Walking in the front door of the Nebraska Penitentiary and through the long, cold shiny hallway to the metal detectors located at the front desk to meet a new client for the first time can be a nerve racking experience. As I approached the front desk, I pulled out my identification, I nodded to the prison guard and I advised him of the name of the inmate I wanted to visit, “Mondo!”
The prison guard at the front desk stared as if he was shocked, he looked at the chart in disbelief and then he seemed happy when he said, “Thank goodness you’re here! It has been a while since Mondo has had an attorney visit!” I learned in my first visit that Mondo is well respected by everyone who knows him.
In 22 years, I have never had a prison guard happy because I visited a client before, of course, I have never represented someone like Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen We Langa formerly known as David Rice. Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen We Langa (hereinafter “Mondo”) means “Wild (natural) Man Child of the Sun.” This name comes from the Kwanyama, Gikuyu, Ibibio and Hausa languages in Africa.
My client, Mondo, and Ed Poindexter have been in jail since they were wrongfully convicted on April 17, 1971 in the murder trial for the August 1970 bombing death of Omaha Police Officer Larry D. Minard, Sr. Mondo and Ed were sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder. For more than 40 years, the Omaha Two have been unjustly imprisoned for a crime they did not commit. Both deny any involvement in the crime. They were arrested as part of a covert government Counter Intelligence Program called Cointelpro launched by F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover to destroy and arrest members of the Black Panther Party.
Mondo was one of three male children born to Otis and Vera Rice in Omaha, Nebraska. He became active in civil rights and other issues during his junior and senior years at Creighton Preparatory School where he participated in an effort to desegregate Omaha’s Peony Park Swimming Pool. He also participated in various programs designed to promote cross cultural understanding and it was during this period that Mondo developed an interest in writing.
Mondo attended Creighton University where he became a friend of Ernie Chambers, a former Nebraska State Senator. During college, he explored the ideologies of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X., and the Black Panther Party.
In 1968, Mondo was taking an active interest in the Black Panther Party. Mondo was maced when he was a protester at a George Wallace rally in 1968 held in Omaha. He wrote for a number of local alternative newspapers and black community newsletters and he worked with an assortment of African community organizations and coalition groups, dealing with a variety of issues such as welfare rights, police brutality, the United States War against the people of Vietnam, housing issues, absentee landlords, the political system and the school system in Omaha.
In 1970, Mondo was deputy minister of information of the Omaha Chapter of the National Committees to Combat Fascism (NCCF), which was an arm of the Black Panther Party. Poindexter was deputy chairman. Locally, the NCCF operated a number of programs which served the African community which included a breakfast program for children, the Vivian Strong Liberation School for children and police monitoring patrols. The NCCF published “By Any Means Necessary” which was the chapter newsletter. The goal of the NCCF was to work with other community organizations to raise the consciousness of black people and to elevate the condition of black people.
As a result of the work Mondo was doing in the Omaha community, the reputation of the Black Panther Party nationally, and the general climate of conflict between African people and the police, Mondo and Poindexter faced frequent harassment, attempts at intimidation by the Omaha Police and the FBI. Prior to his unjust murder conviction, Mondo, like many other blacks during that time, was arrested for crimes such as failure to disperse and disturbing the peace in connection with protest demonstrations; he received traffic tickets; his home was under surveillance; and he was arrested for refusing induction into the military service. As a result of their community activism, Mondo and Poindexter have been political prisoners for more than 40 years.
I am the attorney representing Mondo and over the next couple of weeks I will write a series of columns on the history, the trial and the appeals of Poindexter and Mondo-the Omaha Two.