Jan 03 2014

UPDATE: Part III Now Available – August 2012 Interview with Reverent June Juliet Gatlin (MJ’s spiritual advisor) for Vanity Fair

Category: Friends,Interviews,VideosSeven @ 10:29 pm

Reverent June Gatlin (Michael’s spiritual advisor) has allowed me to share this interview, done with journalist Mark Seal of Vanity Fair in August 2012. I don’t read that magazine so am unaware whether any article resulting from this interview was ever published.

Rev. Gatlin describes how the title “This Is It” was given to her as a title of Michael’s “Book of Life” which she discussed with him before the shows / tour of the same name was ever conceived. She also talks about how exhausted Michael seemed to be and says that she didn’t believe he could do the 50 shows they signed him for. She discusses how he mistrusted Tohme Tohme along with many others around him and how he wanted everything new around him – that he was changing everything and in the process of taking complete charge of his life. Michael, she says, was puzzled as to why Jermaine would introduce him to Tohme and she expresses surprise (like many of us did) as to why Tohme jumped into the media spotlight after Michael’s death claiming to (still) be his manager even after he was clearly let go.

In Part II, she breaks down when talking about how she knew she needed to get to him on the morning of his death, but was unable to make it. I’ll write no more about the interview here except to say it’s worth a listen. Thank you Rev. June Gatlin for sharing this with us! As much as journalists tend to edit/twist/leave out facts, particularly where Michael Jackson is concerned, it was probably a good idea to record it!

Part I

Part II

Part III

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Nov 20 2012

Oh, Palestine on Universal Children’s Day

Category: Children,Humanitarian,Justice,Lyrics,Photos,VideosSeven @ 8:43 pm

I probably should not write when I’m upset. But I’m going to do it anyway. I warn that you won’t find this pleasant on this Universal Children’s Day. But I assure you, the World’s children find it even more unpleasant than you ever will. I’ve done my best on Twitter and Facebook to bring attention to these things for the past two days, but they’ve gone completely, utterly ignored. It’s all fallen on deaf ears and into blind eyes.

I’m stunned.

We all claim to care so much about the World’s children, but when they’re sitting there staring us in the face, charred to death in the latest airstrikes wherever, we really don’t.

We care so much about the celebrity who cared for these children, but we don’t care for them – the children themselves. In the end, what seems to matter to us is our own fantasies of having been somehow important to, or somehow being associated with said celebrity, even if only in spirit since he’s gone. It’s really just all about us, isn’t it? It certainly looks that way, from the lack of attention and response these things have gotten when I shared them.

But the kids MJ lived for and the world they live in? The innocents who ask: “why are we included in these adult fights? Why can’t we have a normal childhood without all this fighting and violence? What did we do to deserve this?

The ones who are charred to death by the airstrikes? The ones who are trafficked and sexually abused? What about them? Not a word. Not one comment. I’ve posted photos. Videos. Michael’s own handwritten words. News clippings. But not one response. Nothing. Not even on Universal Children’s Day. Their innocent voices remain ignored, it seems.

I wonder what MJ would say about all this? Would he be impressed with us? He’d be heartbroken about these kids, for sure. Do his fans pretend to care because he’d want them to care – or because they really care?  It appears to be more the former than the latter for far too many of them. Not all of course, but far too many. This is just something to think about as you gaze down this page at what I’m about to share with you.

First of all, Palestine (and by association what is currently going on in Gaza at the hands of Hamas and Israel). Below are some lyrics to a song that  Michael wrote but was apparently never released or published:

“Palestine” – written by Michael Jackson

Bomb shells are flying, bodies multiplying, see the children crying, what are they fighting for” is part of what Michael had written above.

A child in Gaza, the region that has been blown once again to smithereens in the past few days, asks a similar question in the following video – it’s at the very end and the video is unceremoniously cut off, as if the creator and/or the news media felt what this child had to say was unimportant. But the child’s question deserves an answer.

Can you answer the child’s question in the end of the video?

The child below was charred – possibly to death – by an airstrike in Gaza on Monday November 19th, 2012.

Child charred in Gaza airstrikes, November 2012

Is this “too difficult” for you to look at or respond to? Imagine how it felt for the child. Imagine how it feels for all of them. Whoever you might feel to be at fault in this latest conflict, this child knows nothing of adult conflicts, nor should (s)he have to. The height of immorality is that (s)he and so many others have been made to suffer (or die) for things they know nothing of and are not involved in.

And just a few moments ago, this story appeared on my twitter timeline:

Thousands of children sexually exploited each year, inquiry says

Study describes range of sexual crimes perpetrated mainly against girls by male teenage gang members and older men

Thousands of children are raped and abused each year, with many more cases going unreported by victims and unrecorded by the authorities, according to an official study presented as the most comprehensive inquiry to date of the scale and prevalence of child sexual exploitation in England.

The disturbing and at times horrific study, which describes a range of traumatic and violent sexual crimes perpetrated mainly against girls, by male teenage gang members and groups of older men, was described as a “wake-up call” for safeguarding professionals by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England (OCCE).

It draws an alarming picture of serious sexual crimes against children: girls groomed, then drugged and raped at seedy “parties” in private homes and warehouses organised by groups of men, for profit or pleasure; assaults in public parks, schools and alleyways by gang members influenced by violent pornography, and intent on threatening, punishing or controlling young women by means of forced oral sex, and anal and vaginal rape.”

. . .

“We need to ask why so many males, both young and old, think it is acceptable to treat both girls and boys as objects to be used and abused. We need to know why so many adults in positions of responsibility persist in not believing these children when they try to tell someone what they have endured.”

Oh I know these images and stories are very upsetting and may even be an emotional trigger for some readers. But just imagine what it’s like for these kids to have to live (or die) like this, all around the world.

Should we just ignore all this because it’s “too hard” for us to look at or acknowledge or because we just don’t know what to say? If we do that, then we can be assured that this suffering will only continue. The first step to solving a problem is acknowledging that one exists. And plenty of them exist where the children in this World are concerned. These awful stories and images are only a few of them. I know too that most people feel there’s nothing they can do about these issues. One thing we can all do is:

C A R E

Care enough to look at these horrific images, and listen to the kids asking “why” and to read the stories of the hideous abuse they suffer. Even if it is hard for you to look at or listen to or read. Forget yourself for just a moment or whose side you’re on. What about THEM? How is any of this ever going to be stopped if nobody CARES enough to even notice?

On this Universal Children’s Day, you can at least do that, can’t you?

Hello? Anybody out there?

while everyone is freaking out over twinkies, can we please take a moment to #pray for all the lives taken in the middle east ?” –Paris Jackson

While you live in your safe, warm home anticipating whatever holidays that may be upcoming in your part of the world, having plenty of food to eat, having clean water, and being able to educate and hug your children and keep them safe from the worst harm or neglect, can you at least take a moment to care about these other kids in the world that we alleged adults force them to live in?

If it matters to you, I’ll tell you that it might make Michael happy. But we should all care regardless what he’d feel about it. Because somebody still needs to.

You don’t have to say anything. You don’t have to do anything right now. But you can at least care enough to look, to see it. Even if it upsets you.

Because I guarantee you it upsets them even more, when it doesn’t kill them.

Thank you.

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Sep 01 2012

Through more intelligent focus, many will actually see Michael Jackson again for the first time

Category: Academia,Books,Friends,Justice,VideosSeven @ 12:20 am

Tonight is a full, blue moon. It’s also the 25th anniversary of the release of Michael’s ‘Bad‘ album, and Mr. Spike Lee’s “Bad 25” film is out at a Venice film festival to fabulous and well-deserved reviews. Of course no one else could have properly created this documentary than Mr. Lee himself and of course he has done a fantastic job.

Prestigious universities are teaching classes about the human being and the genius Michael Jackson was. Great authors are researching, examining and publishing positive books about  his craft and creative processes. Finally, more people will see Michael Jackson – many for the first time, though they certainly knew his music and his name from media and tabloid stories. They did not however know who or what he really was. Now, they’ll have the opportunity to properly learn.

Thank You Mr. Spike Lee for creating a window through which the world will take a second look at Michael Jackson in ‘Bad 25‘. In the video above, Spike Lee describes his documentary film as “a love letter to Michael Jackson” and says “it’s time to concentrate on Michael’s music and let the other stuff go“. I certainly agree with that.

Thank you Joe Vogel for writing serious, well-researched books about Michael’s creative processes and his music.  Thank you Dr. Mark Anthony Neal at Duke University and Joe Vogel at University of Rochester for bringing Michael Jackson’s human nature, his genius and work ethic, the important nuances in his poor working-class African American upbringing, his struggles with race as an artist, and his cultural influence as the worlds greatest entertainer into the classroom for what absolutely merits serious study.  Thank you also to Sylvia J. Martin, Ph.D whose “The Roots and Routes of Michael Jackson’s Global Identity” is required reading for Dr. Neal’s course along with Joe Vogel’s ‘Man in the Music‘.

If you haven’t see this yet, here is an hour-long interview with Dr. Neal (done in 2009) about The Legacy of Michael Jackson (thank you David Edwards for locating this):

Video streaming by Ustream
All of these people are bringing a more intelligent, accurate and appropriate focus on Michael Jackson, who he truthfully was and what he meant in our society and our world. The phenomenon that was Michael Jackson is an important part of our cultural history. It should not be ignored or buried under media and tabloid bullshit. Now, because of these more realistically focused efforts, many people can (if they choose) see Michael Jackson for the first time, even if they thought they already knew who he was.

These are very positive changes. I just wish this had all happened over three years ago. Michael worked his skinny butt off at his craft all his life so he could give the world the very best of himself. He was honest and hardworking. He was overly-generous and idealistic. He was a driven genius. He was the best entertainer the world has ever seen. He really cared about this world, and I dare say he cared more than it cares about itself. The way things are going, it may be a good thing he’s not here anymore because the human race is destroying itself though he tried to enlighten us to save ourselves and each other through messages in his music.

I miss Michael and just wish he could have seen some of this when he was alive. I hope beyond hope that somehow his sweet soul can see it now.

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Aug 29 2012

Michael Jackson & The Black Performance Tradition. Class Starts Tonight!

Category: Academia,Books,VideosSeven @ 12:04 pm

What more fitting time to start a class about Michael Jackson at Duke University than on his birthday? Today is the first day of a course taught by Dr. Mark Anthony Neal, professor of African American Studies at Duke University. The class is called “Michael Jackson & The Black Performance Tradition”. Required reading includes Michael Jackson’s “Moonwalk“, “The One: The Life and Music of James Brown“, and Joseph Vogel’s “Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson“.

Dr. Neal has posted a lot of good material about MJ on his blog and he fairly recently spoke at a conference about how Michael’s upbringing undoubtedly influenced his attitudes towards quite innocently sharing his bed with others – a subject that caused much consternation during his life. Listening to Dr. Neal and others speak about this subject suggests that there has probably been a great cultural misunderstanding about Michael Jackson in this regard – one that cost the man his life and his livelihood. That same YouTube channel also features other videos of Dr. Neal speaking about MJ.

Here’s Dr. Neal explaining a likely reason why for Michael, sharing his bed was an innocent, normal thing:

Motown’s Bobby Taylor also spoke about sharing his bed with Michael when he was a child:

The class syllabus is as follows:

Michael Jackson & The Black Performance Tradition
Department of African & African American Studies
Duke University
AAAS 334-01
Fall 2012
Wednesday 6:15 pm – 8:45 pm
White Lecture Hall, 107

Mark Anthony Neal, Ph.D.

Course Description

The central premise of ‘Michael Jackson and Black Performance Tradition’ is the question, “Where did Michael Jackson come from?” While there are facts—he was born on August 29, 1958 in a Rust Belt city named Gary, Indiana—what the course aims to answer are the broader questions of Jackson’s cultural, social, political and even philosophical origins. The course will specifically examine the Black Performance context(s) that produced Jackson’s singular creative genius within the realms of music, movement and politics, including the influence of Black vernacular practices like signifying and sampling, the network of Black social spaces known as the Chitlin’ Circuit, the impact of Black migration patterns to urban spaces in the Midwest (like Gary, Chicago and Detroit—all critical to Jackson’s artistic development) and Black performance traditions including Blackface minstrelsy. In addition the course will examine the social constructions of Blackness and gender (Black masculinity) through the prism of Michael Jackson’s performance, highlighting his role as a trickster figure with the context of African-American vernacular practices.

Books

The Last ‘Darky’: Bert Williams, Black-on-Black Minstrelsy & the African Diaspora | Louis Chude-Sokei

The One: The Life and Music of James Brown | RJ Smith

Moonwalk | Michael Jackson

Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson | Joseph Vogel

On Michael Jackson | Margo Jefferson

Race Music: Black Cultures from Bebop to Hip-Hop | Guthrie P. Ramsey

*Michael Jackson: The Magic, The Madness, The Whole Story, 1958-2009 | J. Randy Taraborrelli

___

More details on this class can be found here: http://newblackman.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-syllabus-michael-jackson-black.html

I haven’t checked but I suspect the class is very full with a long waiting list, and may be part of a larger curriculum of study. Who wouldn’t love to just sit in on this class even with no credit given? It’s bound to be fascinating and enlightening and it’s so very exciting to see universities of Duke’s stature taking up the study of Michael Jackson’s life, art, and cultural influence.

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Aug 25 2012

“He hid his hard-won treasures inside the hearts of all who loved him”


Summer-Song Rhapsody for Michael Jackson
(Aug 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009)

Summertime opened like a myth spun from gold,
delivering your talent through ages of classic genius
to plant the seeds and nourish the beauty
of all the bright wonders that would color your dance.

Is any path so demanding as that of living a miracle?

Like a cosmic gymnast on a beam of uncommon grace,
or a swimmer slicing through waves of childhood tears–
you transformed fortitude into Olympian triumph.
Hid your hard-won treasures inside the hearts of all who loved you.

The more sincere the soul, the heavier the cross endured.

Your voice strung notes like pearls of sky-blue hope
around the trembling throat of humanity’s crimson agony.
Upon the heads of those abused and disinherited
your song placed crowns of inspired revelation.

There is no faith so perilous as faith in love.

Summertime blossomed fields of rose-scented dreams––
and death amplified your sudden absence with new life…
to plant the seeds and nourish the beauty
of all the bright wonders that colored your dance.

___

by Aberjhani, founder of Creative Thinkers International
co-author of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance
and ELEMENTAL The Power of Illuminated Love

SOURCE: http://www.examiner.com/article/summer-song-rhapsody-for-michael-jackson-editorial-with-poem

Don’t miss Aberjhani’s ‘Notes for an Elegy in the Key of Michael (I)‘ here, as well as his exclusive two-part series ‘Michael Jackson and the Power of Numbers‘.

Besides Aberjhani’s consistently brilliant and loving work on Michael’s behalf, there are some other jewels I also want to share here.

One of those is Come and Get It: The Rare Pearls, a two-disc set of early Jackson 5 recordings due out August 28 — the day before what would have been Michael’s 54th birthday. NPR featured one song from this collection called ‘If the Shoe Don’t Fit‘, and in that song, Michael’s voice hits an incredible note on the word “shoooooe“! Listen here.

Another little gem is a short video of The Jacksons recording the song ‘Jump for Joy‘ in the studio. This song was on their ‘Goin Places‘ album which, with its Norman Rockwell-like cover,  was originally released in October 1977 when the band re-teamed with Gamble & Huff after their move to Epic records.

Thanks to David Edwards who commented and left a link to the interview with the Jacksons and Gamble & Huff at Sigma Sound Studios. According to the description, this is “11 minutes footage of The Jacksons giving a small interview and recording the song Jump For Joy from their 1977 album “Goin’ Places” in Sigma Sound Studios. Producers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff along with owner of Sigma Sound Studios Joseph Tarsia are present as well.

Another jewel is this fantastic artwork of Michael’s three children done by Mimi Garren. An even bigger jewel is Michael Jackson’s Legacy, the organization that is – with the help of friends and fans around the world – building Everland Children’s Home in Liberia which will be a refuge for countless vulnerable children. Mimi, an accomplished artist, is one of its founders. Mimi designed the logo for the organization’s website and does other artistic work on their behalf. The artwork is to go with a book to be presented to Mrs. Katherine Jackson detailing the progress of the Everland project in Michael’s name. Dr. Patrick Treacy, featured and mentioned here many times since the site started, is Honorary Ambassador to MJL. Dr. Treacy – Michael’s doctor while he lived in Ireland for many months – is a tireless humanitarian like Michael was, and this is where their hearts joined in friendship.

Michael's three children: Paris, Blanket, and Prince

In regards to the photo, the organization states:

Around 29th August, amidst the celebrations and vigil in Gary, Indiana, we are hoping to get a beautiful book into the hands of Michael’s beloved mother, Katherine. Diligently compiled by MJL’s Karen, it charts Everland’s progress with photos, reports and commentary. Together with the book, there will be a small card from MJL which depicts a picture of Michael’s three dear children (see below), courtesy of our artist, Mimi. We would like to thank US supporter Raven, for kindly offering to help us get the book about this journey to Katherine and the children at such a significant and poignant time as this. Gratitude and love to all those who have joined us and each other on this journey! The pages of this book reflect nothing but L.O.V.E and the hearts of those who have given in order to make this dream possible ♥ www.michaeljacksonslegacy.org

Next gem: Willa and Joie of the fabulous website ‘Dancing with the Elephant‘, had a chat with Joe Vogel about his book ‘Featuring Michael Jackson‘. Here’s an excerpt:

Willa: I’m glad you mentioned the bonus chapter, Joe, because I was hoping to talk with you about that. It’s just a heartbreaker. It really captures the poignancy of Michael Jackson’s childhood. On the one hand, he loved what he was doing – the music and dancing and performing. Yet as you quote in that chapter, “Those were sad, sad years for me.” We see that same paradox in the songs themselves that he recorded at that time. They’re so polished and perfect, you know it must have taken painstaking work to create them. Yet when you listen to them, they sound so fresh and spontaneous – just brimming with sheer joy. You include a Nelson George quotation that describes this so well:

Forty years later … [Michael’s] exuberance still leaps out of your speakers. Despite all the work that obviously went into crafting these vocals, Michael still sounds like he just walked into the studio from the playground.

That’s such a bittersweet way of describing his music because, of course, he was rarely able to play on a playground, and he felt that loss deeply. It’s as if the things he wanted most in his life – the things that were absent from his real life – he magically conjured up with his voice, and they became present in his imaginative life – an imaginative life we all enter into and participate in when we listen to his songs. And I wonder if somehow, the fact that he wanted those things so badly – love, sympathy, the simple freedom to play and be a child – is what made them so vibrantly present in his voice.

Joe: I agree, Willa. I’ve always thought one of Michael’s great gifts is his ability to express the full gamut of human emotion. There are some artists who are brilliant at conveying one end of the spectrum (for example, Kurt Cobain), but Michael can take you from the brink of despair to a transcendent, soul-vitalizing joy. I think his solo work takes on more weight and nuance and shades, but even in the Motown songs, I think you’re right, that he is imagining himself into those words and emotions (using what experiences he had to draw from), and his vocal performances reflect that. He’s not just mimicking his heroes, as some critics have said. He’s interpreting and expressing. In so many of his early songs, there is this sense of melancholy and yearning (“Music and Me,” “With a Child’s Heart,” “Maybe Tomorrow,” “Ben”). Yet there is also an exuberance and vitality and charm.

Willa: Exactly.

Joe: He’s a lot like Chaplin in that way, though for me Michael communicates on an even deeper level.

MORE at the link: http://dancingwiththeelephant.wordpress.com/2012/08/22/featuring-michael-jackson-with-joe-vogel/

Michael’s birthday is next Wednesday. Besides or in addition to perhaps participating in various celebrations and gatherings around the world, my suggestion remains the same as every year: do something for or with children. That is the thing that seemed to make him happiest – making others happy and especially little ones.  I think he enjoyed the childhood he never had through other children, and I think he felt soothed by giving children the happiness and emotional support he felt he sometimes didn’t have as a child.

Two of my personal favorite MJ-related charities to donate to are  Heal the World for Children and Michael Jackson Birthday Charity.  Don’t forget Michael Jackson’s Legacy, above too. There are of course many more. Or, volunteer some time at a local children’s center or hospital – either to be with the kids or help do repairs, serve meals, clean-up, fix broken toys, whatever you can do.

Aberjhani wrote that Michael “hid his hard-won treasures inside the hearts of all who loved him“.  Just do something that comes from your heart and it will shine. He led by example. You know what to do.

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