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Cupid and the Cops

February 14, 2007
exactly one year ago

So I picked up Kalonji from San Jose airport at 9pm. His flight was about 15 minutes late. On the ride back to East Palo Alto, I got him up to speed on Mylinia and my life. I told him that plan A was to get the Echoing Green fellowship, plan B was to finance Mylinia through angel investors, and plan C was to work for Google. He shared with me some of his visions and one of them was "Bless the Block", a recurring group prayer in East Palo Alto.

So we got to his house and dinner was just ending. All of Kalonji's roommates were there, plus two other people. Four of them were going to some concert. Once they left, Jidenna, Kalonji, and I remained. We began discussing life, love, spirituality, and community development like we always do. Jidenna shared a recent dream about one his mentees and his conversation with a local bus driver which started a discussion about housing and employment. I shared some strategies like marketing the local plumber's business so that demand increased and he could hire and train some young black males to meet that increased demand. I believe that everything we need is within our community, but we never take the time to meet people and assess what has what and who needs what. As that conversation came to a close, Kalonji boldly asked if we wanted to go pray at the corner of Pulgas and O'Connor at 10:30pm in East Palo Alto where violence has been elevating since the beginning of the year. Without hesitation we both said yes.

After grabbing jackets and four candles, we walked to the intersection. At that particular intersection there are 3 churches and a Boys & Girls Club. We walked to each corner clock-wise and lit a candle at each. On the fourth corner, we faced the intersection and began praying. They prayed on their knees faced down while I prayed sitting down.

As cars passed by, they took a little bit longer at the 4-way stop sign than usually. Jidenna prayed "God is refuge." Kalonji prayed "1 to 3 to many." And I prayed "Where God is I am. Where I am, God is." We were in deep prayer for about 15 minutes and then I got up and began walking clockwise around the intersection, paying very little attention to the cars and repeating my prayer in silence.

After about 10 circles, the police came. On our 2-block walk to the intersection, we saw 5 police cars. Two police cars stopped in front of me. I kept walking until one office got out of his car and began questioning me.

Officer Norris: Hey, what are you doing?
Jullien: Praying
ON: What are you praying for?
J: No more violence.
ON: What faith are you?
J: I don't have a faith. I just have faith.
ON: What church are you from?
J: Where I'm standing is my church.

At that point, officer Norris let his guard down and introduced himself. He shook my hand and our dialogue continued. He asked where my friends and I were from. I told him "Stanford", though the spiritual answer was "Heaven". Though heaven was the true answer, I felt as if he wanted some worldly answers. He asked me to pick up all of the candles and tell my friends to stop praying! He suggested that we pray inside, not outside.

I proceeded to pick up all of the candles without blowing them out and then I placed them in front of Kalonji and Jidenna. both officers got into their cars and pulled up to the curb that we were on and shined their lights on us. Instead of packing up and leaving, I retained my spot and position from before, closed my eyes, and continued praying. After a minute or two, officer Norris yelled out of his window "Jullien, only pray for about an hour more," and then sped off.

Five minutes later, Kalonji and Jidenna who never broke prayer despite the police's interruption arose and we said a final prayer together aloud. Though I had brought all of the candle back, we walked the corners counter-clockwise and blew each one out as Jidenna prayed "Let there be peace on this corner."

We walked back home in peace.

1 Responses to Police Brutality & Spirituality

  1. Sallomazing! Says:
  2. beautiful share... beautifully courageous. needed and necessary.


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Jullien's Purpose Statement

My purpose is to help as many people as possible reach their full potential by helping them making a living doing what they love and in the process of doing so achieve my own. I want to do this through writing, speaking, and creating offline and online spaces that facilitate conversations around purpose.

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