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.

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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.

 

Redefining Chivalry

I’ve never read a Steve Harvey book or listened to his lectures on men and women.  But I’m almost certain he’d disagree with my theory. But it’s my theory… so… here it goes…

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My lactose intolerance restricts my consumption of scrumptious Atlanta desserts and so for the second time in a week I visited a holistic restaurant with banging vegan delights. I had scheduled a lunch with my business colleague and since it was my birthday week, he told the waitress to put it all on one check.  But when she returned with the check, I added my debit card to the payment stack and told her to split it.

That’s right. I politely refused his offer to pay for my meal.

Why? He had just closed on a house so I knew he was pinching pennies.

I was looking out for my boy.

(At this point in the story I know half of you are cringing.)

So, later on that evening, I checked all my birthday Facebook posts.  My colleague noted that I shut him down at the restaurant and that #chivalryisdead. I politely informed him that I just upgraded his life with the introduction of vegan desserts so he should be grateful. Ha!

But that’s when I started thinking about the constitution of chivalry.

Follow me.

Back in the day, men had all the jobs. Some even had good paying jobs; you know, the ones that could support two families and such.  

Stay with me.

Back in the day, these men demonstrated their care for a woman by resourcing meals, clothes, houses, and cars that women could not resource themselves. “I have what you need and am willing to share because I care – about loving you (or sleeping with you).”

Stay with me.

Today, some women don’t need support in that way.  I can secure my own meals, clothes, houses, and cars.  So, I’m not particularly filled up with delight, affection, or lust when someone spends on me.  

(I know that there are a lot of good girlfriends out there who feel differently.  That’s cool. But this is my theory. Stay with me.)

So, today the way to demonstrate your care for me is to tell me to slow down.  That’s right.  I oftentimes fill my life with activities and routines that overwhelm me at critical points.  Someone who cares for me recognizes that I try to do too much and that I need protection from my overachieving self.  My loved ones demonstrate care for me with reminders about self care.

So, yes, that OLD chivalry is dead. The new seed of chivalry requires a man to really sit down and take inventory of a woman’s needs.

(Those needs change over time. That’s why you need to study her, always.)

More than 50 years ago, US culture – derived by people living in particular societal conditions – began shifting and chivalry – that is, demonstration of respect/care/love for a woman – stopped evolving.  What are some ways we can revive it to catch up to modernity?

Ten Things I Wish The Evangelical Church Knew About Me

Millennial notes on equity, social justice, and inclusion in the evangelical church

1. I feel most included in the delivery of church sermons when the referenced quotes don’t come from only white males and (occasionally) Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

2. I nod in agreement when the vision of America’s Founding Fathers is taught as one piece of a prophetic roadmap and not an infallible statement of where we are today in this country. The revolution of 1776 is yet incomplete.

3. I grow uncomfortable when church leaders elevate scripture’s cultural context above the principles of Jesus to justify one group’s priority position over another’s.  For instance, we are told that women can’t share God’s truth from the pulpit although a woman – Mary Magdalene – was the first forerunner of the message of the resurrected Christ.

4. It frustrates me when calls to prayer for our nation only surround the appointment of a Republican party representative or advancement of a conservative position.  I don’t recall many prayers going up for the Obama and Biden families or for health care access for citizens of this nation.

5. I am most confused when church members cast asides about certain sectors of society that they’ve never been in, interacted with, or influenced. Have you visited an inner-city? Have you mentored a millennial?

_t9quy5akkm-jazmin-quaynor.jpg6. I love worship. I do. Can we put some songs in rotation that will allow me to clap on the second and fourth beats?

7. I don’t fully understand current conflicts in the Middle East and the church’s priority position to support Israel. Some info-lessons would be nice.

8. I don’t believe that every ambitious woman is possessed by a Jezebel spirit.

9. I believe that small groups can be strengthened by equipping leaders to recognize signs of depression and loneliness.

10. I don’t think we’re ready to receive – i.e. minister to – the members of society we believe are part of the great harvest.  Are we ready to reveal the Father’s heart to former victims of sex trafficking? Can we deliver practical messages about revitalizing hope to men and women who were once suicidal? Do we have generous processes for moving people from poverty to prosperity? [One church body can’t do it all — so are we even connected to other bodies of believers who can fill in the gaps where we fall short?]

What are some of your moments of contemplation or consternation concerning your membership in today’s non-denominational (evangelical) church? Tell us in the comments below!

Throughout the year, I’ll be expounding on these thoughts – offering both concession and assertion arguments – to strengthen today’s church and my role within it.  Hint: To make things more “millennial friendly”: pay tribute to diversity and chisel us with God’s truth so that we can change the world!

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Post-edit: Look at what Johnny Enlow posted on January 20th!

Coolikan Podcast #6 – W is for Woman

“Women Hold up Half the Sky” -Mao Zedong

On this podcast, the Coolikans discuss the role, worth and social constructs of womanhood.  We celebrate the strengths and benefits of being a woman.  We also challenge the messages that we receive from childhood through adulthood that counter our personal definition of womanhood, and often lead us to believe that our sole purpose on earth is to make others, and specifically men, happy.

What does it mean to be a woman?

Thanks for listening!

**Honorable Mentions**

The Hidden Power of a Woman by Mahesh and Bonnie Chavda