I was cruising slowly along Woodward near Orchestra Hall when I glanced to the side and saw a man walking with his arms spread to the side as though he were Jesus on the cross. A second look revealed that it was Mulenga Harengua.
I turned on to the next side street and found a parking space. I hustled back to Woodward to find him. As I approached him from behind I called his name. Mulenga hollered, "Don't shoot," and crumpled to the ground.
"What's going on, man?" I asked, nudging him with the side of my foot. "I don't even have a gun."
Mulenga looked up at me. "Oh it's you. I thought it was all over for a minute there. You never know these days with all the killing going on."
"What are you doing out here making a spectacle of yourself? I thought you were all about being invisible and slinking through the shadows."
"Well I had to move quickly today and slinking can be slow," Mulenga said. "So I figured the safest way to move was like this. I was talking to myself, really just reciting the alphabet. That way everybody thinks you're crazy and just leave you alone."
"Well walking down the street looking like you are hanging from a cross might convince folks you have problems, but the police might just decide to relocate you out of Midtown. There have been reports of them just grabbing folks and depositing them in other neighborhoods in an effort to clean up this shiny rapidly gentrifying neighborhood."
"Well I had to do something with my hands, so I held them out to the side," Mulenga stood up as he spoke and held his arms out.
"Why are you doing that? I thought the passion plays were an Easter thing, and we're a long way from that. It's Christmastime now."
"Look, a brother needs to do what he needs to do to stay alive."
"What?" I didn't see how holding his arms out was going to keep him alive unless it was some kind of yoga exercise. I'd seen some yoga folks on television holding their arms out as they stretched forward.
"Well," Mulenga ruminated, "Michael Brown had his hands up when he was killed over in Ferguson. So I didn't want to do that. You saw how those St. Louis football players caught flack for holding their hands up. I ain't a rich athlete so I figured worse would happen to me."
"Well people are saying that, but we don't have any pictures so we don't know for sure."
"I didn't want to take any chances," said Mulenga. "I believe the brother had his hands up. Funny things happen when a black man interacts with the police.
You know about that brother who had his hands cuffed behind his back in the police car and they said he shot himself in the head."
"Yep, that was pretty suspicious," I said. "I can't understand how that could have happened. But why do you have to hold your hands out? You could just let them hang by your side."
"But then they might think I have my hands in my pockets," Mulenga said. "Sometimes police have a hard time seeing what's really in front of them, Like that brother in the Ohio Wal-Mart. He had a toy gun but the police thought it was real and killed him. The security video showed that he wasn't even pointing it at anyone. Police see a brother and they just start shooting."
"If police can't tell the difference between a real gun and a toy, then they should stop making toy guns that look real. But I still don't understand what the deal is about having your hands in your pockets?"
Mulenga shook his head from side to side. "Didn't you hear about the brother in Pontiac, Brandon McKean? He was just walking down the street with his hands in his pockets. Somebody saw him and called the police. The caller specifically said he had his hands in his pockets. When the police arrived they asked him why he had his hands in his pockets. That he was making people nervous."
"It was probably to keep them warm," I opined. "But I didn't hear anything about him getting shot."
"He wasn't, but I'm not taking any chances with police getting nervous about where my hands are," Mulenga said. "Funny things happen when police get nervous."
"Well you should be even more careful about what you do. When you were on the ground somebody might have thought you were one of the protesters in the Eric Garner case. Folks are protesting the decision not to charge the police after Garner was killed with an illegal chokehold by lying on the ground. They got pictures of a policeman using an illegal hold to kill the brother and the cop doesn't get charged."
"That's what I mean," said Mulenga. "These cops can do whatever they want and get away with it. Nobody in charge seems to care about it."
"You're right about that," I concurred. "There is a whole litany of names of unarmed brothers killed by police in questionable circumstances — Kendrec McDade out in California, Timothy Russell in Cleveland, Orlando Barlow in Las Vegas, Aaron Campbell in Oregon, Wendell Allen in New Orleans. And there's a whole list of folks in New York, Sean Bell, Aswan Watson, Kimani Gray, it goes on and on."
"Now you're scaring me even more," Mulenga said as he stuck his arms back out. Someone driving by yelled out the car window, "Crucify him."
"Man you better put your arms down. It's easier to run that way."
Mulenga shrugged his shoulders in resignation. "They want to crucify me, and I haven't done anything."
"That would be like so many others. For instance, Akai Gurley was shot in the stairwell of his apartment building a couple of weeks ago when he came in with his girlfriend. Cops claim it was just a mistake."
"I could be the next mistake," Mulenga surveyed our surroundings. "Let me get off the street."
"Come on, let me give you're a ride."
"Do me a favor," Mulenga said. "Turn on the video recorder in your cellphone. As long as we're out here we should record our every move. You know, just in case we need some evidence."