Michael Jackson’s later life caught a terrible break when he was accused and put on trial for child molestation. A jury acquitted Jackson, but the experience had a significant aging impact on how the king of pop lived the rest of his life.
Recent research into the pop idol’s life suggests that Jackson may have been grossly misunderstood throughout his entire adult life. The record seems to indicate that Michael simply found it easier to relate to children, which is a far cry from having sexual interests in them. When adults age, childhood interests usually gives way to what we call adult curiosities. The theory here suggests that Jackson never makes this common transition. The facts may be that the legendary performer had no hidden agenda other than his obvious desire to remain young as long as humanly possible. Such a desire would largely explain Jackson’s behavior, often filmed playing with water guns on his estate with children unloading gallons of water on each other and the pop star during these playful activates.
Three years since his death, instead of uncovering hidden occasions of sexual deviancy toward children, we find in its place a humanitarian philanthroper who was at times completely consumed by efforts to help those less fortunate than himself.
So what’s my point?
To put it simply, if we do not transform the mild (in comparison to Elvis) annual celebration of Jackson’s birth into something much more far-reaching and significant, we do Jackson’s memory a grave injustice.
This is not to disrespect the accomplishments and legacy of Elvis Priestley and what he has meant to his devoted fans, family and friends; but only to point out that Michael Jackson deserves recognition on at least the same level as “The King of Rock.”
Jackson fans, friends and family, this is not only something we ought to do, this is something we must do, for when he was alive, we allowed so many to persuade us into misjudging his true and enormously kind character as we all followed the mob and its chants; “off with his head.” Celebrating “The King of Pop” on a broader scale than we presently exhibit, won’t right wrong, but it may remind us enough so the next time we’re perfunctorily going through the motions of simply following others without considering the consequence of our actions, we might remember Michael and consequently become mindful not to repeat history.
With that said, it was a welcoming site to see that by Wednesday night a throng of several hundred milled in front of a temporary stage at 2300 Jackson St., peering into the fenced yard at distant Jackson relatives and intimates on the lawn.
“This is where it all began,” said Carlo Riley, a Jackson devotee from Denver who wore a futuristic, military-style uniform that mimicked Jackson’s late-1980s “Bad” fashion sensibility. “I’m actually surprised there are not more people here. If this were Germany, or anywhere else in the world, people would have been camped out here for days.”
The Rev. Jesse Jackson agreed. “It all started here,” he said, pointing at the two-bedroom house just off-stage. “(The Jacksons) didn’t come out of Julliard.”
In the years since Michael Jackson’s death, the vigils have grown less impromptu. Smaller crowds return on that anniversary, and the city has hosted celebrations on his birthday each year.
This year marked the first time Jackson’s family has been actively involved in planning the event, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said Wednesday at a news conference at the city’s Majestic Star Casino.
Jackson’s mother, Katherine, and his three children, Prince, Paris and Blanket, are expected to participate in commemorative functions planned for this week, including making appearances at a baseball game and a concert, local officials said.
Freeman-Wilson’s predecessor, Rudy Clay, courted Jackson’s father, Joseph Jackson, and sought to create a Graceland-style tourist attraction around a Jackson Family museum. Freeman-Wilson said the plan is no longer on the city’s front burner but that it was important the city celebrate its most famous native son.
“Miss Jackson came to me and said, ‘I want to be integrally involved,’ ” Freeman-Wilson told a crowd of reporters and fans at the news conference, which Katherine Jackson did not attend. Jackson said she wanted Michael Jackson’s children “to know where their dad grew up,” according to Freeman-Wilson.
The mayor seemed to play a role in cajoling the reluctant younger Jacksons out of their sport utility vehicle to accept a set of T-shirts Wednesday afternoon.
About 30 minutes after Gary Chamber of Commerce Director Chuck Hughes introduced “the most famous offspring in the world,” Prince Michael and Paris climbed out of the SUV — Blanket remained inside — and collected their Team Gary T-shirts from the mayor, saying thank you so softly that their voices were nearly drowned out by the clicking of camera shutters.
The King of Pop and the rest of the Jackson clan lived in the two-bedroom house until shortly after the Jackson 5 hit single “I Want You Back” rose to No. 1 in 1969. The house remained in the family. An uncle, who did not enjoy visits from fans, lived there until 2009.
This year the Jackson festivities, themed “Goin’ Back to Indiana: Can You Feel It,” were to stretch over the week, continuing Thursday with the children attending a game at the city’s minor league baseball stadium and ending Saturday with a tribute concert at West Side High School.
Kathleen Mittler, a 28-year-old fan from Dresden, Germany, said she planned a trip to the U.S. to coincide with Jackson’s birthday and arrived at 2300 Jackson around 11 a.m. “I just love his music,” she said.
Freeman-Wilson, the Mayor of Gary, will host a special dinner on Friday to commemorate the life of the King of Pop as well as honor Michael’s mother Katherine.
While at the moment this year’s celebration is honorable and quite a tribute to a fallen gift that gave so much. Let’s hope that between now and next year, leader step up to give this annual event the notoriety, prestige and grandiose spectacle worthy of “The King of Pop.”