Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa, more commonly simply Mondo, was formerly named David Lewis Andrew Rice. Mondo, the target of the infamous, clandestine COINTELPRO counterintelligence operation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is serving a life sentence at the Nebraska State Penitentiary for the August 17, 1970 murder of an Omaha policeman. Mondo denies any role in the death of Patrolman Larry Minard, Sr.
Mondo is no longer David Rice after a name change in prison. “After several years in the penitentiary I decided it didn’t make any sense for me as an African to have a European name. I had to improvise.”
“My name basically means wild, natural man-child of the sun in four African languages,” Mondo says. What I did was once I decided what my name was going to be, I then got in contact with people from different parts of the continent to give me one component of that name in their language. The reason for that was if somebody asks any African in this country who was born here and whose parents and grandparents were born here, “What is your nationality?” he or she doesn’t know.”
“My name, Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa, is from the Kwanyama, Gikuyu, Ibibio, and Hausa languages which means Wild Man Child of the Sun. In African languages, typically there aren’t first and last names as in English. Though since colonialism, this has become a feature of many of the languages,” explains Mondo.
“The problem is that Africans in this country for the most part have no concept of nationality for a number of reasons. One, most of the nations in Africa are essentially products of European political pragmatism, the division of the continent. The dividing of Africa in nice little pieces for Germany, for England, for France, etc. So the nations and their borders are in a sense artificial. That is one issue.”
Mondo elaorates: “Another is, as descendants of people who were enslaved, most of us know little more than most of our ancestors came from western Africa. So the question of identity gets real cloudy with hundreds of different ethnic groups.”
“What I wanted to do was in choosing a name was to not only talk about me as a person but to identify me as someone who had an African origin,” says Mondo. “I chose my name from different parts of the continent. The process is really backwards because a traditional African name is chosen shortly after birth. So I was some thirty years behind.”
Mondo says his time with the Black Panthers was about love of community. “My joining the Party had something to do with the competition with the police thing but mainly had to do with the fact that this was a group of black power experienced people who loved their people and were trying to do things for their people.”
“This is why I joined, the business about the confrontations with the police came with the territory, but was like one of the components. I imagine it kind of romanticized the violence. You know, like this cops and robbers and cowboys and Indians and all this shoot ‘em up stuff. But for me, the idea of someone knocking at your door at five o’clock in the morning, “Brother, my momma just got fired from her job, could you come with me?”—that is the beauty of it.”
In a prison interview, Mondo summed it all up. “For me it was about the brotherhood and sisterhood.”