Berkeley, CA: The Haas Institute mourns the loss of Lynn Manning, an award-winning poet, playwright, and actor. Lynn passed away in Los Angeles on August 3 at age 60.
We were honored to host Lynn at our 2015 Othering & Belonging conference in April, where he performed his award-winning play WEIGHTS, a moving account of his experience as a person of color with disabilities.
Lynn’s difficult childhood gave him the grit and determination to achieve success later in life. The second of nine children, he was born in South Central Los Angeles in 1955. Lynn and his siblings were often neglected and, as a result, later placed in foster homes across the city. “Art was my refuge,” Lynn said in a Q&A for the Haas Institute last April. “I dreamt of living the life of a painter, of making it big as a black man in the art world. With the Civil Rights movement, black power, and the Vietnam war as media constants throughout my teens, I was determined to overcome my impoverished roots and prove myself the equal of any man of any race in whatever I pursued.”
Lynn’s life was profoundly transformed at age 23 when he was shot and blinded by a stranger during a random shooting in a Hollywood bar. Lynn refused to let blindness set him back. He soon earned a college degree and became involved with the arts through acting and poetry.
In 1990, he participated in a playwriting workshop for people with disabilities and discovered a talent for telling stories for the stage. “Poetry, prose, acting, and playwriting have provided me the tools and opportunity to explore and express my innermost thoughts and feelings about the sometimes trepidatious world in which I've lived,” Lynn said. “Through the arts, I challenge myself, on my own terms, to be and do the very best that I can.”
Lynn shared his unique perspective on life, disability, and race to more than 675 attendees at the Institute’s Othering & Belonging conference. His powerful insights, unique humor, and personal kindness will sorely be missed by all who knew him.