Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Just a Touch of Becoming

What am I becoming, when I’ve grown more accustomed to fanning flies than shaking someone’s hand?

What have I become when I am overwhelmed by the emotional breakdowns conceived by restricted contact, and a familial touch is just inches away?

“Love is just a touch away.” The sentiment behind these words helped me to endure the mental fatigue of my naval training, in the early stages of becoming an independent adult.  As I listened to the legendary crooner, Freddie Jackson, express the heartfelt lyrics, I began to understand the weight of something as small as a goodnight kiss; a key element that would be extracted from my life for the next three months.

My brief stay in Great Lakes, Illinois was an experience that taught me to appreciate my connection to the people who knew me as I have known them.  My fam and my hood showed their support for me as I engaged in what I thought would be the longest 3 months of my life.  The phone calls, the homemade chocolate chip cookies, the many scribes and around the way pics were all constant reminders that I wasn’t facing my challenge alone.

What have I become when I begin to miss the touch of the grandseeds I have yet to meet?

Prison has seemed like an obstacle course.  Over the years, I’ve endured the emotional jabs and dropkicks that this life has to offer: living behind the Plexiglas.  Showering inside of a cage, or merely existing in a room that some may find too small to be a suitable closet, has been known to groom a person in hopelessness, cynicism and self-hate.

The state of North Carolina has stalled execution protocols for the past 10 years (8/18/06).  Within that timeframe, some death row residents have excelled in a variety of programs and the positive results have left prison administrators in awe.  In a general population setting, similar programs are used to nurture the rehabilitative qualities of someone a parole board would deem as an asset to society.

Who am I when the tracks of a tear have no place in a pain-stricken life cycle?

Should a hard life require the condemned to be without feelings?

The death row housing unit is not on lockdown status.  We walk to and from the prison’s dining facility 3 times a day, without escort.  Medical appointments and day-to-day interaction with prison staff is a reality that does not require the bonds of shackles or handcuffs.  And, it should not go unmentioned that former warden, Kenneth Lassiter – now Deputy Director of Operations – was quoted in a WRAL T.V. 5 interview as saying, “death row has the lowest disciplinary infraction rate in the prison.”

Given the opportunity, death row prisoners in North Carolina, have/will continue to develop a culture where humanity blooms at a pace that is more conspicuous than the red jumpsuits we wear.  As a spokesperson for this culture, I feel compelled to make this push toward the evolution of death row prisoners receiving bi-monthly contact visits.

In a state where capital punishment has proven to be flawed and archaic, I am unable to experience the gentleness of a touch.  My mom’s laughter continues to be muffled by Plexiglas and steel grate.  For far too long, my lady’s goodbye kisses have gotten lost in the stale air of non-contact.

I’ve been out of touch for way too long.  It is a pain that is way too strong.  

What have I become?

Copyright © 2017 by Leroy Elwood Mann

Monday, May 8, 2017

60 Seconds of History

This is a spoken word piece inspired by Colson Whitehead’s, The Underground Railroad, a 2016 Oprah Book Club selection.  This fictional work of art is my current homework assignment for creative writing class.

On 10/18/16, each student will have to recite a spoken word piece that will hold the attention of the class for 30-60 seconds.  Each piece has to be orated from memory.  There is no pretty way to paint the brutality of slavery.  The more receptive we are to the horrific accounts that forged African American’s history in the U.S.  The clearer our view will be of the modern day politics that forces our hand in voting for “the lesser of the two evils.” So this is what it is:

60 Seconds of History

Artist Unknown

Sorry, Massa! I’s clumsy is all.
One drop, to stain a pristine garment is all it took
To know the bite of a Silver Wolf,
And hear the pain of a black woman’s wails
As hate burrows through my flesh
With the strike of cat-o-nine tails

The Massa certainly knows his way around a plantation
He knows what every woman wants before she ever gives consent
A characteristic manifested over centuries,
And can now be heard in the phrase:

My grandma was my Massa’s daddy’s plum,
He plucked and tasted her until Mama was born
But his only heir was a son
Now, the son terrorizes my Mama with verbal threats
And the heinous beatings of his brown-skinned nephew
The backside of my physique displays a horrific view
Of lashes of contempt,
Soiled and scrubbed with the malicious sting of
Pepper water

Massa want me to be the example
Show how easy it be to silence me
So he cut me…string me up…
Then stuff my mouth with my own privacy

Think of your words
Are they no more than a parlor trick?
Do they possess substance founded on your principles?
Or, are they just a blind recitation
Of someone else’s declaration?
We The People

Nuff Said,
Copyright © 2016 by Leroy Elwood Mann

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Trump Card

 Editor's Note: It is not our practice to present the work of those who don't wear the 'red jumpsuit,' but Leroy was moved by the particular piece and felt the need to share. Please enjoy.


The 2016 presidential election has been an ongoing topic of discussion in our creative writing class.  It would seem that the newly elected president Trump has been the stone that sharpens the literary swords of my brothers who fight with the pen.

The following spoken word piece was created by “Dee-Kay.” It is a powerful perspective coming from someone who ‘Donnie’ might assume his political views are in line with his presidential bigotry. “Let’s Make America Great Again.”

I only wish you could have heard Dee-Kay’s delivery, as well as the overwhelming applause that followed.  Here’s the next best thing.  I know give you, “Trump Card.”

Always 100,

Copyright © 2017 by Leroy Elwood Mann


By Dee-Kay

Young Emmett Till got killed for speaking to a white lady.
Just 14 years old, they shot and killed someone’s baby.
Tied a fan to his neck and tossed him overboard.
Not even an open casket changed our hearts, how long, oh Lord?

Meanwhile, Don brags about grabbing pussy with his hand
His reward? Elected to the highest office in the land.
Praised for his honesty, his conviction his drive,
While his racist, sexist comments get excused and are allowed to thrive.

We exonerate Emmett’s killers; ignore dead black bodies in the streets,
But say, “boys will be boys” when it comes to Donald’s tweets.
After the trial, Emmett’s killers admit to doing it, but still walk,
But Don, oh he was just engaging in locker room talk.

“That’s the past” you say, back then were a different time,
But look at our jails today, and you think that being black was a crime.
And it’s not that things are different.  It’s just the names that have changed,
Lynch mobs became country clubs; we made prison bars from slave chains.

If justice were truly color blind, then we wouldn’t base guilt
On the size of your bank account, or the number of businesses you’ve built.
But I guess there’s something about that name,
And for Donald, you don’t need to look hard,
To see that when you’re rich and white in this country,

You’ve got the ultimate Trump card.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Sweeping This Platform


In this modern era, where the media plays a critical role in the public perception of a capital murder defendant, and jurors are rarely sequestered, the race of a victim, will either inspire racist tactics by cops and prosecutors – to win a conviction.  Or, stage a fraudulent gesture of leniency toward a defendant whose life hangs in the balance of Criminal (In) Justice.

Jury discrimination; abuse of discretion; prosecutorial misconduct; just a few examples of legal terminology that define the scales of justice a weapon of mass destruction.  If the victim is of Caucasian descent, an African-American defendant will more than likely be portrayed as some type of menacing gorilla; a hulking monster that lives to kill.

In one particular North Carolina case, these words were printed in a go-to media publication, during the trial of an African-American male: “WTF U NEED A TRIAL FOR? HANG THAT MONKEY.” “I say kill him right now.  I will do it myself.” “Why even have a trial and waste my hard earned tax dollars on this scumbag? He should have been hung before sundown on the day of his arrest.”

This brand of furor should never reach the eyes and ears of jurors as they exercise their civic duties.  However, most trial judges in North Carolina choose to trust that a human being can shut down the senses of sight and sound at the mere mention or visualization of the media’s interpretation of the current capital murder trial he/she may be attending as a juror.

Darryl Hunt was released from prison on December 24, 2003.  From December 2007 – May 2008, the releases of Jonathan Hoffman, Glen Chapman, and Levon “Bo” Jones followed.  Three of the four served time on North Carolina’s death row.  Combined, the four African-American males served 60 years for crimes they did not commit.  Each of them had faced all – or nearly all – white juries.  This is far from criminal justice reform.

W2TM is a platform that enhances the compassion and rationale of human species left to believe justice is blind, and evenly served from the proverbial balanced scales dangling from the fingers of “Lady Justice.” In the span of six years and four months, W2TM has been the manifestation of the counter-culture behavior that sweeps away the judicial trickery-providing an unencumbered view of the ever-growing rates off mass incarceration, as well as the unsettling numbers of lives being eradicated by the state’s practices of death-dealing.

This W2TM movement will continue to bring clarity when racial injustice is accepted as the norm, and cops are supported by the law when they choose to upgrade their responsibility to “protect and serve” civilians, to that of judge, jury, and executioner, for those they deem unworthy of their protection.

It seems to me, viewing life through a civilized eye entails seeing the humanity in the people we trust to be impartial.  A traffic stop or capital murder trial can become uncivilized in the blink of an eye.  We can only begin to see the real when the dust clears.  W2TM remains dust free.

Holla if ya hear me, 

Copyright © 2017 by Leroy Elwood Mann