Sunday, July 5, 2009

Remembering Michael Jackson, the Hit Back…

I was sitting at my desk at work when I first heard that Michael Jackson was rushed to the hospital not breathing. The day had already seemed weird with Farah Fawcett having died of cancer earlier and I was still tired from last week’s work trip to DC. I was swamped with follow-up work and just trying to stay awake. All I could think during the few hours it took for major news outlets to confirm his death is—“God please do not let Michael Jackson be dead”.

You got to understand I had already been feeling melancholy about getting older. I was turning 38 the next day and everything seemed to be changing. Last Christmas with the passing of Grandma Effie it seemed like I moved up a space in the pecking order. I was one step closer to dealing with my parents’ mortality and ultimately my own. My sweet faced poor bear (Asha) was no longer my baby. She was now in middle school, had boobs, almost my height, and had a life completely separate from me. Hell, I was no longer the cool mom but the mother that Asha didn’t want to talk to.

The cultural bench marks of my youth were aging as well. It’s been 20 years since Spike Lee’s land mark film Do the Right Thing. I remember seeing that movie opening weekend and being struck by how beautiful the Black folks looked in the film. It also provided a wonderful opportunity to discuss race in urban America. And hell yes Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet was the soundtrack for all of it. Everything that I loved about my adolescence was now considered old school. When in the hell did I become old school?

Now one of the earliest voices of my girlhood was dead. Michael was my unspoken idol and the one person that my entire family enjoyed listening to. Whether hearing “I Want You Back” at a family barbeque or dancing in the front room with my sisters and brothers to "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough", I can’t remember a time when a Michael Jackson’s song wasn’t playing in the background.

Like everyone else Thriller was huge in the Davis household. My brother Keith especially loved this album. We got the album for Christmas and wore it out. I remember all staying-up late with my siblings to watch the premiere of the Thriller video on Friday Night Videos. Keith practiced the dances moves all night.

My first slow dance with a boy was to a Michael’s Got to be there and he was the first celebrity poster I hung on my bedroom wall. Even as I got older and embraced Prince, DeBarge and pop/rock groups like the Police, Wham, INXS and U2, Michael was still there. I always looked forward to hearing his tender voice and how he would elevate the game not only with his music but also with his performances in videos.

None of this means that I didn’t have underlining critiques of Michael Jackson especially towards the end of his life. I was very concerned about the numerous plastic surgeries that not only changed his nose but lightened his skin color. What happened to the beautiful brown skinned man that I hung on my wall? For Black girls of my generation Michael Jackson was the male image that we dreamt of marring. If Jackson was not happy being Black, would he not think I was beautiful? Did he hate being Black so much that he would willfully morph into a bizarrely contorted face and ultra white skin that resembled no one on earth? I know internalized oppression affects us all in this white supremacist culture. I often wonder if more of us had access to his resources would there be more folks walking around looking just like him?

There were also the numerous accusations of child molestation. I know one case was settled out of court while he was exonerated of another. We can talk about the many reasons that helped create his stunted emotional development but it is never ok for a grown man to share a bed with children. I wish people would stop defending Michael’s alleged behavior by stating that you don’t believe he was gay. Pedophilia is not an extension of homosexuality!

My love for Michael and his music does not require me to pretend he was a perfect man. I think we do a disservice to legacy and ultimately his humanity when we render whole parts of his life invisible. My father once told me that the things I find useful about his life take it and the things I find deplorable, leave it. No one should or can be defined one thing. I hope the large culture begins to understand that.

Sabrina, it’s taken me over a week to finish this piece and this is what I have concluded—Michael was a huge talent whose contributions will live on forever. I am personally grateful to have his music as a reminder of the wonderful parts of my growing-up.

Michael may you rest in peace…


No comments:

Post a Comment