A Better Place, by Sinai Leis

Written by a dear friend of mine, Sinai Leis from Miami - August 4 2009

A Better Place

Music claimed a part of history at 2:26pm when physicians at UCLA Hospital announced the death of Michael Jackson. His life aside from the media speculations was silent to me up until that day. News coverage of his fatality was exposed through TV, newspapers, internet, and co-workers gossiping at lunch. I was familiarized with his music but I wasn't a diehard fan. In fact, it's now after his passing that I became an ardent supporter of his humanitarian contributions and music. I grew up in a generation of hip hop music, gangs and violence and Michael Jackson was heard seldom. Through my research of MJ's life, I learned how he broke racial barriers, helped cultural differences become comfortable and raised awareness about global issues through his lyrics. But all that grace stood as a dark shadow casting behind his drastic physical change. It became a conflicting interest to many around the world including his fans and he succumbed too many controversial affairs in spite of it. Evidently his distinguish appearance and lifestyle reform shifted his success downwards and many American fans lost interest. Undeniably he left a legendary story to tell and though I share different experiences with Michael's music as a fan after death as compared to fans a generation or two before me, we can all correlate the one thing he expressed over and over through his explicit lyrics which is change and hope for a better place.  

I was waiting for the 73 bus at the Okeechobee train station when I received an incoming text. It read "Michael Jackson is dead." I underestimated its authenticity at the time and forwarded the message to my contacts. It wasn't till I arrived at my grandmother's apartment that afternoon that I began to flick the channels on TV to find breaking news" Michael Jackson dead at 50" it confirmed. They showed video footage of a dance rehearsal he performed at the Staples center just two days before his death. He appeared healthy and energetic, ready for his big come back. His dance moves showed me so much passion, a true show stopper. His performance was as great as it was in the mid 80's and early 90's.

Michael's talent dazzled many at an early age. He became the lead singer for his father's group called the Jackson 5. The group's talent raised eyebrows at a Motown audition and without a doubt Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown records, offered to sign Michael and his brothers on. They were a great hit off the bat and popularity escaladed fast, perhaps a bit too early for MJ. Pat Superfine, who was born in a small segregated town, just twenty five miles west of Gary, Indiana, MJ's hometown, was a fan of MJ and Motown music. She remembers hearing the Jackson 5 play repeatedly on her orange transistor radio despite the town's limited exposure of color folks. Her feet tapped and she'd swayed her head every time she heard her favorite song Ben. Oddly MJ's music unified different cultures and it would be of no specific individual to enjoy his groovy beats. Nearly twenty years after the civil rights movement was completed both President Reagan and Michael displayed the meaning of desegregation in front of the White House. In fact, on that day Ronald Reagan awarded Michael for contributing a positive influence on teenage kids through his music and commercials in 1984.

He was at the peak of his game, and the album Thriller broke the bar and up to date still holds the record as the biggest selling album of all time. Thriller transcended race, age and gender. My husband Moe tells me that when he was growing up around the age of fifteen he was a fan. The boys and he use to bust moves on their rollerblades at the skate key roller rink in Bronx, NY to Michael's beats. Many of them enjoyed just about every song on the album. Mean while further south of New York in the city of Miami my mother who was twenty six years old was out enjoying boogie nights at Big Daddy's nightclub in coral way. Her favorite song in that era was P.Y.T (pretty young thing) she said it inspired her to move forward with her life and that it reminded her exactly that, P.Y.T. I was a newborn in the care of my grandmother on those boogie nights. She was a single mom hanging out and mingling in the early eighties. Thriller clearly was in demand and eventually as reported it turned out to be a Michael mania era.

Growing up I listened to Michael's music very seldom in fact only when my mother would blast the speakers, simply because being a fan of MJ was not cool among my peers. Although we listened to artists that were inspired by him such as Usher and Justin Timberlake, pop music was last on my top favorite. I enjoyed the hip hop genre way more. I wore dickie suits with a sports bra, Fila sneakers, nautical jackets, big gold hooped earrings and my hair jelled up in a high and tight ponytail. This was around 1997 and Michael had established a fictitious name by the media, as Wacko Jacko which was all I ever knew about him. It wouldn't be until after death that I would research for evidence to understand all the controversy he left behind.

            His music success tells a legacy on its own but along with that he inherited a humanitarian side, one which sadly stood dim behind the show stealer "Wacko Jacko". Although Michael left a list from A-Z with thirty six different charities he supported throughout his life, the media coverage was only about his plastic surgeries and allegations. If you ask me I tell you its gossip, sensationalized gossip. The ratings go up so do the speculations and America tends to be naive and believe what they say. They practically condemned him before he was ever even convicted. He was charged with child molestation and about six other counts which were later acquitted and the media just kept covering it so relentlessly. Yet the media found a way to shift their coverage on Michael and wallowed in this epoch after his death.

            The media knew that breaking news would have his fans around the world riveted to their channels as we mourned his passing. They sold his story as a national tragedy even after all the horrific things they condemned him with. Amazingly enough they turned the tables and praised him. "How can they feel he is a freak show one day and a marvelous soul the next day?" I asked myself. Many of my interviewees feel the same way they blame part of their fall out as a fan of Michael because of all the unethical things they heard over and over in tabloids and news networks throughout the years of his career. Yet we all also agree he is in that better place he always preached about throughout his lyrics. We want him back so bad but at the same time we know he is doing better in a place without headaches, no one to ridicule or judge him and mainly that endless peace of sleep he wished for some many times here on earth.

While I interviewed Pat superfine I could play her favorite song Ben in my head and hear his adolescent voice sing so vivid. Interviewing both my mother and husband painted a picture of fun times as I experience now every time I hear his music play. I'll I want to do is jump up and dance. His music hits my soul and his lyrics influence me deeply. It is through his death I gained a yen to learn the truth about him. I cleared all the negative thoughts people who where pursued by the medias speculation engraved in me. I see another side, a positive one, a man that tried through his popularity and entertainment to teach us all that we should all be treated equal, as one community, and without greed. Truth is that even through his hard work he himself could not accomplish what he wished for the most a better place.

After all the coverage, and all my research, the one thing his fans will always remember him for his all the good he did. Somehow all the bad just vanished along whit his demise and what stood behind is a long story of music, fame, success, accomplishments, contributions, and love. All that we care about as fans to share with others is his impact as an artist and his magic. I became a fan after death but I share the same feelings about him as Sara Wreteljung a fan of Michael on the other side of the world in Sweden. She's been a fan of MJ since she can remember and the one thing we have in common as fans is the strong will that we along with other members of heal the world foundation have to make this a better place. It is undeniable that we will have to work stronger and harder as a team to accomplish what Michael did throughout the years. Reality is we don't have an income of billions of dollars as Michael did. But through Michael's inspiration on new and old fans we can build that Michael Army we need to reach out to others.

            When MJ passed I was like any other ordinary person oblivious of his life and contribution. Something about his death changed me in a very mysterious way. I want to express it as a work of magic but I wouldn't want anyone to think I am crazy. His death impacted me as if he were my brother. I knew so little yet I knew a lot without any recognition of what I knew. It was right after the breaking news that I became intrigued. Everything I knew about him from his nose falling out, his change of race, dangling his son from a balcony, and numerous plastic surgeries where all true but not all was as bad as it seemed. I learned that there are many sides to one story and we are absolutely of no importance to judge others or our selves. There is far to many other people in the world who have nearly a shoe to walk in and those are the ones we must judge and help to the best of our ability. It is his humanitarian stories that will live on as an example of giving back and I hope to show my daughter and new generations to come that they too can make a change with a heart that holds no boundaries.


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