Grieving the Great Musician | Remembering Michael Jackson

If 2009 through 2011 were especially rough for you it was because you were grieving the loss of Michael Jackson.  We’re serious! On this, the 8th anniversary of his death, we salute the late, great super-musician. Read how Michael gifted us some sweet family memories.

Michaeljackson_(cropped)

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Every Morning I Wake Up and Blame You for MJ’s Death

By Obehi Janice

The day that Michael died I flipped through TV channels and this is what I’ll never forget: the ceilings in my Mom’s salon were so high that you had to actually tilt your neck at a solid 45 degree angle just to see the images correct. I did that from habit, not worrying about my neck muscles straining, because I always new that eventually the strain would release and I would walk to my Mom’s styling chair and watch her cut and color and create beauty for a client.

The day that Michael died, we kept our necks tethered to that television screen. It hurt. It hurt to have my ears ring with TMZ’s coverage of ambulances surrounding Michael’s home. It hurt to have channel after channel wait for the other to break the official news: THE KING OF POP IS DEAD.

I remember when CNN finally broke the news that TMZ had officially broken the news that Michael was gone. My Mom finished her last client. I looked in one of the mirrors, idly, picking my afro. And I asked her one question: “IHOP?”

She replied, “IHOP.” And we drove to the nearest IHOP and shared a stack of pancakes and traded turns trying to convince the other that Michael Jackson hadn’t left this earth.

“He was a Jehovah’s Witness right?”

“He didn’t really practice, though.”

“But it counts, right?”

“I don’t know if it counts. But I know he loved God.”

“Okay. You remember, right? Heal the World?”

“Yeah. Sure.”

“Yeah.”

The pancakes and syrup were a balm. Very, very temporary salve.

I no longer go to IHOP (unless forced) and I hate TMZ with a passion.

I hate drugs and I hate addiction.

I hate colorism and the white supremacy that bred it.

I hate the words “talent” and “potential” because they can be so easily extinguished.

But I love my fro. Sometimes, when I play Off the Wall, I play it with a vengeance. I play it like someone who is looking for rhythmic blood. Because I don’t care about your culture. Michael was my culture. And y’all took it away from me. I like digging my hands (because you can’t) into my fro and I know that Michael and me shared the same kind of hair and the same kind of culture and the same kind of skin and it makes me happy.

Every morning I wake up and I still blame you for his death.

And then I angle my neck forward and start my day.

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Family Ties

By Elise Lockamy

I distinctly remember the deluge of news coverage concerning Michael in the days and weeks after his untimely death. One report detailed the public’s reaction to the news. A young woman looked incredulously at the videographer and tearily said, “I don’t know what’s real anymore.” I chuckled and then ruminated.  Today, I think I know what’s real – that Michael’s identity was crushed by the weight of celebrity -, but damn Michael is really gone.  In the words of the great Kanye West, “Our *homie* dead”. When I moved to Atlanta, my grandmother gifted me a worn vinyl record. It was Michael Jackson’s “Bad” album.  Every member of my family had a copy of this one; “Bad” happened to be one of the few songs that would soothe me as a baby.  Yes, MJ has been with me since the beginning, informing my emotions, dance personas, and ballad dreams.  My sister hyperventilated throughout Michael’s funeral coverage on CNN. As I offered comforting words to her, I continued to think, “The king is dead!” In another news clip, a gentleman said, “Look, at some point in their lives, everybody loved Michael Jackson”. Indeed. So here’s one for my homie and lost love Michael Jackson — and even as I type these words I’m saying  “MIKEEEEE” long and loud for the neighbors to hear.  RIP my dude. RIP.

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I Remember the Time

By Acasia Olson

Do y’all remember the days when Michael Jackson music videos premiered on MTV? It was an event! Michael had a way of turning a music video into a mini movie! My family and I would sit in the living room, watching the screen and waiting as the timer counted backwards.  Then we’d be transported to a scene in a back alley speak-easy or the Pharoah’s court in Egypt and watch as Michael did what he knew best. And it wasn’t just the fly beats and dance moves but the amazing special effects.  He was the pioneer of the epic music video. “Do you remember the time?” and “Smooth Criminal” were two of my favorite videos, and “Dangerous” is probably the first Michael Jackson album where I feel like I got to “know” Michael.

I had a lot of mixed feelings about Michael.  I didn’t grow up loving him and unlike my Aunts or little sister, I didn’t believe I would marry Michael at all.  I was a kid when all the slander and frenzy came out about his misconduct with children.  In my heart of hearts, I don’t believe he hurt any one of those children. Sadly I worried and grieved for his tortured soul because I’m sure he was tormented and assaulted as a child in the grimey music and entertainment industry that preys off the vulnerable.  

But what I remember most, and what probably bothers me the most, is the time that I missed out on meeting him.  Michael Jackson befriended a local news reporter in the DC Metro Area who happened to also befriend an old mentor of mine.  One day, when Michael was in town, my mentor invited my family to join her at a cookout where none other than Michael Jackson would be present.  We had been to the reporter’s house before, but we didn’t really know the host personally and my dad, who contemplated whether or not to go, decided it best not to seem intrusive and too much of a fanatic. We opted to give Michael his peace and serve as one less foreign face to shower him with adoration.

But that’s probably what he needed, because that was in 2004, and the world was not in love with Michael Jackson.  The cute, afro toting, dancing machine, chocolate ball with the high pitched voice and mesmerizing smile was now a pale, straight haired and gaunt figure who remained shrouded both in mystery and pain and who appeared as if his internal torment and tortured soul had succumbed to the demons.   We decided not to meet him and after he died, my dad, sister and I said, “damn,” because not only did we lose a legend but we would never again have a chance to be that close to seeing the King of Pop. And we had the perfect chance to meet him, in person, at a private home and away from the fanfare and spectacle that likely accompanies him in the public eye. The closest I got to coming near him again was posthumously when, while living in Bahrain, I would drive by the alleged home he once lived in while seeking solitude out that way.

Now I watch his videos, tears in my eyes, nostalgic and amazed that we were blessed with an incredible artist, genius, and soul.  May his memory never be forgotten and may he rest in peace.

 

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May 2017 Podcast – In all thy getting…

We’re baaaacccckkkk! After a lengthy hiatus, the Coolikans Elise and Acasia are back at the mic to discuss the world as they live it. This time, they’re talking about information, specifically how to manage and process all the information that we receive.  With so much news and “facts” (alternative and otherwise) going around, how are you responding to it and when is it appropriate give yourself permission to take a breaks? Is it possible to stay woke and take a nap?

Let us know in the comments below.

Thanks for tuning in and enjoy!

 

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HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Strength Finder Test: https://www.strengthstest.com

Revamp your resume with Elise’s resume review business: http://bit.ly/2q9TbxJ

Ms. Jackson: http://eonli.ne/2rLvOLc

Proverbs 4:7  7Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. (http://biblehub.com/kjv/proverbs/4.htm)

 

 

Not of this world

Acasia – Originally written in 2016

I am a Christian in a Muslim nation. I do not feel or worry about the threat of persecution.  I remember my first experience worshipping at the local church. It looked like what I would describe as heaven, people from every nation and tongue, assembled together to praise and celebrate Jesus. Before arriving, I had a phone conversation with a person who once visited this part of the world. She mentioned underground churches and said I would get in trouble if I read my Bible in public or had Bibles mailed here. But, that’s not true, at least not in this particular country or within my experience. There are several known and fully operational Protestant and Catholic churches in town. Yet, I know this is not the case for my Christian brethren living in parts of the world where the pronouncement of their faith is met with assault, imprisonment or even death. I acknowledge that I have what some would title “religious privilege” and “cavalier faith”. I do not, nor have I ever worried about being targeted for celebrating Christmas, listening to praise and worship music in my car with the windows rolled down, assembling people for open invitation Bible study at my house or attending a church service in a publicly identified building in broad daylight. Nope, not once, not even while living in a Muslim nation.  Hell, weeks before Christmas, local grocery stores had Christmas Decorations on full display and on Christmas Eve, a lady in her hijab wished my husband and me, and everyone else in her check out line, a Merry Christmas!

So I’m trying to figure out how I, a Christian living in a Muslim nation, had such freedom and opportunity to openly assemble in church buildings, and go to weekly Bible Study without fear of being ratted out.  I wear my cross jewelry without being deported or having it ripped off my body, or walk around in my jeans and t-shirt without the fashion police forcing me to throw on a black robe.  And yet Muslims in America, which is not, nor ever has been, a Christian Nation, have folks drafting plans to ban them. These same folks are the ones who would deny black and brown folks the right to vote and “Make America Great Again”. Amirite?

For those still living in this bubble or haze of xenophobia and islamaphobic ignorance, here’s what I’ve experienced as a Christian living in this particular Muslim nation:

  • The worst of it: Crazy @$$ driving, awful commuter traffic (because traffic doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world – sarcasm*) and hot @$$ summers
  • The source of growing pains: Not being able to eat, chew gum or drink in public from sun up to sundown during Ramadan, which provided empathy for Muslims living in non-Muslim nations during Ramadan. In fact, I could eat in my house and considered Ramadan a great time for my own fasting; The term “Inshallah,” or “God willing” which many expats translate to “one day but not today” or “maybe”;  witnessing the transient workers out all day during the hotter months to build skyscrapers and new high rises; the instant, skin melting heat and thick, dusty air that gets stuck on your lungs; construction at all hours of the night when living in the city.
  • The amazing parts: The diversity of people, who are kind and humans (not monsters not radicals not terrorists), there are your hipsters, your gym rats, your cobras (men who rock thobes and ghutras (traditional head piece) that look like a cobra, your fabulous women who look like they stepped out of a catalogue and reminded me of the glorious days of the Ancient Egyptians who probably invented fashion; the food, including pesticide free produce and succulent restaurant selections; the western-inspired clothes and music played on the radio; the dates growing off the date palm in the summer; the colorful farmers’ market in the cooler months; the random person walking their camel, riding their horses down the road or kids pushing the mule and cart; my favorite Indian or Pakistani bicycle DJ playing music and turning heads while pedaling around the neighborhood; Joss Stone performing at the Spring of Culture concert; color runs and desert camps for National Day; the Harley motorcycle rides; the Friday Brunches featuring live music and incredible food stations; the ability to get news in other languages than English and Arabic; rain after the hot season; the fancy cars and home decor; movie theaters with food delivered to your seat when you order from an iPad; the fact that you can order anything and have it delivered, including a Snicker’s bar and a Dairy Queen Blizzard; the souk (aka market place) and learning how to barter/bargain for a good deal on scarves and trinkets; epic rug flops with delicious food and “magic” carpets; henna boutiques and massages; the malls; addictive karak (pronounced kah-rack) tea and saffron infused Arabic coffee; the distinct and hypnotizing perfume; the pearls; the beautiful weather from November through April; the genuine hospitality; the language; the daily call to prayer and soul stirring reminder that God truly is Almighty

Would you know, they even have a U.S. Appreciation Week! But of course no one thinks that “radical Muslims” would celebrate our beloved nation.

As a Christian in the U.S., I never had to use secret codes or worry that my friends on Facebook will see my posts and links to sermons and report me to my family or the authorities. I didn’t have to fear that my church would be raided; and the only roster that I’ve ever been on helped the church determine its “guests” and new “members” while affording me the luxury of a welcome letter in the mail and a cute little gift bag to thank me for visiting. In the states, my biggest church-related “dread” was having to circle parking lots for a space at one of three full to overflowing worship services. I did this without fear of being arrested.

In the Muslim nation that I call home, I have driven, in broad daylight, to churches situated across the street from mosques, both assemblies dismissing at the same time.  No bombings, no slurs or attacks. A simple acknowledgment and nod of the head before walking to our cars parked on the sidewalk for lack of available spaces. The only traffic jam I encountered was caused by a service so packed, we had to wait our turn to exit the grounds in our car – a car which had a license plate to clearly identify us if you couldn’t see our faces.  In this Muslim nation, I have had a chance to attend events where most, if not all the folks in attendance practiced Islam, and I didn’t get kicked out or berated when they found out I was Christian. No one threw a hijab or abaya on my head and said, “You’re in Bahrain now honey, you need to cover up.” No one forced me to cover my hair, hands, face, body. No one dragged me to the mosque or shoved the Quran down my throat and called me an infidel for not knowing any Surahs.

Yes, I know, there are exceptions and no place is perfect. Yes, other nations and communities might very well endorse the aforementioned and I won’t dismiss that or pretend it’s not real. I’m grateful, though, that I have the freedom to wear jeans and a t-shirt, expose my face and drive my car, and converse with women and men and go to the pork section of the local grocery store to get an occasional slab of bacon or ribs. So let me be one of many to dispel the notion that Muslim societies are oppressive, violent, or any more dehumanizing than White supremacist America. Mine was a peaceful experience.

I’ll admit, I’ve taken my religious privilege for granted. I’ve forsaken the assembly and fellowship of the believers or corporate praise and worship in-person, and have soaked in the luxury of watching a sermon online. This, in part, stems from the burning, and confirmed, suspicion that predominantly white church leadership rarely speaks to social injustices plaguing the various groups that comprise its congregation, some groups of which I identify. But that’s another topic for a future post. The honest answer is that I have religious privilege. Like anyone who isn’t a member of the persecuted or oppressed or marginalized community, I can go about my day without once worrying if my loved one was murdered or detained for leaving their Bible in the car. I can rest at night because I don’t consider that this might be the night when I have to flee the neighborhood or go before the authorities and answer a series of questions on this Christian missionary or that pastor who was on trial for spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I can listen to Christian songs or watch sermons and videos on my computer without any of it being blocked and not once have I had to sneak a look at my Bible or hide my music playlist from family members who don’t believe in Jesus. And this has continued while living as an expat in a Middle Eastern Muslim nation.

These are thoughts on paper, but I’m blown away by this thing called religious freedom and specifically religious privilege. And I need anyone reading this, whether you are Christian or atheist, to think about the foolishness unfolding in the U.S. Really think about it. If you’re Christian, you know about the persecuted church. You know about the voices of the martyrs and the people who are threatened daily for their beliefs. If you’re an American Christian or a “Western” Christian, and I speak to you only because that’s the context of my Christian identity, I need you to step outside of your western, WASPY Eurocentric Christian privilege. Deny it the way GOD denied His very own deity to become a brown-skinned, middle eastern, Aramaic speaking homeless revolutionary, aka JESUS, and think about what’s going on. Don’t just think, do better. The church is already suffering from a serious hijacking and infiltration of its potential by various charlatans and cowards. Don’t let it continue. Don’t be on the wrong side of history. Don’t repeat the sins of any and all other “churches” that remained silent, complicit and passive in the face of fascist leaders and mass persecution.

Check your religious privilege and call to love and serve and remember that they, the clowns behind this, can and, if you put it past them, will come for you. Since All Lives Matter, show it, don’t just tell it. 

This message was brought to you for the love of God and people. 

 

Coolikan Podcast #18: Politics and the Pulpit

This upcoming election day and the marathon to this day looks…crazy. We have an opportunity to elect candidates that have caused many people to question and worry about the U.S. Political system as we know it. So many people are talking but shooting out sound bites and making noise. And what about the voices behind the pulpit? Coolikan takes a few minutes to discuss the influence on politics and the pulpit and the pulpit on politics and the mess that this can and has made.

Honorable Mentions:

Coolikan Pod/Videocast: Social Justice

The Coolikans sit down with special guest, Ms. Sharity Bannerman (historian, educator and attorney) to talk about the criminal justice system. Tune in as Sharity enlightens us about her journey to becoming a (special interest) lawyer and the journey ahead to addressing the criminal injustices plaguing our society.

 

Honorable Mentions:

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture || http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/09/15/arts/design/national-museum-of-african-american-history-and-culture.html?emc=edit_th_20160916&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=32120929&_r=1

homepage

From the Heart Christian Ministries || http://www.fthcm.org

The Innocence Project || http://www.innocenceproject.org

Huffingto Post Article on School to Prison Pipeline || http://www.huffingtonpost.com/the-heller-school-/preschooltoprison-pipelin_b_9773826.html

Equal Justice Project || http://eji.org

Sandra Bland’s family settles in a wrongful death suit $1.9M || http://edition.cnn.com/2016/09/15/us/sandra-bland-wrongful-death-settlement/

Jay-Z: The War on Drugs is an Epic Fail || http://www.nytimes.com/video/opinion/100000004642370/jay-z-the-war-on-drugs-is-an-epic-fail.html

Coolikan Podcast: Special Back to School Episode

Tis the season to hit the books and return to the classroom.

Elise and Acasia are passionate about education, learning and understanding and appreciate the teachers who laid the foundation to their success.  This special Back to School Episode podcast features a special guest, Acasia’s mom, a teacher of 24 years and dedicated community leader.

Tune in as Mrs. Barrett talks to us about the highs, lows, and beauty of being a teacher.

POP Quiz: What teacher(s) had the greatest impact on who you are today?

Video:

Audio:

Happy Birthday Coolikan

Coolikan turns 3 this month. In celebration of her journey on this earth, we find ourselves talking about the very topic that got this blog and podcast in motion: racial injustice and inequality and the role of the Church in addressing it. While this podcast is not entirely devoted to the topic, given the events unfolding in the the U.S. we can’t help but wonder and hope for a time when a Coolikan Birthday Celebration doesn’t include a discussion on racial injustice because we’ll have made substantial strides in the coming years and decades. One can only hope and that’s what we have: faith, hope and love. And above all these is love, which we hope, despite being in need of love today, will swell and flood.

In celebration of summer and vacations, and potential relocations abroad (depending on the U.S. Presidential Election results), we’re talking about traveling while black.  Lifelong nomad and travel aficionado Acasia, leads this conversation on the importance of Black folks traveling domestically and abroad and her experience as a Black American Wanderlust!

Happy Listening!

**Honorable Mentions**:

  • The Negro Motorists Green Book: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Negro_Motorist_Green_Book
  • Travel Noire: http://travelnoire.com
  • Awe Inclusive travel: http://aweinclusive.com
  • Self Care for People of Color After Psychological Trauma: http://justjasmineblog.com/self-care-for-people-of-color-after-emotional-and-psychological-trauma/