I was browsing the stacks at my local public library when I heard a hissing sound. I looked around at the people sitting at tables reading. There in a back corner I saw Mulenga Harangua waving his arm from behind a gigantic book that obscured most of his body. I went over and took a seat at his table.
"I see you finally showed up," Mulenga admonished me as though I were late for an appointment.
"I didn't know that we had plans together."
"I've been sitting in here all day for a couple of weeks waiting for you to show up," Mulenga said. "I wanted to talk to you but didn't want to take the chance of coming to your house. You've been writing about me in that column of yours. I speak too much truth, so I know that the powers that be are looking for me. I needed to run into you on the sly. I know you read books all the time, so I knew you would show up here sooner or later."
"Well I have been using our public libraries ever since I learned to read when I was 6 or 7," I said.
"I've been using them ever since I learned to read when I was 28. That's when I realized the man wanted me to be ignorant, so I fought the power and learned how to read. Learning how to read is like a stick in the eye of the oppressor. It makes it that much harder to fool us. " Mulenga stretched and twisted his head around until his neck cracked. The noise cut through the air like a gunshot. The folks sitting nearby bobbed their heads like they were ducking bullets. When no more shots rang out they returned to their reading as though nothing had happened.
"Well, you got that right," I said. "Sorry that I didn't get over here sooner. I didn't know I had an appointment."
"That's OK. It's actually been pretty nice. They have air conditioning and water and clean restrooms. All the comforts I could ask for as hot as it has been this summer. And I get to use a computer once in a while."
"So what did you want to see me about?" I asked.
"It's about Obama."
"What? Have you gotten on the bandwagon with Cornel West and Tavis Smiley going around on their poverty tour ripping the president? It's not like he doesn't have enough trouble with those Tea Party people barking at him about every little thing he does. What's that West called him, the 'black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs?' They want to call him names when it is West and Smiley who want to be the black oligarchs telling everybody what to think. Had the nerve to come around here talking shit when they didn't lift a finger to help any poor people in Detroit."
"No. I'm afraid it's much worse than that," he said.
"I know things are bad. Black unemployment nationally is 17 percent, closer to 50 percent in Detroit. People getting foreclosed out of their houses left and right, black people killing each other left and right. I'd like to get to the bottom of that."
"I did. That's what I'm trying to tell you," Mulenga said. "I got a scoop that's gonna win you a Pulitzer Prize if it doesn't get you killed first."
"They got the real Obama tied up in the basement of the White House."
"Who are they?" I asked.
"Them oligarchs you was talking about. You know the cabal that really rules the world. When Obama got elected talking about change and hope, they grabbed him the minute he moved into the White House. We have been seeing a body double for the president, like in that movie Dave where the president has a stroke and the guy who looks like him takes over. Except in this case I think it's the guy from Saturday Night Live who is impersonating him. Everybody thinks that's Obama caving in to the right when it's not him at all."
"And you think West and Smiley are in on this?" I asked.
"Most definitely. Can't you see from the grin on Cornel's face that he's performing for massa? I was out there last week when they showed up in Detroit at the Young Municipal Center. There they were, carrying on and trying to rabble-rouse. I've always known that I could make a lot of money by masquerading as a black conservative; look what it did for Condoleezza Rice and Clarence Thomas. Colin Powell was in on it too before they went too far and he had to cut that shit loose. West and Smiley have lined up for their share. They're masquerading as black liberals in service to the conservative cause. It's a brilliant move but I see right through them."
"So is that what West meant when he said that Obama is not a 'free black man'?" I asked. "I was kind of wondering about that."
"He was just covering his backside. On the one hand he called Obama a slave as a put-down. But if it ever comes out that Obama has been kidnapped, he can jump up and claim that's what he was trying to tell us. Those two want their bread buttered on both sides." Mulenga pretended he was spreading butter on the book in front of him. "They're probably getting their checks directly from them Koch brothers who bought up all those Republican governors who are attacking the unions."
"So what should we do about this?" I asked.
"You got to keep this quiet, but me and some brothas have set up a training space inside an abandoned building. When we're ready, we're going to stage a commando raid on the White House to free Obama. One of the cats knows kung fu and he's training the rest of us. You should see our outfits, all black hoods and masks." Mulenga made a chopping motion with his hand. "I can't wait to take out a Secret Service agent."
"Oh, I'd like to see that," I said. "So with all this secret stuff, why are you telling me about this now?"
"I'm setting you up to have the story ready when it all comes down. Maybe you want to come to our training facility and see what we've been up to."
"I don't think so," I said. "It's better if I don't know. Then if the man gets to me I can't turn you in."
"Brotha, are you starting to waver on me? Is your resolve weakening?"
"Naw, but I was just wondering. We had those 17 shootings in 24 hours last week when six people got killed. Maybe it would be better if you focused your efforts locally. Try to find the shooters. Or maybe you should volunteer as tutors to teach youngsters how to read."
"I tried that tutoring thing but they kicked me out when I tried to tell the kids what really is going on," Mulenga said. "Reading doesn't help if your head ain't right. Look at West and Smiley, the brothas have degrees and all but look at what they're doing."
"Shouldn't they be free to do and say what they want, believe what they want to believe?" I asked.
"Not while Obama's tied up in the basement."