Reflections on Michael Jackson

2009-08-18 00:00

Do you remember the first time you tried to Moonwalk? I do. It was at school in the recess yard, on the pavement beside the portable where our classes were held. Everyone was talking about “Thriller,” Michael Jackson’s new album, and since I would not be outdone, I bought one too. It was the first record I ever bought and I used my allowance. From the minute I heard it, I was enraptured. I memorized every song and listened to the album on our record player as if I was praying. Of course, I practiced his moves at home in front of the television like all my friends, watching his groundbreaking videos – though at the time, we had no idea how historic they were. We just knew good entertainment when we saw it.

I wasn’t the best Moonwalker, but I wasn’t the worst either. I could slide my heels back and up, imagining I was as smooth as Michael himself and picturing his almost-super-human silky slides across the floor in my mind’s eye.

Michael Jackson was my first musical love. His songs and dancing taught me that I could appreciate a style of music which felt like it was all mine; it wasn’t my brothers’ and it wasn’t my parents’. It was for ME! I can only imagine what children of colour all around the world must have felt, seeing someone so fabulous and brilliant break barriers of what was expected, bringing his creativity and joy adoring fans all around the world. And what talent! I don’t even think I realized then what tremendous gifts Michael was sharing with us.

Much of the back story I have only learned in recent weeks: that MTV at first refused to play his videos even though they were at the top of the charts, because they didn’t think their audience was “ready” for an African American artist. PLEASE!! They knew soon enough what fools they were when he broke every record in sales and viewers from Thriller and Billie Jean. I can only imagine the courage and inner strength it must have taken for Michael to barge into the Sony office and insist that they push MTV to play his songs.

“We Are The World” was the anthem of my elementary school experience. Sometimes we made up our own verses – both parody and serious – and sometimes we just sang it. We understood that it was about something much larger than ourselves and yet we couldn’t quite understand it all, since we ourselves were children. But Michael understood that the song needed to be an anthem, something that stirred feelings deep inside, getting across a huge message through one simple song.

As I grew up, I went on to learn music in my own way, through orchestras, bands, and ensembles. Eventually I learned guitar as well and began writing and performing my own songs. That’s another reason I can now appreciate Michael’s gifts so deeply; to have just a fraction of the talent and heart he had would be a tremendous honour.

I was vaguely aware, as I got older, that headlines I saw were referring to Michael by cruel nicknames or making snide cracks about him. I am sad to say that I dismissed these articles and didn’t think much about them. I believe I am not alone; we, as a culture, turned our backs on Michael and in many cases, we were quick to mock him and point fingers. We wondered about his skin tone and his nose; made jokes about his molestation charges even though he was never found guilty; turned a blind eye when the media handed him to his detractors on a silver platter. Even after his death, politicians and “pundits” continue to make nasty comments and televise tours of Never Never Land, gleefully bragging that these were areas Michael preferred to keep very “private.” Explain to me how that is honouring Michael’s memory?

I wish it hadn’t taken this heartbreaking turn of events to remind me what a genius and gift Michael Jackson was, and still continues to be. I have spent the days since his death sharing memories with friends and strangers, acquaintances and family. I still can’t quite believe that he’s gone; he truly seemed like a superstar that would never die, never fade, never go under. Yet even, the greatest entertainer in the world, as Berry Gordy called him at today’s memorial service, was still human.

Our taunts and cruel words did have an impact on him. Our words did weigh heavy on his heart. Yet still he loved his fans. Still he wrote songs envisioning a better world. Still he gave more money to more charity organizations than any other celebrity has ever given (it’s in the Guinness Book of World Records)! I wish I had loved him more and loved him better when he lived, because I miss him so much now that he’s gone.

As I wind down this piece, I wanted to share with you some suggestions of how we might honour Michael and his memory:

1) Work our asses off for what we love. Michael did, and look how much joy it brought millions and millions around the world.

2) Give to organizations we believe in – whether visits and volunteer times at their locations to see the work they do, or financially, and ideally both.

3) If there are special and brilliant people in our lives, and I KNOW there are in each of our lives, we must give them love, affirmation, and acceptance. After all, we can hope that they will be around forever but there is no guarantee. So love them while they’re here.

4) If someone tells you that you can’t do something that you KNOW you were meant to do, just believe in yourself and find a way. Michael opened the door for so many African American artists to get airplay and to build their own careers, just because he didn’t take the white-dominated world’s “no” for an answer.

5) You gotta listen to a little (or a lot) of MJ as often as possible – and for maximum effect, watch his dancing too. He was truly a genius. There will never be another person who compares.

6) In Michael’s memory, we must celebrate the uniqueness of each living being. If someone you know is “different” or “weird,” it is your job to find the beauty in who they are. Those who dare to step out of what is expected to envision a world beyond what we see should be respected and given the chance to shine. We need visionaries, and even if we don’t understand them completely, we must give them the chance to show us the world as they see it.

7) DANCE and SING and FIGHT FOR A BETTER WORLD. ‘Nuff said. Michael’s looking down on us and smiling.

Thank you Michael, for all that you gave us. May your memory be for a blessing.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.