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Everyone do the moonwalk and say “mamasay mamasa mamakusa!” Michael Jackson is dead and the entire world is collectively grieving.

June 27, 2009

Michael Jackson is dead and the entire world has something to say. MJ broke race barriers without a doubt. “He broke race barriers in the pop world which opened doors in the political world – he crossed over and back. He morphed. When the signs started to become clear, that the boy wasn’t right, that he was too isolated, underdeveloped, imperfect – we laughed, we stared, we assumed. He was our first boyfriend before he became our crazy cousin – always family,” writes Adrienne Maria Brown, of the Ruckus Society.
Since yesterday, I have felt like that I am a part of a huge collective grieving process, watching folks gather FlashMob-style in London to dance to Billie Jean, watching people sing Rock With You at the Apollo Theater in unison, checking out folks post their favorite MJ songs and talk about their cheesy MJ childhood moments, even seeing folks in the markets breaking out with some 80s dance moves! It made me feel good to be alive, it made me stop and wish I could go dance Thriller in the streets, made me want to sing out with some MaMaSeMaMaSaMaMaCuSa! I have only felt once like this for a musician, and that was for the Chicana music pioneer, Selena!

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Michael Jackson is dead at 50. My mother called me yesterday at 330pm to say, “Hijita did you hear? Michael murio!” The 31-year gap between us didn’t matter at that moment, both of us were quiet on the phone, thinking of the many times we danced to the Thriller album when I was a girl.

At this moment I’m chilling in my home in East Oakland, still watching videos of Michael Jackson, listening to P.Y.T., Human Nature, reading the blogs, searching the internet to see what my fellow activists have to say about how MJ touched all of us. I’m 30 –  I grew up with Michael’s music – I remember Thriller was one of the first album’s my parents bought that was in English, prior to that, it was mostly salsa albums in our home. At that time my folks didn’t speak English too well, but MJ’s music crossed that boundary.

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What most amazes me about these past few days, since hearing of Michael’s death, is how the entire world has reacted. People stopped what they were doing, to grieve for an artist who touched them deeply, breaking out with their favorite MJ song or moment. I mean almost EVERYONE, from here to Hong Kong to Mexico City to London to Thailand – folks felt a moment of loss. Michael died and almost took the internet with him! (read more) The moment of his death even topped Obama’s inauguration in terms of web traffic.

Since 330 pm yesterday, I felt like I was part of a huge collective grieving process, watching folks gather FlashMob-style in London singing Thriller, watching people sing Rock With You at the Apollo Theater  in unison, checking out folks post their favorite MJ songs and talk about their cheesy MJ childhood moments, even seeing folks in the markets breaking out with some 80s dance moves! My friend tweeted that she seen “woman in a wheelchair and a sports bra having her own private MJ church moment.” It made me feel good to be alive, it made me stop and wish I could go dance Thriller in the streets, made me want to sing out with some MaMaSeMaMaSaMaMaCuSa! I have only felt once like this for a musician, and that was for the Chicana music pioneer, Selena!

Michael Jackson broke race barriers without a doubt. My good friend Adrienne Maria Brown, ED of Ruckus Society, writes in her blog:

He broke race barriers in the pop world which opened doors in the political world – he crossed over and back. He morphed. When the signs started to become clear, that the boy wasn’t right,
that he was too isolated, underdeveloped, imperfect – we laughed, we
stared, we assumed. He was our first boyfriend before he became our
crazy cousin – always family.

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Davey D, journalist and Hip Hop activist that runs one of the oldest and largest Hip Hop websites, wrote:

We keep forgetting the important role Jackson played in the We are the World Project in 1985…That was the jump
off record for artists to come together and try and make big
statements…I’ll never forget that Michael Jackson had the gumption to do his Remember the Time video
set in Egypt and showed the ancient Egyptians as Black. That was big
and the height of irony because so many of us always were annoyed that
Egypt was always associated with Elizabeth Taylor who was one of Michael Jackson’s best friends. Instead of casting her in a return role of Cleopatra he put in Magic Johnson who played the Pharaoh. Sadly Jackson caught heat for it, but he never changed that video and many of us loved him for it…I recall Michael Jackson holding a press conference  and calling Sony record executive Tommy Mottola out who
at the time was one of the most powerful label executives in the world.
Jackson called him a racist and a devilish person who was ripping off
Black artists…At the time it
was a bold move by Jackson. Not a whole lot of artists were willing to
stand up and be counted.

Tammy Johnson, of RaceWire/Colorlines, describes, in her video blog, “he made it ok for white girls to scream at a black man, he made it ok for white boys to do the moonwalk.” But it was not ok for Michael Jackson to be his black self.

Michael’s passing reminds me about the power of art and creativity – a tool that truly has no limits.

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