Monday, January 16, 2017

Ain’t It Funny?


Life is funny: sometimes to the degree where it is not funny at all.  In saying that, I need to apologize to my brother for the many times I have laughed at situations that are not funny.  “That shit ain’t funny, Lump.”

So much hurt within my lifetime, I have a tendency to ‘roll with the punches’ whenever I encounter an unpleasant discussion that has the potential to shatter my optimism.  So, I laugh as a means of taking the sting away from the pain.  Forgive me, D, I know everything ain’t funny.  Sometimes I am simply laughing to avoid crying.

For example, when I heard that Donald Trump would throw his name into the race to become our 45th president, I laughed.  ‘This dude can’t be serious.  Ain’t no way he’s gonna become president.  He doesn’t even have a political background.” I laughed again.

I laughed at his uncouth responses to illegal immigration, the war on terror (ISIS), and federal income taxes, all throughout his republican primary campaign.  Then, he won the primary.  I stopped laughing.  The stakes had changed.  He was now one victory away. One victory away from obliterating the progress of the last eight years.  One victory away from annihilating the precedent set by Rowe vs. Wade; A historical shift that permits women to exercise pro-choice.

Do you think it is a coincidence that requests for IUDs has increased by 900% since Trump’s election became a reality?  There is nothing funny about that.

As a man, I am disgusted by Trump’s verbal assaults on women.  As an American, I am outraged by the large percentage of white women voters (53%) who voted for Trump.  This is the same presidential candidate who told television reporter, Billy Bush, that groping women without their consent is foreplay to the inevitable act of a celebrity getting whatever he wants.

Sadly, there are millions of girls and women who have fallen victim to this primitive and crude behavior.  In some cases an unwanted pregnancy is the result.  So tell me, should it be illegal for this victimized woman or girl to have an abortion?  Does she deserve to be jailed because a man chose to make her his victim?  This is a strong possibility in a ‘Trump America.’ “That shit ain’t funny, Lump.”

It is, however, funny to me that many Americans believe that Trump will take this country to a higher plateau of global superiority.  When in all actuality he is setting this country back to an era where women did not have a say outside of the parameters of a kitchen.  And their entire existence had to be validated by angry white men who wouldn’t have any problem with the antics and capitalistic rhetoric of the 45th president.

Trump’s campaign was the home of riotous actions. Punches were thrown.  People were arrested.  Trump even encouraged some of his supports to punch people, who opposed him, in the mouth.  He also declared that he could shoot someone in the middle of 5th avenue and not lose any voters.  “That shit ain’t funny, Lump.”

Ain’t it funny that the 2017 presidential inauguration will be a direct contrast to the historical observance of Dr. Martin Luther King; A man who stood tall against the white supremacy that Donald Trump exudes.

Ain’t it funny that our president elect still finds time to twiddle his thumbs to edify his cyber-bully persona?  “I don’t know much, but I know how to get angry white men to vote for me.” Really?  I wonder why.  “That shit ain’t funny, Lump.”

I know, I know, D.  Everything ain’t funny.

Always 100,

Copyright © 2017 by Leroy Elwood Mann

Monday, January 9, 2017

I Rest My Case

I don’t have many memories of my dad.  A party when I was maybe 3.  He was choking the neck of a champagne bottle.  When he saw me, he told Moms to get the camera.  My dad kissed my cheek, put his cigarette between my fingers, and tucked my other hand around the base of the bottle.

I can still feel his arm over my shoulder as he said, “C’mon, Bee.  Get a shot of me and my Lil’ Mann.”

Other than that, the extent of my memories with him revolves around the disturbing presence of sirens, screams, and chaos.  Throughout the years, people have told me:
You’re no different from them,
You’re just like all the rest.
But at 1st glance, my 2nd chance is a SON
That sets in the West… Courtesy of Compton!

You don’t know me, so how could you see
I’m a troubled father with a happy SON?
If he can’t get the truth from me, Word is bond
He’ll get it from no one.

They put me away for killing when killing
Wasn’t a part of my mental
This is highly confidential.
But fuck it, SON
This ain’t no truth I deem to be incidental

21 years after the fact,
I’m labeled a killer so killing me might
Kill the memory.
The blood in your vein, however
Will register the pulse of my name forever.

So their story can NEVER be our story
Now is the time to give you mine; a history
Without the gloss of commercial fame and glory

There were always good times, and some bad
With women throughout my life
The victim in this case was a dear friend
My codefendant was my wife
I said, “My codefendant was my wife.”
Pain and strife;
Stabbing me in the heart like my daddy’s knife
SON, here’s a picture of my Life:
My dad did time at Rahway, he was killed at 31
Murder was the case for Moms; I’m guilty
Of being her youngest,
The only one of 3 who can say I’ve done this.

Not the crime of murder,
For which I was charged and strung up
Like Nat Turner.
“Done this” implies living through death
When there should be no life left

I’m 48 now, still thriving and surprising my captors
And their execution klan
Accusers will not understand a Mann
They’re more receptive to a defendant pointing
Fingers from the witness stand

They couldn’t smell the gunpowder
Or hear the kill shot ringing louder
Than it did that fateful night
I know, I know, I know it wasn’t right
To protect the one responsible for all this hurt
But SON, it’s a wonder my eyes ain’t covered in dirt

There’s beauty in barely being able to blink
Seeing so much to live for
My Lil’ Mann playing football
And my Lil’ Mama all grown at 4

Let this voice be the wind
That blows through the tip of a pen
It’s a different world in here
A bubble-type atmosphere
I can shout “INJUSTICE” at the top of my lungs
And it still falls on deaf ears

Hear this punctured heart that bleeds
All over my sleeves;
A truth beating at the base of the next generation’s eardrum:

I am a troubled father,
With one happy SON
I rest my case…

Still Livin’

Copyright © 2017 by Leroy Elwood Mann

Monday, January 2, 2017

It’s A Wrap

 Happy New Year everyone!

I just wanted to take a moment to wish you all the best in 2017.  2016 was a VERY challenging year for me, but a very productive year for Leroy.  I spoke early in the year of an illness that hampered my ability to produce Word to the Masses with the same consistency you had become accustomed.  I was not the one who had become ill.  The near lose of my mother and corresponding long recovery, took my time away from Word to the Masses. 

I’m thrilled to say that my mother, although permanently altered, has made a remarkable recovery. That makes it possible for me to refocus my efforts on sharing Leroy’s expressions. We have discussed a pretty ambitious schedule for 2017 and I’m looking forward to getting back to raising awareness about the injustice of mass incarceration, the challenge of increased recidivism, and the elimination of the death penalty.  We are hoping you will come along for the ride.  Checkout Leroy’s summary of his 2016 activities.

Stay Tuned,
W2TM Editor



Happy Kwanzaa!

As a tremendously productive year comes to an end and another begins, I am inclined to look forward to bigger and better, in 2017.  I have to admit, this uplifting year was somewhat deflated when the realization of a ‘Trump America’ left me speechless.  However, it did inspire a written expression titles, ‘Leaping Backward.’ It will be featured in the upcoming online edition of Scalawag magazine (  Oh! Excuse me.  I haven’t mentioned ‘Swag Mag’ on this platform yet.  So, allow me to do so:

Swag happens to be one of the great things that happened to me as a writer in 2016.  I made the connection last summer through my good friend, Kris Agoranos, who is also the co-founder of Life Lines.  But, I will get to that in a minute.  For now, let’s just focus on my first article being published in Issue #6 of Swag.  Much thanks to my Swag editor, Matthew Witt, for feeling the intensity within the words of, “3 Shifts Of An 11th Hour.” [ ] So far, the journey with Swag has been amazing and one of several highlights in our 2016 campaign for social justice. 

The year began with our 3rd open performance of Serving Life.  I was hoping for our artful presentation to be continuous throughout the year, but the prison administration had other plans.  Although it seems the recent administrative shift has worked in our favor, because our cast was recently given the green light to begin rehearsing again.  The plan is to bring more outside audiences into the fold of human beings Serving Life from the brink of death.  The term, “break a leg,” doesn’t begin to define my focus going into such a great opportunity.  Na mean?

I feel as thought this year’s pace accelerated in March, when Mr. Frank Baumgartner hosted a conference (Race, Innocence and the End of the Death Penalty) in which the monologues from Serving Life resonated with the audience of the Genome Sciences Building in Chapel Hill.

Our hard work and civil resistance was bearing fruit.  People in the position to assist and mobilize were hearing our plight.  And by June, the death row population was granted regular access to the telephones. Our family, friends and loved ones salute this great accomplishment.  But, there was still no room to grow complacent.

Our motivation was high.  The conference room where we hold our weekly classes transformed into a sacred ‘clearing’ where no manmade ceiling existed.  The Life Lines movement was born by the time my granddaughter turned 4 (7/20/16), and listened to me sing happy birthday (my first as a G-dad) to her over the phone; a beautiful moment in time.  SMH.

Death row is life that stands still, yet we were pushing forwarding in a life-changing manner.  We started releasing spoken word expressions through []. In a matter of 30 days the outside support for Life Lines grew tremendously.  The Life Lines website is projected to launch after the first of the year.  But the blessings continued and more doors began to open.

I formed an alliance with Swag by mid-summer.  The editing process with an established publication has enhanced my work ethic.  It has also increased my coffee intake.  LOL.  But, I would much rather be busy working, rather than allowing myself to accept the racial inequality that has me stuck in this long line for capital punishment.  Swag is a great platform for attacking such a grave injustice.

The combination of the early success of Life Lines and my article in Scalawag caught the interest of the cohosts of  My interview with Josh and Adam was something special.  [ ]

I am also looking forward to an upcoming interview with Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo, of the Across the Pond podcast, which transmits from the U.K.   Stay tuned for more on that venture.

So there it is, 2016 wrapped up in the sum of 850 words.  Holla if ya hear me, Chelle.  LOL.  We can assure you that W2TM will remain committed to raising awareness about the social ills of mass incarceration, racial injustice, and the forgotten humanity that continues to exist on North Carolina’s death row.  2017 is an opportunity to be greater than 2016.  Ya heard?

Much Love,

Copyright © 2017 by Leroy Elwood Mann

Monday, December 26, 2016

Getting to know through Life Lines

Coming to you live and direct from the tombs of North Carolina’s death row, are the voices that bring shame to the erroneous practices of capital punishment in this country.

Paul Brown, Rodney Taylor, Lyle May, and yours truly, Leroy Mann, are the “paradigmatic hippies” turning the tables on the state-sanctioned homicides that have initiated and concluded each of our days for a total of 70 years.  In turn, this is our LETHAL INJECTION of truth acting as a stone throw into the ocean of your existence.

Allow this art to be the TIDAL WAVE of humanity that rumbles beneath the surface.  Life is not rocket science; nor is it fair.  Life will always be artful, just let the art be art.  The passion within our voices bridges the gap between unconcerned and GETTING TO KNOW.

Life Lines is about connection.  It’s about finding surprising spaces to share endangered, beautiful life.  It’s about recognizing our power and our powerlessness to give and take life.

One hundred and forty-seven men live on Death Row in North Carolina.  Most of us have been here for more than a decade.  Some more than 30 years.  Those of us, who are writers and poets, are passionate about the spoken word.  Until now, we’ve only been allowed one supervised 10-minute phone call each year.  But now, with regular access to the phones, we want to share our voices with you.  Literally.

Life Lines is an audio journal of poetry, spoken word and other creative writing from North Carolina’s Death Row.  We’ll publish three pieces each week: poems, or short stories in our own words.  Words, which we hope, invite communion, however limited and imperfect, with those struggling to live inside state prisons.

But we need your help to make it happen.  We want to build this place for you and us online, and that means creating and maintaining a website.  We’ll also have to pay each time we call off the Row to make the recordings.

With your support, we can cover these start-up costs and get connected for the first year.  We hope that will give us enough time to generate a moderate flow of monthly support to keep this line open for as long as you and we are willing.

Because of state laws restricting access to prisons, the authors record these poems by phone.  As you listen, carefully, let the line static become a reminder of all the lines-race, class, iron bars, and barbed wire we’ve constructed between ourselves.  If we allow them, these pieces can open new, shared spaces for us in spite of these boundaries, if only for a moment.  Take a chance with us – just listen.

Checkout this fascinating piece, featuring the Life Lines organizers, as well as, the North Carolina Death Row spoken word artists, on the Talking Bull Podcast.

Written by,
Leroy Mann and Chris Agoranos