Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Michael Jackson's Lyrics are Still Relevant Today

Today is the sixth anniversary of Michael Jackson’s untimely passing. The world knows now more than ever that he is indelibly ingrained in the history of popular music.  And while his music stands the test of time, as evidenced by the millions being raked in albums sales and the Cirque du Soleil MJ ONE show, it is his lyrics, his own words, that are as relevant today as they were decades ago when they were written.  Jackson’s social commentary through his lyrics underscored his concerns that ran the gamut from personal accountability to systemic racism to police brutality.    

    Jackson did not write his number one hit in 1988, a rare occurrence for him. While Billboard’s number one song for the year was George Michael’s Faith, a song written about a relationship gone sour, Jackson chose a song on another level of consciousness.  If he was searching for lyrical gold, Jackson mined the verses of Man in the Mirror into a statement of personal accountability and commitment to those less fortunate.  I see the kids in the streets/With not enough to eat/Who am I to be blind/Pretending not to see their needs?  In May of this year, Richard Blackmon called 911 because he was hungry and unable to get out of his chair to buy food.  Donations from the 911 operator who took the call and multiple others, have Blackmon’s refrigerator “overflowing with food”. In February of 2015, Detroit native James Robertson was discovered walking the majority of a 42 mile trek to work and back.  Unable to afford a car, a GoFundMe page was established to buy Robertson a car with an initial goal of $25,000.  As of this date, donations total nearly $350,000.  Jackson’s lyrics continue to resonate with listeners, whether in 1988 or present day, to help those in need.  If you wanna make the world a better place/Take a look at yourself and make that change.

      For this artist and songwriter, his lyrics were a rallying cry to raise awareness for social issues such as racial profiling and police brutality.  Inspired by the Rodney King verdict and ensuing Los Angeles riots, Jackson released They Don’t Care About Us in 1996. I am the victim of police brutality, now/I’m tired of being the victim of hate  Recent social unrest, flagrant police brutality, racial profiling and subsequent protests in cities all over the country have identified with Jackson’s lyrics.   In February 2015, the death of Freddie Gray, allegedly at the hands of six police officers, sparked outrage and riots in Baltimore.  In 2014, Eric Garner was killed by a police officer in New York City causing massive protests.  In 2011, protests erupted in Oakland over the killing of Oscar Grant by police.  In all the protests, the anthem protesters chose to use was Jackson’s.   Nearly 20 years from the date of release, protestors throughout the United States identified with Jackson’s lyrics in unprecedented numbers. All I wanna say is that/They don’t really care about us

      Jackson’s song Black or White was released in 1991.  Again, the number one song for this year was Bryan Adam’s song Everything I Do, a song written about a man’s undying love for a woman.  Jackson however, wrote Black or White to target the undertones of racial inequality and disharmony, and to mend the discord.  See it’s not about races, faces, just places  Jackson’s lyrics also tackle the subject of apathy within communities with regard to race relations.  Don’t tell me you agree with me/When I saw you kickin’ dirt in my eye  In March of 2015, Trayvon Martin’s father, whose son was killed by a man ultimately acquitted of murder, had speaking engagements across the country, urging audiences to promote tolerance and end the racial divide in their communities.  After the riots due to the furor over the death of Freddie Gray, Baltimore residents of all races came together to help clean up their city.  It don’t matter if you’re black or white

     Michael Jackson’s lyrics remain relevant decades after their first release. His lyrics ask more of us. They tell us to break the barriers of classicism and racism and replace them with broad mindedness and empathy. They emphatically request that we look beyond our own personal lives, beyond our complacency, to expand our awareness of the social issues of yesterday, today and tomorrow.  They tell us to take a look in the mirror and make that change. They tell us that people of color feel that nobody cares when blatant racism occurs. They tell us that it don’t matter if you’re black or white. And perhaps most importantly, they tell us that nobody wants to spend their life merely being a color. 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Michael Jackson and McKinney Texas

We watch in horror, once again, at another incidence of police brutality; this time in McKinney, Texas. We’ve all seen the video by now.  A pool party in a suburban area goes awry.  The end of the video shows police officer Eric Casebolt throwing a bikini-clad black teenager, Dajerria Becton, to the ground by her hair, handcuffing her and placing his knee in her back for several minutes.  Some are outraged.  Some are indifferent.  Some say that at least Becton did not meet the same fate as Oscar Grant or Eric Garner or Freddie Gray or the thousands of black Americans whose encounter with the police and subsequent violence never makes the news. 

     People of color live with this reality every second of every day and Michael Jackson knew it.  In 1991, he released Black or White, to target the undertones of racial inequality and profiling.  See it’s not about races, places, just faces” Written by Jackson, his lyrics reflect the daunting awareness that there are those who on the surface, seem to condemn systemic racism, yet continue their bigotry is rooted deep from within.  “Don’t tell me you agree with me, When I saw you kickin’ dirt in my eye” This is probably what Becton feels about officer Casebolt as he released a statement today apologizing and blaming his actions on stress.  No matter how much strain Casebolt was under, it is evident that not only did he racially profile the black children, but that Becton was a victim of police brutality.  Although Jackson’s lyrics were meant to promote tolerance and mend the racial divide, the youth who were racially profiled in McKinney are more than justified to believe that it does matter if you’re black or white.

    By 1996, when he released They Don’t Care About Us, Jackson’s upbeat lyrics had morphed into an unyielding anthem of protest and indignation.  Jackson’s song was inspired by the 1992 Rodney King verdict, in which four white police officers were filmed brutally assaulting King, and were ultimately acquitted of all charges on the state level.  The verdict sparked outrage in Los Angeles and riots ensued for four days.  “I am the victim of police brutality now, I’m tired of being the victim of hate” Becton and hundreds of other black youth must certainly be tired of being the victim of hate, and rightfully so.  Jackson’s chorus, “All I wanna say is that they don’t really care about us” resonates with both youth and adults who feel overlooked by the violence inflicted on them by the police.  Tell me what has become of my rights? Am I invisible because you ignore me?” In the past few years, demonstrators all over the country, from California to New York, have protested against police brutality chanting Jackson’s perpetually relevant lyrics.

     Most would agree that living in a nation where continual violence on people of color, from the very individuals who are paid to protect and serve them, is an inexcusable injustice.  Michael Jackson’s lyrics spoke to those injustices; to all those who have been discriminated against based on race.  One can only hope, as Jackson lyrically stated, that Dajerria Becton does not have to spend her life merely being a color.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Inside Neverland Ranch: The Last Photos?

Today someone posted some links on FB to a person who has visited there in the last couple of years.  I will not reveal her name but wanted the MJ fam to be able to see them as well.  The woman was quite disrespectful of the property in her comments.  She is obviously not an MJ fan nor does she realize the privilege of walking this sacred property.  Here are her photos:


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Neverland 2014

I waited awhile to write this blog.  When I came back from my trip, there were so many pictures of beautiful Michael tributes, that I waited in the hope that the readers would look in depth at the pictures I took.  This is of course, the sign of Figueroa Mountain Road, the street that has the entrance to Neverland.  In the bushes behind the sign, there is a deer who lives there but she is quite shy with people.

We visited Neverland on 6/23/14.  I booked a flight over Neverland for later on in the day.  We drove over 400 miles that day alone!  We drove westward, past Calabasas, until we hit Ventura and Santa Barbara.  It was quite foggy in the morning, but here is a picture of the coastline.

This is highway 101, and it runs all the way up/down the coast of California. 

Then we drove up through San Marcos Pass (Hwy 54).  Below are photos of the stunning area going up the pass to Neverland.  We ended up having to drive up and down twice (but that's another story) and both times I thought, I can see why Michael chose to live up here.  So peaceful, beautiful and serene.

This is a small bridge that cars have to pass over to get to Neverland.

This is what it looks like from a side view to travel the road to Neverland.

Finally, we're here.  It was such an emotional moment.  I have not been here since Michael was alive.  There were a few fans outside of the gates, and a biking tour with around 10 bikers and a tour guide.  He said very nice things about Michael, how incredible Neverland was, and how much Michael believed in helping children.  He also misinformed the tourists, and told them that Michael did not own Neverland any more, that Colony Capital/Tom Barrack did.  So I politely informed the tourists that Michael does still have a stake in Neverland, and that most fans believe the Estate is waiting for Michael's children to decide what they want to do with the property.

I also spoke with the guards behind the gates.  One did not seem to understand Michael at all, and when I told him how envious the fans would be that he was allowed to see Neverland, he warmed up.  He told me that Neverland was very brown, a fact I would see myself, but that the main grounds, the house, the lake and the train station area were very well maintained.
There is writing on every place you can imagine, in every language.  Some dates back to 2009, others are more recent. 
This single rose for Michael touched my heart.
Candles left for Michael from Germany
Fan love from Australia
And France
The guard shack from behind
Trees to the right of the guard shack
Another fan thanking Michael, from Argentina
And then it was time to leave.  I was very sad but excited because in a matter of hours, we would be flying in a helicopter over Neverland!  Channel Island Flights pilots could not have been nicer!
This is Kevin, our pilot.  I am scared of heights, and so I was somewhat nervous (ok terrified) but once we took off, I no longer feared anything.  Like I stated above, Neverland looked very brown.  However, Willa told us that there is a water shortage in all of California, and especially near Neverland.
This is Lake Chumash, 6 miles away from Neverland.  Lake Chumash is the reservoir that provides water to Neverland and the surrounding areas.  As you can see, the water levels are very, very low.
At first I was very upset because as you can see, Neverland from above looks very brown.  However, once I realize that the was a severe water shortage, I realized that nothing can be done to utilize water for Neverland until the water supplies raise.  California needs rain desperately.
These are the hills right before we flew over Neverland.
You can see the tennis court from this shot.

The pink haze is a reflection of my sweatshirt from the helicopter glass, but a better picture of the tennis court.
Again, pink haze but a shot of the lake as well.
Train tracks
Better view of the lake
The thirty minute ride felt like 5 minutes, even though I know it was 30 minutes because I timed it (lol).  I wish I could have taken better pictures for fans who wanted to see what Neverland looks like.  I plan on making this an annual event with a better camera for next year.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Writings on the Wall at Neverland

There really are no words to describe Neverland, so this blog will be a day in pictures with captions.  This is the turnoff to Neverland, on Figueroa Road. 

                                                             Gates of Neverland

Writings on rocks are everywhere, from fans
all over the world.
A single rose place in the gate
Candles from German fans
Keep The Faith rock
Be God's Glow rock
French fan's writing on the wall

Fans love Michael endlessly
Closer image of the gates
Helicopter pilot over Neverland
Helicopter took us over Neverland
An incredible experience, once in a lifetime.  We love you more, Michael.