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Mondo we Langa, Nebraska's imprisoned poet

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Mondo we Langa is a poet.  Langa is also serving a life sentence in the Nebraska state penitentiary for a murder he says he didn't commit.  Meanwhile, the confessed killer enjoys his freedom. 

Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa entered prison as David Rice thirty-six years ago and since has changed his name.  Convicted, along with Ed Poindexter, for the bombing murder of an Omaha police officer, Langa has not allowed confinement to crush his creativity.  An artist, a poet and playwright, Mondo has used the harshness of his existence to be a lens through which his considerable powers of observation are focused.


Langa, no ordinary prisoner, was a Black Panther caught up in a war of words with the Omaha Police when a homemade bomb killed one officer and injured seven others late one night on Omaha's Near-Northside.  Fifteen year-old Duane Peak was caught and confessed to the crime striking a deal with prosecutors to be freed on his 21st birthday for implicating Langa and Poindexter, leaders of Omaha's Panther chapter called the National Committee to Combat Fascism.


The plight of the two imprisoned Panthers has drawn the attention of the late former Governor of Nebraska Frank Morrison, actor Danny Glover, Angela Davis and even Amnesty International.  Both Glover and Davis have visited Langa in prison and have called for his release.


Langa's conviction was overturned in federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the reversal.  But Langa was given a setback by the U.S. Supreme Court and has been stuck with the state court verdict.  However, new information, based on an audio analysis of the 911 tape that drew police to the scene of the crime, may result in a new trial for Poindexter who has a court hearing about the tape in May.


Both Poindexter and Langa have made productive lives behind bars although Langa resents being called a model prisoner.  "I would rather not be referred to as a "model prisoner".  It is true that I have never raised my hand against a person since I've been locked up, but the term "model prisoner" to me suggests a person who practically always obeys the rules and is on the side of prison officials."


Langa, who has always maintained his innocence, has not abandoned his beliefs that drew him to the Black Panthers.  Thus, many of Langa's poems and writings reflect his contempt for racism in American society with emotion-laden biting commentary.


With six books of poetry, two plays and numerous essays in a variety of publications Mondo has stayed busy.  He also edits the prison publication Harambee Flame and mentors young inmates.  Langa's latest book of poetry is called The Black Panther is an African Cat. 


From 1993 to 1998, Langa received recommendations from the Parole Board that the Board of Pardons release him.  However, no release came and more are beginning to see Langa and Poindexter as political prisoners held because someone has to pay for the death of a police officer.  Additionally, the notion that Nebraska's prison poet laureate might actually be innocent means that besides a wrongful conviction he was also framed with planted dynamite.  So in jail Mondo remains, still waiting for justice after these many long years.


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Michael Richardson is a freelance writer living in Belize. Richardson writes about Taiwan foreign policy, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Black Panther Party. Richardson was Ralph Nader's ballot access manager during the 2004 and (more...)

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