political platforms with the malarkey of capital punishment being a justifiable deterrent to crime: the need to kill, in order to prevent murder.  They will convince their constituents that it is more suitable to build more prisons than schools. 

Underplaying schoolteachers while cops get a pass for escalating black death rates.  If our kids are not being taught properly; if they’re not staying in school, they are destined to join the ever-growing population of mass incarceration.  Some will even meet the demise of a poisonous cocktail that the twisted political leaders will promulgate as humane.

Looking at the free-world from a slit five inches high, I can clearly see the generations of my son and grandson resisting defeat while in the sights of capitalists eager to fill up their prison spaces.  Death row prisoners, on the other hand, know the disappointment of defeat, yet some have proven rehabilitation through prison programs like: social psychology, creative writing, journalism, and the chess club.

In most cases, success is stimulated by failure.  The best way to understand success is to know that it is subjective.  The successes of Barack Obama, Michael Jordan and Jay-Z are templates of what can be accomplished when your work ethic speaks louder than your proclamations. 

In life, we all fail to some degree.  As my grandson takes the field for his Pop Warner football team, I am inclined to see that he can drop a pass, and then come back to the huddle for the very next play.  If he stumbles before making a tackle, he can still recover to make a game-saving stop.

However, some prisoners take their place in the stadium of outside competition – winning through our diligence to change the game.  Others may choose to sit in the parking lot, listening to the game on the radio.  To fail, and end up in prison, could mean the end of your opportunities to fail again.

Stay Up,

Copyright © 2016 by Leroy Elwood Mann