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I'm just so sad. And, I have to say, the grief I feel surprises me. After all, I would have never let Michael Jackson babysit my son. I wasn't particularly interested in his comeback. He was getting a little hard to look at. And yet...
And yet I am filled to brimming with nostalgia and love and loss. We who grew up with Michael, we Black boys and Black girls who came of age to your sound, we miss you so much, Brother Michael.
Each song stirs my soul.
With Memory: doing the rock with a boy (a boy!) at my friend's basement party. She had a red light on, we wore designer jeans pressed and straight-legged, and "Rock With You" was the ultimate slow jam.
With Pride: "Can you Feel It?" Yes, I did. That video was techno-amazing to me. (It was a looong time ago.) And the brothers made me smile - again.
With Nostalgia: Remember the J5 cartoon? I do. Loved it for the hot minute it came on TV back in the days.
With Joy: I gathered with Angie and Danyella at DuShawn's house to watch the Thriller video on MTV. We wiggled with excitement and anticipation, and then, finally, it aired. Wow. Wow....
With Yearning: What happened to you, Brother Michael? Wasn't our Love enough to sustain you?
Who else felt the complete and utter soul force of a people always always always loving him? Through the bizarre (chimps, Elephant Man remains, Macaulay Culkin); the silly (remember when his jheri curl caught fire?); the insulting (the first nose jobs and skin whitening procedures); and the tragic (the complete erasure of his former, beautiful, Black self).
Even when he pissed us off, we understood him. Who among us doesn't understand internalized self-hatred? Whether we were light or dark, trying to survive in a white neighborhood or trying to survive in the 'hood - we all knew what he was going through. And then, with those boys, even when he did the unthinkable, we still understood him. Who didn't get that his childhood was taken from him, so he tried to take it back, from the young boys he swore up and down he didn't molest? Even when we couldn't forgive him his sins, we understood the sinner. And where else but the Black community do you find the deepest well of redemption?
"Come," we said to Michael, "dip your hands in these sanctified waters, wade in these waters, cleanse yourself and be reborn, as a whole, complete, healthy Black man, the man God made you to be, the man we know, somewhere under all that whiteness where you still are, immerse and emerge in these waters. Here. In our place of Love and Sustenance and Healing. Let us help you cope...
But he was so far gone in those last years.
And now, now that he's gone gone, I'm not focused on the controversy. I just wanna dance with my Aunt Diane to "The Love You Save." I wanna roll my eyes, just one more time, when Little Jimmy tells Grandmom to pop in his favorite cassette with his toddler-sized voice: "Michael Jackson, Grandmom," was all he said from his car-seat in the back of her Mercury Cougar. "Michael Jackson!" She'd push in the the tape, and out came the magic. "Billy Jean" and "Beat It." I just wanna do the J5 as I soul train line at my friend's wedding reception. I wanna swoon over he boy and his brothers, one more time, as they light up the near-mythical Apollo stage with light and dance.
He provided a soundtrack to my life. Mostly, we loved to Michael's music. From 70s 45's spinning at backyard bar b q's to 80s boom boxes blasting from the corners of our childhood, we grew up listening to, loving, the best. The King of Pop. Our Michael. You were supposed to go decades from today, when we will all be old, gray, barely able to rock, to moonwalk, to J5, but still alive, smiling, thinking of when we could. You were supposed to go when we were closer to going ourselves.
Today is too soon, Michael. Please, promise us one last thing as you transition, that you will, always, "be there, be there, in the morning..." We wanna see you again on the other side.
Rest in complete peace, Brother Michael. Our love force is with you. We thank you for everything you gave us. And because we love you so, your voice still echoes, will always reverberate in Our Soul.