I Don’t Get to Meet Many Role Models

downloadAbout 15 years ago I did. I don’t remember how the introduction was made but I met a man larger than life itself, an inspiration from the beginning. And the more I heard, the more I got to know him the more humbled I became. His name was Lynn Manning. I say ‘was’ because – his name will always be Lynn Manning – but he passed away a few days ago at the age of 60. When I met him I found him so fascinating I wanted to do his life story as a TV movie — and tried my best but couldn’t get any interest because – the excuse was — he was black. What the real reason was I will never know. Probably if I was more prominent it would have been possible — I offered to take myself out of the picture because I thought his story was so important, so inspiring, more than just turning ‘lemons into lemonade’, it needed to be told. I spent weeks with him taking down his story focused around his competing in the Special Olympics in Korea in 1988 as a Blind Judo Champion. He grew up in the worst of circumstances, but lifted himself out of that by becoming an artist. He avoided a life in the streets of South Central to paint. And he was good at it. Then at the age of 23 he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and wound up taking a stray bullet in his head, losing his eyesight. If I recall correctly the bullet is still lodged somewhere. His art days were over. But not his artiste days. He turned from art to writing and to the theater — becoming a reconized playwright. And acted in TV shows every now and then. He was a wonderful type. He established a theater company in Watts to give other options than gangs and the streets, which continues to this day. All the time training for the Special Olympics. I sat at his computer with him, we would talk and he would write. He had an early voice activated program which was okay for the time. But the one thing I remember him telling me when I was questioning him about being blind and being a judo champion was his response: “If I can hear you, I can kill you!” – REST IN PEACE my friend — you will never know how much you impacted this white Jewish boy from Queens. Your story still needs to be told.   A Hero To The End!

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