Saturday, June 27, 2009

Michael Jackson: Dead at 50

I have a new post up at Global Comment

image Yesterday, people began gathering in front of UCLA Ronald Reagan medical center to pay homage to a man who gave new meaning to the word “iconoclast. ” Michael Jackson first came onto the world stage as a small child with a gorgeous smile and smooth dance moves. He was just 11 when the Jackson 5’s first single, “I Want You Back,” hit number one on the billboard charts. Though he started off as the little brother in the Jackson 5, it was clear from the very beginning who the star of this group was.

In 1982, he released what would become the greatest selling record of all time, “Thriller.” In 1984, “Thriller” won eight Grammy awards and sold 26 million copies. I remember watching that night and cheering as the announcers said Michael Jackson’s name over and over again. Many children of the seventies and eighties grew up on his music. Christmas wishlists often included a request for a zipper jacket or a single white glove. Learning to do the moonwalk was absolutely necessary if one wanted to look cool on the dance floor. In years to come, I would teach both of my sons to moonwalk to “Billie Jean,” and reminisce about my youth.

The world watched as Michael’s face and skin color morphed. By the time of his death, he looked nothing like the little boy that sang “ABC.” Many in the Black community felt that he had abandoned his African American heritage, even though he explained the whitening of his skin by announcing he had vitiligo. I, however, will forever associate him with the love I feel for my nappy hair.

I went to school with a young white girl named Amanda, who simply adored him. Daily she spoke of wanting to be just like him, including his hair. She told us that she begged her mother for a Jerri curl. Finally, in frustration, I announced that she would never be like him, because he was black like me. There are not many instances in which black children are able to affirm their identities as good and this is why this incident will never be forgotten by me.

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