Michael Jackson’s Memorial:End of an Era-Close of a Chapter-Where Do We Go from Here?

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Michael Jackson’s Memorial: End of an Era-Close of a Chapter
Where Do We Go from Here?

by Davey D

DaveyD-MJmemorialYesterday’s memorial for Michael Jackson was surreal, emotional, healing, inspiring and a heartfelt sobering wake up call. I’m glad I fought my initial urge to stay home and made the 5 hour drive from the Bay Area down to the Staples Center in LA.  The long drive done in the middle of the night gave me time to reflect on all that had taken place over the past couple of weeks.

The days leading up to the memorial were filled with lots of articles, commentary and musical tributes. For many of us Michael Jackson and his various incarnations throughout the years were rediscovered. From his early hits like ‘ABC‘, ‘I Want You Back’ and ‘Going Back to Indiana’ to his latter songs off the Thriller’, Invincible’ and ‘History’ albums, all took on new meaning. The brilliance behind them were better appreciated. When re-listening to his older material we came to understand that he and his brothers were years ahead of their time.

Over the past couple of weeks we discovered just how much of a global phenomenon he was. We learned how he kicked down doors and broke color barriers within the music industry. We learned how he gave over 40% of his income to charities. These aspects and so many more surrounding his life were often overlooked while we focused on his eccentric behavior and controversies.

Michael Jackson over the past two weeks was a bigger than life figure and in our rediscovering him, many of us rediscovered some long forgotten aspects of ourselves. For many of us Michael was still alive.  He was still alive in spite of the incessant news stories about his death and the speculation as to what caused it.  With each music or video tribute, television special or retrospective walk down memory lane, MJ was still here. His energy was around. His spirit felt.  As I listened to his older material I found myself yearning for him to bust out with new material and resurrect a long lost soulful sound from a bygone era. But alas he was gone.

Chuck D dropped lots in insight about Michael Jackson both on his Air America radio show and the History of Funk special

Chuck D dropped lots in insight about Michael Jackson both on his Air America radio show and the History of Funk special

Two days prior to me leaving for the Memorial I had done an in-depth radio show with Chuck D from Public Enemy and funk expert Professor Rickey Vincent– author of the book ‘History of Funk’.  It was a two hour show chock full of never before inside facts about MJ and how he and his brothers were rooted in a much larger soul, blues and funk musical traditions within the Black community. We talked in depth about where MJ and his brothers stood in relationship with their contemporaries at that time, George Clinton, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, James Brown and so many others. We played many of his soulful and adventurous cuts from the mid 70s that were out of print and all but hidden from a mainstream press that seemingly only wanted to focus on ‘Thriller’ and ‘Off the Wall’.  This two hour History of Funk broadcast was the sound track to my 400 mile trek down to the memorial. And as the hours drew closer, the more alive and vibrant his music became-so much so that I literally forgot the reality at hand.  I anticipated an upbeat celebration and a chance to reconnect to old friends. We were coming together to celebrate Michael – not mourn him.

Here’s our conversation on All Day Play FM w/ Chuck D

Conversation All Day Play FM  w/ Rickey Vincent

MJ-Fans-300As I arrived at the Staples Center and got my tickets I was there amongst thousands. The mood was upbeat and somewhat festive. There were smiles and light hearted jokes. The mood was one of excitement as we all knew we were going to a historic event. The fact that we were among thousands of people who loved and appreciated this man sans the outright disrespect the media punditry playerhaterism who are increasingly out of step  with their viewers and listeners added to the jovial mood.

_MichaelJacksonstage-223It wasn’t until I got inside a darkened Staples Center and saw the stage adorned with flowers and the memorializing picture montage that it started to sink in what was really going on. As the place filled up we all could spot various celebrities who generally would cause a stir, the mood had drastically changed. It was more somber and definitely quiet except for the folks in the VIP section that seemed to be more animated and engaged as they smiled, exchanged pounds and hugged each other like this was just another industry event. I recall making note and tweeting about that.

When Michael’s gold casket adorned with roses was carried in…Then it really hit. The mood changed even more as it sunk in for all of us.  This was not some sort of celebratory concert even with Stevie Wonder, Usher and Mariah Carey all singing. This was all about us saying goodbye…Not just to Michael but to an era and to part of ourselves. There was a lesson or lessons that needed to be gleaned and I found myself deep in thought and reflecting.

MJ-mariahcarey-300The Memorial itself could be best described as beautifully sad. We all saw the highlights, the first being Mariah Carey singing as she tried her best to hold back tears and keep her voice from cracking. We understood how difficult it was to sing  with the casket in front of her.  People in the audience had teared up when it was first brought in. If she didn’t care nor had no love, then this would’ve been just another gig. But singing in front of MJ’s casket knowing that he was forever gone was something else.  Everyone at the Memorial felt her and appreciated the singing -cracked voice and all.

Magic Johnson sharing his KFC chicken story was nice.  It humanized MJ for us. Him talking about being asked to be in the ‘Remember the Time’ video was appreciated as we recalled MJ using an all Black cast for this video depicting Ancient Egypt. We as Black folks appreciated it, but back in 1992, when this video first premiered on prime time TV, it angered a lot of white media pundits who questioned why Jackson would show Egyptians as their real color – Black.  Folks need to ponder the deeper meaning behind that for a minute.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDxsM5jLNxM

Stevie Wonder gave a heartfelt performance that brought us to tears

Stevie Wonder gave a heartfelt performance that brought us to tears

Stevie Wonder  and Usher moved us immensely as they sung their respective songs. Because I had done the History of Funk Show with Chuck D and Rickey Vincent, I had greater appreciation and understanding of what Stevie Wonder meant to MJ and the Jacksons when he took the stage.  I understood that Stevie was Motown’s first childhood star who at age 11 signed to Motown and was known as Lil’ Stevie – the Boy Genius. He was the one you saw rocking the harmonica as Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson and others within Motown held it down.

I appreciated that as Stevie got older and made way for the new child star – Michael Jackson. Over the years, Stevie would write a number of songs that Michael covered.  From ‘My Cheri Amour’ to ‘I Don’t Know Why I Love You’ Wonder was an ever present figure  who over the years played a crucial role in helping shape and inspire the genius we appreciate about Michael.

I also understood that Stevie was arguably at the prime of his career winning Grammy after Grammy and dropping landmark albums like ‘Talking Book’, ‘Innervisions’  and ‘Songs in the Keys of Life’ as the Jacksons were emerging as pop sensations. With all this in mind, Stevie’s opening remarks about wishing he didn’t have to live to see the day we buried Michael along with his stellar performance of ‘Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer’ which was also covered by Michael took, on deeper meaning now that I had a historical and social context to put it in.

Usher’s heartfelt performance of Michael’s song ‘Gone Too Soon’ which had inspired dozens of video tributes found all upon Youtube including an incredible tribute done for the ill-fated BET Awards but was sadly never shown, was moving.

 

Brooke did her best to hold back tears while she talked about the great friendship she and Michael had.

Brooke did her best to hold back tears while she talked about the great friendship she and Michael had.

Brooke Shields’ speech was touching as was John Mayer’s performance. Many did not realize how close and long a friendship Shields and Michael had. It was touching and insightful. One had to respect Mayer for opting not to sing but to just play the riffs to the song ‘Human Nature’. He later noted that he could not do Michael justice.

Brother Jermaine Jackson singing Michael’s favorite song ‘Smile’ was sobering. We had heard early on that Jermaine was going to sing and it was met with excitement. Again when it finally sunk in that he was paying tribute to his fallen brother after Brooke Shileds had referenced the song in her remarks, we were all moved.

Reverend Al Sharpton gave the speech of a lifetime as he encompassed many of the feelings many were feeling but simply could not articulate. He addressed the naysayers and MJ haters in splendid fashion when he reminded us how Michael through his music and videos brought people of all races together and helped erase many divisions especially when he kicked down the doors to segregated entities like MTV.  He reminded the audience that it was Michael who pushed and played trailblazing roles in charitable events like Live AID and We Are the World.

Sharpton noted that MJ’s bringing together of folks paved the way for the eventual election of President Obama. This drew loud applause. Sharpton spoke directly to Michael’s kids when he said; “There was nothing strange about your Daddy, it was strange what your daddy had to deal with.” This drew a thunderous standing ovation.

I knew right then, in spite 20 thousand people inside Staples beaming and rousing in agreement with Sharpton, that pundits would immediately be put in front of the TV cameras to discredit – and they were. The main talking points were; Michael Jackson was not an African American icon, but an American icon and that Sharpton’s remarks were racist and would not be approved by Jackson. What’s funny about this was Jackson in later years came under attack for 3 or 4 things that drew the racial ire of some of Sharpton’s critics who say he plays the race card too much.

The first as I mentioned earlier was the ‘Remember the Time’ video where Michael caught flak for having African Americans be cast as ancient Egyptians.

The second was Michael buying the Beatles catalogue. Him besting everyone including former friend Paul McCartney at the music industry’s publishing game, which over the years has left scores of Black artists destitute, may have been the spark that led to the onslaught of attacks MJ had to endured.

The third was him marrying Elvis Presley’s daughter, Priscilla Presley. That was too much for a whole lot of prejudice folks to bear. I recall the anger it caused to have the King of Pop who in spite of his so called white appearance was still seen as a Black man marrying the daughter of the King of Rock-N-Roll. We all heard stories about Elvis’s daughter being called a “nigger lover”.

Prior to that, Michael caught racial heat for his very public friendship and relationship with Brooke Shields. Yes, the interracial dating thing even for the King of Pop was troubling for quite a few folks who want to insist that Michael be an “American icon” as long as he doesn’t marry their daughters. (The irony here is that Michael and Brooke never really dated they were just good friends, but even that was too much)

The fourth thing was Jackson going up to Harlem in June 2002 to Al Sharpton’s headquarters and speaking out about the blatant racism in the music industry. It was Jackson not Sharpton who referred to then lauded industry executive Tommy Mottola as racist and devilish. Sharpton tried to backpedal a bit on Jackson’s remarks and make it seem like a mistake in words, but it was just days later Michael went to England and underscored everything he said about Mottola and then some.

The bottom line is Sharpton captured the moment during the memorial. Sharpton’s words were a breath of fresh air when you look at the racial overtones that had been placed on Jackson ranging from idiotic Congressmen like Peter King out of New York, to the so called liberal icon Keith Oberman.

As each speaker took the stage and paid tribute, it hit home that the King of Pop was not only gone for good, but along with him an enduring, inspiring spirit calling on us to live up to life’s challenges and be our best at all times. It would be up to us to hold on to that spirit and do something with it. This realization was underscored when Martin Luther King III and his sister Bernice King spoke directly to the family and shared with them lessons they learned from their famous Civil Rights leader father. They recalled his famous Drum Major Instinct speech where he told us to be the best at what we do no matter how insignificant it may seem. They also shared with us MJ reaching out to their mother, Coretta Scott King  3 weeks before she passed which reminded us just how big a heart this man had.

Brother Marlon Jackson and Michael's daughter Paris reminded us that Michael was not just an icon but a beloved family member who will be missed

Brother Marlon Jackson and Michael’s daughter Paris reminded us that Michael was not just an icon but a beloved family member who will be missed

It all hit home whenMarlon Jackson spoke about his love for his brother which was followed by daughter Paris whose voice and cries about her love for her father were heard all around the world.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the building when she spoke.

After the Jackson family said their last goodbyes, the casket was removed the finality of Michael Jackson being forever gone hit. I found myself thinking how Michael meant different things to different people. Some saw him as only an entertainer while others saw him as part of a larger culture rooted in age-old traditions. Some saw Michael as transcending race while other saw him as part of a race. Some saw Mike as a meal ticket to sell t-shirts, records, tickets etc while others recoiled at him being commoditized.

I myself saw a man who left behind a rich legacy and I was wondering if it would be a legacy we exploit and squander or if it would be something we cherish and build upon?  Were my frequent walks down memory lane over the past two weeks a reminder for me to learn about myself and my people, build upon that, spread the knowledge and use that understanding to dwell deeper and bring forth the important aspects of the heroes and sheroes who do for us everyday?  In other words, start loving and appreciating while people are still around and not when their dead?

It was then that it hit me that Michael’s music was no longer alive. Not in the way it was when I was coming down to LA. It was no longer alive because it was time for us to move forward and add richness to the legacy and not keep using it. In other words stop, looking for comfort within Michael and his music and start using our talents and resources to comfort and be a blessing to others.

Michael Joseph Jackson was a constant companion-a sound track of sorts to my life. He was a constant who was there at every momentous occasion I experienced. And now he was no more. He’s the end of an era, a chapter closed and the start of new beginning if I so choose.

Michael Jackson was an iconic bigger than life figure prior to the Memorial. After brother Marlon and daughter Paris spoke, it hit hard that he was a brother, father, son and beloved friend who will surely be missed.

There will never ever be another Michael Jackson and for that I’m sad. But his memorial said to me, “The ball is in your court.  Michael’s  work is done. It’s on you, it’s on us –each and everyone of us who sought comfort in his talents and persona, to carry on and impact this world and the communities around us by helping move them to new and better heights. Will the world stop and pay attention when we die?

RIP Michael Jackson..May we build upon the foundation you laid for us.

The Jackson clan wore white gloves in honor of Michael

The Jackson clan wore white gloves in honor of Michael

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Joe Budden To Inspectah Deck: “I’m going to tear him up for fun”

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Joe Budden To Inspectah Deck: “I’m going to tear him up for fun”

By Houston Williams
Joe Budden Ready to battle Inspectah Deck

Joe Budden Ready to battle Inspectah Deck

A full-fledged lyrical feud has broken out between Inspectah Deck of the Wu Tang Clan and Joe Budden, who now represents for Slaughterhouse.

While Budden has yet to respond in song, Deck has released a song called “House N***a,” where he proclaims “the war is on.”

The lyrical beef is a result of Joe Budden expressing that he was a greater emcee than Method Man in a tourney of the best rappers alive by now-defunct Vibe magazine.

“When I first heard the Inspectah Deck s**t I thought it was weak but I said, ‘Aight I’m going to tear him up for fun,” Budden said on BlogTV, a site he uses for live video blogging. “I just wish somebody else would’ve responded, not him… Me and Raekwon talked it out, me and Busta Rhymes already spoke. Now here you come…”

Budden didn’t say that he would definitely respond, but he did sent some barbed words for Deck.

“While Inspectah Deck may be considered a legend for the one great verse he had in his 30 year career, it’s 2009…We’ll see how it all plays out. We gotta see how it goes down when I get into the studio,” Budden continued. “He should be dissing RZA for not paying him. When Saigon dissed me, my next dis track was the fact that I got paid from his dis track. I don’t think people really use their heads. He rapped on ‘Pump It Up.’ Me and Just [Blaze] got paid for it.”

On the song, Deck admits to defending Method Man, who refused to entertain a battle with Budden.

On his blog, Budden suggested that he may use the feud to push his Slaughterhouse album with Crooked I, Royce Da 5’ 9” and Joell Ortiz.

“Honestly, dude ain’t worth responding to… But I DO have an album coming out.. Mite be buzzworthy to cook dude.. We’ll see,” Budden wrote.

source: http://www.allhiphop.com/stories/news/archive/2009/07/09/21760622.aspx

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Barack Obama or Cynthia McKinney Who Reps Us Best in the Middle East?

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Former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney has just returned from an Israeli jail where she was briefly imprisoned, along with human rights activists from several nations, for her second attempt at publicly running the brutal US-Israeli blockade trying to bring coloring books, food and medical supplies.  Why are the US and Israel imposing this collective punishment upon 1.5 million civilians.  How does McKinney’s stand match up against that of our first black president, the most powerful man in the world who calls it a “humantarian crisis” but will do nothing about it?  And how do they both stack up against the legacy of Dr. King?

Barack Obama or Cynthia McKinney – Who Represents Black America Toward Palestine and Israel?

By BAR Managing Editor Bruce A. Dixon

http://www.blackagendareport.com/?q=content/barack-obama-or-cynthia-mckinney-who-represents-black-america-toward-palestine-israel-and-mi

Both Obama and McKinney have traveled to the region more than once in the last several months.”

It’s almost an unfair question.  Barack Obama’s many apologists have explained their lips off telling us how he could not run and cannot govern as president of Black Americans, or the president of Americans neck-deep in consumer debt, or the president of Americans who want an everybody in-nobody out health care system.  To get elected and to govern, they wisely assure us, Barack Obama has chosen to be and must be the “president of everybody,” if by everybody you mean private health insurers, Wall Street banksters, Pentagon contractors and greedy chambers of commerce everywhere.  The president is a grown man, and he gets to make those choices.

So do the rest of us, and on questions pertaining to the Middle East, a Euro-centric place name if ever there was one, every public opinion survey that bothers to differentiate white from black US opinion indicates that African Americans are, in the main, far more sympathetic to the cause of Palestinians than either their white neighbors or their first black president. Barack Obama then, is operating well outside the black consensus on Palestine and Israel, while former Georgia congresswoman Cynthia McKinney swims confidently in the mainstream of black opinion and the prophetic tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Both Obama and McKinney have traveled to the region more than once in the last several months. The president gave a speech in Cairo sternly advising Palestinians to give up violence in pursuit of justice, while seeming to ignore the grossly disproportionate violence, official and unofficial, of the Israeli settler state against them. Obama acknowledged what he called a humanitarian crisis in Gaza without facing his own and the American role in creating that crisis, let alone advancing any measures that would ameliorate it.

““My suitcase,” McKinney told BAR, “was full of crayons. Somebody in authority should explain why crayons and coloring books for Palestinian children are a threat…”

What President Obama calls Gaza’s humanitarian crisis is actually a medieval siege, in which Israel, with the full diplomatic and military backing of the US, its principal armorer and banker, has sealed 1.5 million people off from the outside world. For more than two years practically no Palestinians have been permitted to enter Gaza, either from the Israeli-occupied West Bank or elsewhere. Electricity has been cut to a few hours per day and water to a fraction of needed quantities while the Israeli armed forces prohibit Palestinians from purchasing or receiving parts to build, repair or expand capacity. Hundreds of ordinary items needed to carry on civilized life are also banned, including cement, soap, toothpaste, foodstuffs, medical supplies, books, paper clothing and crayons.

In December 2008, and June 2009 Cynthia McKinney, traveled to Cyprus and in the company of human rights activists from many countries attempted to sail to Gaza with a cargo of cement, coloring books, building, medical and humanitarian supplies in order to illustrate the inhumanity and absurdity of the blockade. Both times, the boats were intercepted by the Israeli navy, their GPS units destroyed, and the craft boarded. This time, twenty-one persons including the Irish Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire were arrested and imprisoned for several days before being deported.

My suitcase,” McKinney told BAR, “was full of crayons. Somebody in authority should explain why crayons and coloring books for Palestinian children are a threat. Somebody should tear down this wall.” McKinney took pains to point out that the blockade, as well as the murderous assault that occurred in December, were carried on with arms and fuel supplied by the US, and with its full diplomatic backing. The blockade of Gaza is causing widespread malnutrition among Palestinians, including children, and is doubtless costing lives daily. “All of us need to ask,” McKinney said, “why our government, through the Israelis, is pursuing this barbaric policy toward the Palestinians, and we must demand that it end right now.”

Why are Israel and the US, with the help of Egypt, imposing this brutal siege upon Gaza?

McKinney also brought with her insights on the racial composition of Israeli prisons. She said she met women in the Israeli prison from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Coite D’Ivoire and other African countries. She observed that a huge number of prisoners, aside from Palestinians, were black Africans and Asians. Where Israel formerly depended upon Arab labor to do many of its everyday tasks, since the beginning of its policy of siege it has recruited large amounts of foreigh labor from non-Muslim parts of Africa and Asia to do all the jobs on the low end of the pay and social status scales. Foreigners, of course, have few if any rights in Israel, and can find themselves locked up for extended periods for the most minor of status offenses.

Why are Israel and the US, with the help of Egypt, imposing this brutal siege upon Gaza? After the death of Yasir Arafat in 2006, Palestinians held elections, closely supervised by observers from many nations, and certified by them to be free and fair. But the Palestinians had the poor judgment to elect a political party — Hamas — not favored by Israel and the US. Cutting off their trade and travel, what remained of their opportunity to seek work in Israel or visit their Palestinian relatives in the West Bank, only a few miles distant, curtailing their electricity, water, building, medical and other supplies was, according to US and Israeli policymakers, supposed to make them come to their senses. It hasn’t worked. Outside pressure has, if anything, made the Palestinians of Gaza stick tighter together, and rally round the government that the US and Israel so disapprove of. It was the Bush policy for nearly two years, and now it has been the Obama policy for all of six months.

While Obama was the president-in-waiting, conducting daily news conferences on his plan for the economy, denouncing the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, and browbeating members of his own party in congress into voting trillions of public dollars for Wall Street, Israel launched a full-scale military attack against Gaza, throwing hundreds of thousands of rounds of artillery, including cluster munitions and white phosphorus along with strikes from helicopters and jet aircraft, killing more than a thousand civilians. Barack Obama declined to comment publicly, noting that his inauguration was still a few days distant, and that the US had “only one president at a time.” In a similar legalistic vein, during Obama’s Cairo speech he pointedly said that the US did not recognize the legitimacy of “continuing Israeli settlements.” But the Israeli government has, with US government funding been planting armed colonies of Israelis on strategic hilltops and ridges throughout the Palestinian West Bank for more than twenty years now, connecting them with a network of roads which Palestinians are forbidden to travel upon or even to cross under pain of arrest. Obama said nothing about these and other longstanding outrages.

Next to Arab Americans, blacks are probably the nation’s most skeptical group about the fundamental justice of an Israeli settler state”

Almost a year ago, when Barack Obama received the Democratic nomination, the air was thick with

comparisons and connections between his career and that of Dr. Martin Luther King a generation earlier. In the heady moments of Obama’s historic nomination and inauguration it was easy for many to confuse and conflate one with the other. But the air is clearer now. The president’s selective moralizing on violence and nonviolence, his legalistic evasions of responsibility, his lawyerly distancing from the consequences of his own actions and inactions are more the stuff of Boss Daley than they are the prophetic witness to injustice of Dr. King. Six months into the Obama presidency, the man whose career many saw as the culmination of the work of the apostle of nonviolence has killed more than 700 Afghans, many of them civilians, with airborne robot drones.

Next to Arab Americans, blacks are probably the nation’s most skeptical group about the fundamental justice of an Israeli settler state which imparts rights of residence, citizenship, and more on the basis of Jewish identity, while denying these rights to people whose ancestors have lived there for thousands of years. To African Americans who bother to educate themselves at all on the matter, Israel’s identity-pass system, its Jewish-only roads, its separate license plates that allow Israeli Arabs and other non-jews to be profiled at a distance, the ongoing settlement policy cited by President Obama, and the raw, unpunished racist violence of Israeli settlers toward Palestinians have all the hallmarks of a modern, twenty-first century apartheid state. Thanks to Cynthia McKinney and others, more of us are becoming educated on the real nature of the Israeli state, and the consequences of American support of it. We expect to see that work continue, and be taken up by an ever wider section of African American churches, student and civic organizations who believe, as did Dr. King that a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

We said at the beginning that the comparison was almost unfair. Almost. It’s really not unfair at all. Neither Barack Obama nor Cynthia McKinney are being forced or compelled to make the choices they do. They are both grown, well educated, sober, sensible parents and US citizens. But between President Obama and former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, it’s easy to see who is following in the prophetic footsteps of Dr. King, and increasingly, who is Black America’s real representative to Palestinians, Israelis, and the Middle East.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at BAR and based in Atlanta GA. He can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com

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