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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.