Michael Jackson is dead at 50. My mom called me yesterday at 330pm to say, "Hijita did you hear? Michael murio!" The 31 year gap between us didn't matter at that moment, both of us were quiet on the phone, thinking of the many times we danced to the Thriller album when I was a girl.
At this moment I'm chilling in my home in East Oakland, still watching videos of Michael Jackson, listening to P.Y.T., Human Nature, reading the blogs, searching the internet to see what my fellow activists have to say about how MJ touched all of us. I'm 30 - I grew up with Michael's music - I remember Thriller was one of the first album's my parents bought that was in English, prior to that, it was mostly salsa albums in our home. At that time my folks didn't speak English too well, but MJ's music crossed that boundary.
What most amazes me about these past few days, since hearing of Michael's death, is how the entire world has reacted. People stopped what they were doing, to grieve for an artist who touched them deeply, breaking out with their favorite MJ song or moment. I mean almost EVERYONE, from here to Hong Kong to Mexico City to London to Thailand - folks felt a moment of loss. Michael died and almost took the internet with him! (read more) The moment of his death even topped Obama's inauguration in terms of web traffic.
Since 330 pm yesterday, I felt like I was part of a huge collective grieving process, watching folks gather FlashMob-style in London singing Thriller, watching people sing Rock With You at the Apollo Theater in unison, checking out folks post their favorite MJ songs and talk about their cheesy MJ childhood moments, even seeing folks in the markets breaking out with some 80s dance moves! My friend tweeted that she seen "woman in a wheelchair and a sports bra having her own private MJ church moment." It made me feel good to be alive, it made me stop and wish I could go dance Thriller in the streets, made me want to sing out with some MaMaSeMaMaSaMaMaCuSa! I have only felt once like this for a musician, and that was for the Chicana music pioneer, Selena!
Michael Jackson broke race barriers without a doubt. My good friend Adrienne Maria Brown, ED of Ruckus Society, writes in her blog:
He broke race barriers in the pop world which opened doors in the political world - he crossed over and back. He morphed. When the signs started to become clear, that the boy wasn’t right, that he was too isolated, underdeveloped, imperfect - we laughed, we stared, we assumed. He was our first boyfriend before he became our crazy cousin - always family.
Davey D, journalist and Hip Hop activist that runs one of the oldest and largest Hip Hop websites, wrote:
We keep forgetting the important role Jackson played in the We are the World Project in 1985...That was the jump off record for artists to come together and try and make big statements...I’ll never forget that Michael Jackson had the gumption to do his Remember the Time video set in Egypt and showed the ancient Egyptians as Black. That was big and the height of irony because so many of us always were annoyed that Egypt was always associated with Elizabeth Taylor who was one of Michael Jackson’s best friends. Instead of casting her in a return role of Cleopatra he put in Magic Johnson who played the Pharaoh. Sadly Jackson caught heat for it, but he never changed that video and many of us loved him for it...I recall Michael Jackson holding a press conference and calling Sony record executive Tommy Mottola out who at the time was one of the most powerful label executives in the world. Jackson called him a racist and a devilish person who was ripping off Black artists...At the time it was a bold move by Jackson. Not a whole lot of artists were willing to stand up and be counted.
Tammy Johnson, of RaceWire/Colorlines, describes, in her video blog, "he made it ok for white girls to scream at a black man, he made it ok for white boys to do the moonwalk." But it was not ok for Michael Jackson to be his black self.
Michael's passing reminds me about the power of art and creativity - a tool that truly has no limits. I've been listening to his songs all day, and decided to make a list of the my favorite lines that in some way or other, inspired me to be the warrior I am today. Check it out.
"If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and then make a change"
- Man in the Mirror
"Just remember to always think twice"
- Billie Jean
"‘Cuz we’re all the same, yes the blood inside of me is inside of you "
- Can You Feel It?
"I Ain't Scared Of No Sheets"
- Black or White
"If they say why....tell em that is human nature"
- Human Nature
"A change will only come when we stand together as one"
- We are the World