Moonwalking With The Angels

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I could feel the tears rolling down uncontrollably down my cheeks. I tried to stop them, but the more I tried, the more they flowed. I put on my shades to hide the fact that I was openly crying for “The King of Pop” for our little brother Michael.

[Michael Jackson Tribute]


I totally remember where I was and what I was doing when the horrible news hit me: I had just stepped off the bus, when a guy walks up to me and says “Did you hear that Michael Jackson just died?”

I froze and looked at him incredulously, and then attempted to continue to my destination. But I couldn’t. I had lapsed into a temporary state of suspended animation!!

Seeing my reaction, he then said: “It stunned you, didn’t it? The same thing happened to me. I couldn’t believe it.” He then ran down the street to tell other passersby about the grim news, leaving me to try and figure out what, if anything, I should or even could do next. Initially, I silently fought the reality, hoping against hope that it was a mistake, or some sort of cruel joke, or media hype.

But, somehow I knew in my heart that we had lost the Great One. I could feel the tears rolling down uncontrollably down my cheeks. I tried to stop them, but the more I tried, the more they flowed. I put on my shades to hide the fact that I was openly crying for “The King of Pop” for our little brother Michael. Michael Jackson was to many of us a member of the family. We had watched this phenomenal talent and human being from the time he was six years old, and followed him and his career all the way through his tumultuous adult life.

Many of us, yours truly included, had prayed for Michael as he went through character assassination by media for his unique and different lifestyle. And all the time, regardless of the headlines and vilification, we loved him. I refused to allow people to send me Michael Jackson “jokes” or negative depictions of him. Clearly they had forgotten the root of those cruelties. My mother, now 86 years old, was deeply moved by the sad news.

“They finally succeeded in destroying him,” she observed. No doubt referring to the vilification and persecution he endured over the last 15 years, where the mainstream media called him some of the most nefarious of names (which I will not repeat); and made inferences to his sexuality in an effort to assassinate his character.

To my mother, though, he was always “little Michael Jackson” that cute, talented kid. And I agreed with her. Michael was handsome, talented, precocious, a genius on every level -- not just his music and his dancing, but his innovation in the realm of the entertainment industry always continued to amaze, delight and inspire us all. You could not wait for the next album to come out, and could not get enough of the one he had just released. You could play Michael Jackson over and over and over again and never tire of his work.

Now, he was gone -- way too soon. Before he was able to vindicate himself. Before that British tour many of us were looking forward to. Before he could make the negative press eat their words. He simply, through the Grace of God, made his transition from a world that no longer served his needs, into a realm beyond which these low level concerns had any power over him.

Regardless of the autopsy results, many of us in the Black community already believe that the cumulative past stress, trying to make a so-called comeback, and reputed financial woes had taken its toll on his life - rather than some medical error. Even the concept of a “comeback” was a media one As far as we were concerned, MICHAEL NEVER LEFT.

He never had to prove anything to us. He was always MJ. We never signed on to the perjoratives and invectives so often attributed to him via the mainstream. Some days it was like watching your kid brother navigate through a stream of vipers and come out shining despite their efforts to tarnish his image. When Michael began seeking alternative means to stem the growing problem of a skin disease, leaving him looking so totally different from the youthful Michael many of us knew and loved, we were definitely upset.

However, the intrinsic Michael, full of life, soul and creativity continued to shine through. We did not reject him. It was clear that there was a schism between Michael and the media during the 1993 trial where they tried to accuse him of pedophilia -- a situation he settled out of court so he could get back to work. Their take on it was that he must be guilty because he settled out of court. Our take on it was they were pissed because he had the money to settle out of court -- how dare he? It was during that time that New York conducted a Children’s Hero Award program, allowing children to vote on their favorite icons.

Michael Jackson’s name was among ten candidates. As it turned out, much to their chagrin, that Michael was the number one hero among all the youth who participated ages 6 through 18. The mainstream media tried to play it down, saying the children didn’t understand the seriousness of the situation. When it turned out that they totally understood, they just didn’t believe any of what was said, this caused additional consternation.

They then predicted that he would not show up at the City Center to collect the award, but would probably send some one in his place. But not only did MJ show up, accept the award, but he thanked the children, did a little ‘moonwalk’ demonstration, posed for pictures with them and stayed for a portion of the program before getting back in his limo. Yours truly had the honor of meeting him and doing a “mini” interview with him about the significance of the award. I admit to being as much awe struck by this genteel personage as the rest of the kids.

He was gracious. He bowed slightly. He had that somewhat timid smile, and though he appeared shy, he looked you in the eye when he spoke to you. He was totally present for everything. I remember feeling like a privileged person for a day or two, able to expound on “things Michael” and thanking God for blessings. The second time I was in his presence was at a press conference at Carnegie Hall when he participated in a conference on Love.

He was there in conjunction with Rabbi Schmuley. This was a totally different atmosphere, with less accessability. But, the over all theme, as it has always been with Michael, was about love, caring, sharing. We often marveled at his generous nature in contrast to many other stars, Black and white, who never made so much as a gesture to help people in need.

Michael was always aware of others privations, and appeared to be deeply moved. His roots were humble, having emanated from Gary, IN. He understood need, lack and want, and in some small way, tried to alleviate those problems. We understood his need and yearning for a childhood. There quite a few of us who began working at an early age in order to supplement the family income. It meant no hanging out with friends or playing games, you had a job. Of course, in Michael Jackson’s case, it paid off big time. So, if he wanted to go back and buy his own childhood -- or attempt to help someone else have one, taking it to a prurient level originated in the negative mind of the mainstream press, not Jackson.

Separating fact from fiction, though, was difficult for many of us, because they kept bombarding us with garbage. Even with the most recent debacle, we continued to know the truth for Michael, and the truth won out. When he decided to leave the country, we silently prayed that he would take his time, gather himself, raise his family, and live his life in peace, rather than return to a place that clearly meant him more harm than good. We were happy to learn that he had obtained a nanny for his children and things were starting to “normalize”.

Most of us knew, however, that Michael was driving by his creativity, and it would be difficult for him to sit idle and let things evolve. He had been creative all his life. His own self standards overrode any concern for media hype. Being a Virgo, he was both industrious, perfectionist and determined. The fact that he was trying to get in shape by training with Lou Ferigno, also meant that he knew he was up for a rigorously strenuous tour, and at 50, probably needed to get back in shape.

Any concept of having to make a comeback was purely that of the mainstream and Michael Jackson. We in the Black community play him all the time. We boogied to Michael Jackson at every turn, every party, every event. And we do so now, but for a completely and totally different reason. Our brother has ascended to Heaven. He’s fulfilled his role here, regardless of how we see it.

We now need to take our Michael Jackson inspirations and spread those seeds all over, so that there are no longer just one “boy wonder” who grew up to be a star; so that people realize that yes, Michael was a phenomenon, but there are so many talented, intelligent Black males and females right under our noses, who, with the catalyst of a Joe Jackson to find the diamond in the rough, may likewise rise to fame and fortune.

The question is whether there’s a way to have that happen and to maintain a childhood as well? I truly hope so. For that’s the other lesson that we have learned from Michael to all parents: never under estimate the value of childhood. It is those formative years that also build character. Michael missed his so much that he actually attempted to build one in; and it haunted him for his entire life.

As we gather at the Apollo, on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at our favorite club, at the end of our block, on the subway, and sing Michael Jackson, buy the posters, the buttons, and the tees, we know that it is a small measure of the great love we feel for a brother who will never die in our hearts.

He is somewhere in heaven teaching the angels to moonwalk!



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