I went down to check out the refurbished David Whitney Building after I heard they put the sign back on top. It caught my attention because the Metro Times office used to be there in the late 1980s. Back then they kept a grand piano in the lobby and had jazz pianists play during the lunch hour.
As I approached the building I noticed a group of people gathered around a juggler performing in Grand Circus Park. It was kind of warm out so I headed over for a bit of free entertainment. When I joined the circle around the juggler I realized it was none other than Mulenga Harangua tossing the balls into the air.
He took a break and the crowd melted away, and a couple of folks told him, "Good luck on your election."
Mulenga smiled and waved. Then he turned to me. "Mulenga for Mayor" was blazed across the front of his hoodie.
"So what's this?" I asked. "You're running for mayor now."
Yep," Mulenga affirmed as he put his juggling balls into a shoulder bag he carried.
"I see what's going on," I said. "You swore you would never juggle again after you hit yourself in the head with a bowling pin. You've started juggling and hit yourself in the head again."
"I tell you what hit me in the head," Mulenga said. "This Trump presidency is what hit me in the head. I decided to get busy. I decided to do what Obama said about grabbing your clipboard and running for office yourself. So I'm running for mayor."
"So you think you can beat Mayor Duggan?"
"Ain't nobody else running to try to beat him," Mulenga said. "Not nary a person is running against him for this year's election."
"You know it's still early," I pointed out. "The Trump hangover is just lifting and the deadline to file isn't for a few months yet. And I think I heard about an MSU student who was planning to run."
Mulenga waved away the idea of an MSU student running for mayor. "That's not serious competition. ... Wait, he doesn't play the saxophone or something does he?"
"Actually it's a young woman, but why do you ask that?"
Mulenga patted his shoulder bag. "I want to be the candidate who entertains you. That's how Trump did it. He entertained people. The cameras loved him. He didn't really have to talk about issues."
"So you want to be the stupid candidate?"
"No," Mulenga insisted. "I just need to get people's attention. I have issues to run on."
"Well you do have issues," I quipped.
"I'm going to run on feeding Detroit," he waved his finger in the air as he spoke.
"What, you got some kind of loaves and fishes trick?" A police cruiser rolled by. The officer eyed us suspiciously.
"My trick is urban agriculture," Mulenga was getting excited, starting to hop a little. "I am going to marshal the forces of farming that have been growing across our city. Mayor Young gave us Farm-A-Lot. I will give us lots of farms."
I kept my eye on the police cruiser, which had turned to circle the park. When they start keeping an eye on me I like to keep an eye on them. "Why do you think that's a winner?"
"Well I read this report from the Brookings Institution about how Trump won with white voters but serious inequities remain for black Americans," Mulenga said. "It talked about household food insecurity. We need to get our kids off this fast food and onto some nutritious food." His voice began to rise as though he was preaching to a crowd.
"No need to preach at me," I protested. "Ain't nobody here but us chickens."
"And that's another thing," Mulenga went on, "Chickens, we're going to have a chicken in every pot."
"And a car in every garage," I finished for him.
"No, not cars," Mulenga said. "Bicycles, we need lots of bicycles here."
"Is that something else the Brookings report talked about?"
"It didn't talk about that," Mulenga said. "But it did mention that black people are more than three-and-a-half times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people."
"So you plan to free the weed?"
"I can make a point," Mulenga said. "I see a lot of white people coming and going to dispensaries in Detroit. I don't want them to get arrested. I just want police to ease up on the brothers. And on top of that about 60 percent of Americans want to legalize it. Besides, it already decriminalized in Detroit. I'm just building on established policy."
"OK, you got something for the cannabis crowd," I said. "What do you have to say to the women? You're not that pretty. Kwame Kilpatrick used to flirt with the ladies."
"I'm going to keep them out of jail," Mulenga threw out. "Did you know that a black woman has a 1 in 18 chance of being imprisoned over the course of her lifetime. In comparison, white women have a 1 in 111 chance of being imprisoned. Sisters are about six times more likely to go to jail."
"Is this something else you learned from the Brookings Institution?
"Damn right!" Mulenga said.
The police car was still circling. I was getting nervous.
"Let's walk down Woodward before we become one of those statistics you've been quoting," I suggested. "I don't need to spend the rest of my day explaining something that doesn't need explaining. I've got a little bit of herbal medicine in my pocket. I've got my state card but you never know how these things are going to play out."
We headed north toward Mike Ilitch's new hockey world. I figured I didn't need to see the inside of the Whitney Building.
"So you think you can be mayor, huh?"
"Yep," Mulenga said smugly. "It's an off-the-radar year. Nobody's talking about Detroit's mayoral election. Next year's governor's race is getting more attention than this year's mayoral race. I'm going to come in and surprise everybody. After I win the mayor's race this year, next year I'm going for governor, and then I'll run for president in 2020."
"Oh, you're going to be like Sharon McPhail," I said. "Soon as you get elected to one job you're going to announce for the next one."
"Look at Obama, one term in the Senate and he was on his way to the White House. I'm on my way," Mulenga said breezily.
"So you really think you can be the second black president?"
"After the first orange president folks will be looking for something else."
The police car came around the block to the intersection ahead of us. Mulenga reached into his bag and pulled out his balls. He started juggling on the spot. The policeman smiled and took off.
Hmmm... maybe there is something to this entertainment thing. Bread and circuses. Maybe Mayor Mulenga could actually happen.