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 28 2012

Wherever You Are

Category: Angels,Photos,PoetrySeven @ 10:27 pm

I’m still here
in this tiny little world
while you’ve gone on to become part
of all that is: energy and light
rhythmic movement,
God-energy, the Universe.
It’s a much bigger, peaceful and
more electrified existence
— or so I sometimes imagine.

What are you reading and
Who have you seen lately and
What have you learned?
Many have joined you since
you left. Did you call them home?
Are you still somehow
pushing rose petals through my
window shades but
somehow I’m missing them?

You seem so far away
but sometimes I swear
I sense you in the room
and you make me laugh
for what to others
seems like no reason at all.
To myself I call you silly names
and hope you’re somewhere
laughing too.

In a way I’m happy for you
being gone from here,
while at the same time
this place without you
without your electricity
without your light
without your sound
without your life;
this cramped single realm
of crazy indifference
(as much as you tried to fight it)
isn’t really very alive.

It’s just heartlessly existing
waiting to find someone who
could possibly replace you
knowing there is no one to make
anyone stop and think anymore.

It’s your Birthday today and I know
you weren’t comfortable
celebrating those.
In spite of that and everything else
still I hope your soul
is finally somehow Happy.

Wherever You Are.

©2012 Seven Bowie

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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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Aug 16 2012

Another Reason Michael Was So Easily Presumed Guilty

Category: JusticeSeven @ 12:47 am

The following 2005 article from The Advocate was brought to my attention by a faithful reader of this blog. Ara, the reader who submitted the article to me to share, says:

I found the article after Michael died. I’d never paid any attention to Michael when he was alive but I fell in love with him the first time I watched him in the film “This Is It”. His pain-filled sweetness & fragility broke my heart. I felt, watching Michael, that I was witnessing something holy. Thus began a research journey into Michael that changed my life.

Of the hundreds and hundreds of articles I read, this is one of the ones that affected me most—mostly because the author spoke of a spiritual experience he had in Michael’s presence. Michael was an angel—I feel it strongly. There was a God-force about him.

Yes. The Advocate is a publication dedicated to homosexuals. Before anyone who isn’t familiar with this blog jumps on my case, I’m not suggesting Michael was gay. He wasn’t. He was sexually attracted to women, not men (or boys!).

What I am pointing out though, as the author if the piece below did, is that extreme prejudice about homosexuals (combined with the ignorant belief that Michael was one) may have caused people to much more easily subscribe to the belief that he was also guilty of being a pedophile. Many people still equate the two today. To make matters worse, some seedy people and organizations (such as Carl Toms (aka Thomas O’Carroll), Victor Gutierrez, IPCE and NAMBLA) even try to “normalize” child sexual abuse, and have co-opted Michael’s name and the allegations against him to further their cause, while adding weight to negative and largely undeserved assumptions about homosexuals ie: that many or most of them are also pedophiles.

I suspect there are no more homosexual pedophiles than there are heterosexual ones. The assumption that anyone who is gay must also be a pedophile (or that there is a greater likelihood of it if they’re gay) is grossly unfair. But the perception unfortunately is common and no doubt contributed to the presumption of guilt.

Either way, child sexual abuse is criminal and anyone advocating or participating in it are criminals. Michael Jackson did neither one of those things and this was proven in a court of law. 

The Advocate editor wrote of his experience of meeting Michael as he was covering the 2005 trial for what he described as “rebel documentary production company World of Wonder.”  The writer points out that “Ten years of raiding Neverland, Jackson’s home, have turned up nothing but two art books and a bunch of hetero porn. This trial could end proving nothing except that Michael Jackson is heterosexual.”  And again, to anyone paying attention to the facts instead of tabloid lies, besides proving his innocence, the trial proved that as well!

To the point reader Ara was making, the writer also tries to explain that almost inexplicable feeling of being in Michael’s presence that others have shared: a happy, peaceful, spiritual feeling that seemed to bring out the best in many people who spent time with him as fans or as guests at Neverland. I’ve had dreams with Michael in them where this same feeling was prevalent. I would describe it as “peaceful joy”.

Below is the text of the article in its entirety:

A Stranger in Neverland

When Michael Jackson was indicted, something in my gut told me he was probably guilty. Pity, because I liked that he was becoming so freaky over the years. As a lifelong weirdo myself it’s always nice to have a talented celebrity join the club. But a child molester? Not the kind of company I need in my club.

I left it at that and didn’t put much more thought into it.

When jury selection began, rebel documentary production company World of Wonder asked me and my directing partner to shoot a film about the fans who were moving to Santa Maria, Calif., to voice support for Jackson during the trial. Brilliant! Telling the stories of those that most people dismiss as strange is my thing.

But as I researched the case, I found it difficult to get facts free of editorial. Trusted news organizations peppered words like “weird” and “wacko” throughout their coverage and took knocks at his looks, voice, and manner. The jabs at his race and gender reminded me how far we have to go in acceptance not only of sexuality but of racial and gender diversity.

I reexamined my initial hunch. Why had I thought he was “probably guilty”? Honestly? Because I thought he was a closeted gay man. And then—snap! I had made the leap from closeted gay to pedophile all on my very own. It is one of the most fundamental lies used to perpetuate homophobia, and on some level I fell for it.

Ten years of raiding Neverland, Jackson’s home, have turned up nothing but two art books and a bunch of hetero porn. This trial could end proving nothing except that Michael Jackson is heterosexual. What if they’d found a Falcon video or even just a copy of The Advocate? It’s frightening to think that the discovery of one of those items could seal someone’s conviction as a child molester. I’ve got lots of both.

Last month I filmed a young woman who approached Jackson’s SUV on his way home from court. She was struggling with cancer and afraid the accusation that Jackson had molested a 13-year-old cancer survivor might frighten Jackson from ever reaching out again. But Jackson held her hand tightly and gave her encouragement as she told him of her impending bone-marrow transplant. His simple gesture meant the world to her. With his own family hanging in the balance, Jackson still takes the time to make a difference to people. Every day.

After we’d spent weeks outside Neverland filming the fans, Michael Jackson invited us all inside. There were about 70 of us, ranging in age from10 to 80. Leaving our camera behind, we walked with the fans right up to the porch, and Michael stepped out to greet us. He presented his children: Prince, Paris, and Prince II (a.k.a. Blanket). The kids waved, and the crowd screamed, “We love you!”

Once inside, I looked at the faces around me, many of them so familiar. I knew what this moment meant to them. I knew all of them were right then experiencing one of the highlights of their lives.

It was then I realized, so was I. Inside Neverland, Michael, his children, and his parents mingled with us, making a point to personally thank as many as possible. He smiled graciously as I passed him, and all I could think to say was, “Thank you for the music.” Later I kicked myself. I could’ve said anything, but I quoted ABBA to the King of Pop.

Since then, I’ve been unable to describe the experience without thinking I sound like a lunatic. The happiness was overwhelming. Tears welled up in my eyes. There was something almost spiritual about it. I felt kinder, more generous, a better person. I looked around at my documentary subjects, giddy with excitement, and finally saw what they had in common: Michael Jackson brought out the best in them.

My friends say I’m brainwashed, a wacko. I argue Jackson’s case every chance I get.

But it wasn’t Neverland that changed me as much as the realization that homophobia and sexism play such large roles in the public’s perception that he’s “probably guilty.”

Whatever the eventual verdict, two things I know: One, Michael Jackson has committed so much of himself to helping others that thousands of people are better off because of him. Two, Michael Jackson is an American citizen. Just one of those is enough to let him be innocent until proven guilty. Give him his day in court.

SOURCEhttp://www.advocate.com/news/2005/05/19/stranger-neverland

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Aug 04 2012

“I laughed every day until he died”

Category: Art,Books,Friends,Quotes About MJ,VideosSeven @ 10:02 am

Michael to MLB: “I needed your help”

If you haven’t heard, Michael Lee Bush, Michael Jackson’s designer/costumer for 26 years, through the worst times of his life, and right up to the very end, has a book coming out.

The King of Style: Dressing Michael Jackson” is due out October 30th, and is undoubtedly a must-have for die-hard fans as well as the simply fashion-curious.

SOURCE: http://www.newsday.com/entertainment/michael-jackson-s-longtime-costumer-unveils-book-1.3872272

What most people don’t know about Jackson is he was a joker — a playful prankster who loved to laugh and often teased those closest to him the most.

[Michael Lee] Bush tells of meeting Jackson for the first time in 1983, when both men were 25. The King of Pop hadn’t retained a costumer yet, and Bush was up for consideration. Jackson had been holed up for hours in his trailer on the set of “Captain EO.” Bush could hear a monkey squealing as he approached. It was dark inside and “like 120 degrees.” Jackson was snacking.

Eager to please as he prepped the pop star’s clothes, Bush felt something hit him gently in the head. A cherry stem. A few seconds later, it happened again. When it happened a third time, Bush lobbed a cherry at the rising superstar. Jackson tossed a handful back, and thus began a close professional and personal relationship that spanned the remainder of Jackson’s life.

I think he wanted someone he could play with. He just wanted to see, ‘Am I going to have fun with this person?‘” said Bush, now 54, an almost sheepish, informally trained clothier from Ohio who learned his craft from his mom and grandmother, who made wedding gowns, prom dresses and quilts.

And I laughed every day until he died.

. . .

Jackson had a childlike fascination with rhinestones, Bush said.

Sometimes I’d drive three hours to retrieve loose rhinestones straight from the factory, just because looking at them in that raw form pleased Michael to no end. Every time I opened the swatch of white felt that encased the rhinestones, he’d gasp,” he writes. “He’d take them from me and delicately move them around with his fingertips and whisper… ‘Can you imagine being a pirate opening a treasure chest? And seeing all the glitter inside? What a fascinating life, to be a pirate like that.’

Speaking of pirate ships .. this portrait entitled “Peter Pan” was created in 1998 on Michael’s request and was presented to him in 1999. It is Michael’s very first commission from artist Céline Lavail. At first attracted by a preliminary sketch picturing him under the personification of JM Barrie’s famous character, Michael Jackson asked for a finalized portrait of him inspired by the Peter Pan theme. This artwork adorned Neverland Ranch’s walls and was reproduced upon Michael’s request on one of the golf carts he used to drive in his California property.

More about Céline Lavail and her Michael Jackson artwork here: http://www.mj-777.com/?p=6572.  Below, a video of Michael Lee Bush at work with Michael Jackson during the HIStory tour:

_ _ _

{ Thanks to my friends at UK Loves MJ for locating and sharing this article about MLB’s new book and to Angela for finding the video! -Seven }

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