Michael Jackson: a prophet with no home.

I’m starting with the man in the mirror”
“If you can’t feed the baby, then don’t have the baby”
“Mama always told you be careful who you love. Be careful what you do because the lies become the truth.”
“Blame it on the Boogie”
“Don’t stop till you get enough”

The words of a disturbed prophet without a home… Michael Jackson’s artistry defined the lives of many, especially those of us socially awkward artists. His words and music marked major moments in my life. Thriller came out when I was 3. Ricky, one of the boys my mother babysat would sing Billie Jean saying, “but the chair is not my son.” That was the beginning of a life long use (or misuse) of Michael Jackson sayings.

We sang “Ebony and Ivory” at our performance at our all black day care center’s graduation ceremony. We sang “We Are the World” at my 6th grade graduation from Horace Mann. I remember when my oldest sister Niki was applying for colleges and was trying to get the application postmarked by the deadline. She had to trek all the way down to the Main Office on 34th and we sing to her, “Keep on to the POST OFFICE. Don’t stop to you get enough.”

I remember my sister Gabrie’l setting up our TV in my other Niki’s room and we all got together to watch the premiere of the Thriller video. I was pretty young. My mother had her concerns but I wasn’t scared at all. I watch it now and the threat of dancing zombies brings fear to my heart but at 3 or 4, I was captivated. My friends Michael, Kyle, and Janet (did I really have friends named Michael and Janet? Yes) would have regular Thriller sessions. We’d put the vinyl on our record player. I had a toy guitar and we’d get down and go crazy. Our favorite was “Beat It”.

“Bad” came our right as I was starting 2nd grade. At that point I was one of two black girls in my grade at Horace Mann Barnard Elementary School. I remember the other black girl, Dana Bethune, a descendant of Mary McCloud Bethune, lent me her tape. She really wanted me to hear the newest Michael Jackson songs. I took that tape. I don’t think I gave it back. (Sorry Dana.) This was probably because my sister Gabrie’l took the tape from me to choreograph a dance to “Man in the Mirror”. This is a dance that in many ways defined my sister for me. I will never forget my sister dressed all in white on the stage at Horace Mann doing that powerful dance to that powerful song. I will never forget crying to “She’s Out of My Life” when Gabrie’l left for college when I was only 9 years old.

I remember my mother always saying to me “You need to pull a Michael Jackson.” For her this reflected on how fiercely he’d perform in spite of how painfully shy he was. It told of the odd ability performers, preachers and prophets have to get over social awkwardness long enough to perform, speak or preach powerfully. Michael has often spoke of feeling the most comfortable in stage. He spoke of the music coming from God and the dances being spoken through the music. He spoke of feeling guilty giving himself credit because it was all God working through him. And I know some are screaming “Wacko-Jacko”. But as a person of faith I can’t help to think about one of my favorite Bible verses, Jeremiah 20:9, which says:

But if I say, “I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.

I think sometimes God comes through the human vessel in such a powerful way that it leaves very little room for “normalcy” by human standards. Many of the most powerful artists and ministers and prophets of old are the most socially awkward. And I often thought of Michael Jackson as someone who society and even his family didn’t know how to deal with. We don’t know how to simply be blessed by those who bring divine gifts. Our society seems to need to sell everything. So these people become products. And I’m not sure Michael knew how to be a product. Who does? Like many other un-nurtured geniuses, Michael went crazy. We can’t deny that. But his craziness over the past 10 or so years does not take away the power of what came before. So many life changing moments. So many blessings… thank you Michael. You’ve blessed my life. I will not stop ’til I get enough…

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