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My Michael Memories

A few weeks ago, on family movie night, I popped in "The Wiz" for the kids. They had seen every version of "The Wizard of Oz," and it dawned on me that I was doing them a major cultural disservice by not showing them "our" version. I still vividly remember the day my mom took my sister and I to see "The Wiz" as a live stage show in New York City.

After the kids and I did our own version of "Ease on Down the Road" all through the house, Kayla couldn’t believe that the dark-skinned, full nosed, afro-wearing Scarecrow in the move was indeed, Michael Jackson. "How did Michael Jackson go from brown to white," she kept asking. "Chemicals," was my short answer.

Last night, as we watched a marathon of Michael Jackson videos, paying tribute to the pop sensation, the questions continued to roll in: "Why is he wearing eye liner?" "Why is his hair so straight now?" "Why does he grab his privates like that?" And boy, they kept coming. The truth is, Michael Jackson requires a lot of explaining. Especially to kids.

Heck, even adults couldn’t comprehend the Michael Jackson of late. The allegations, the lawsuits, the showing up to court in pajama pants. And nobody will soon forget the day half of Black America thought of disowning Mike forever as he suggested sleeping in the same bed with children is not unnatural–he knows we don’t get down like that!

But there’s one thing about Michael Jackson that requires no explanation–his creative genius and master y of live performance. The man owned the stage and could have easily danced off, even pajama pants, on a bad day! And his music transcended generations. Growing up, Michael Jackson was always the crowd pleaser at our family events. The parents loved "I Want You Back," and "ABC" while the youngsters ate up anything from Off the Wall or Thriller. These days, "ABC" and "I’ll Be There" still get heavy rotation on our road trip music playlist. Michael Jackson’s music was always a win-win.

And as I watched my kids twirling to "Beat It" and mesmerized by the beautiful black faces and African imagery of the "Remember the Time" video, I was struck by the power of creative expression to leave a lasting mark. I was saddened to lose another talented, though troubled, Black male, long before his time. I’m going to think about living off the wall a little more myself. And I became infinitely aware that I am, now more than ever before, duly charged with teaching my children how to moonwalk.


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