Schomburg Center Audio/Video Resources: Opening Plenary

June 4, 2010

After the Dance: Conversations on Michael Jackson's Black America (Session 1 of 4):

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Michael Jackson died of cardiac arrest on June 25, 2009. After a year of media-sanctioned mourning through concert tributes, film specials, video marathons and an extravagance of merchandising, who will bear the questions of music industry exploitation, self-hate, sexuality, addiction and apparent madness that Michael’s life and death urge us to ask? Who will discuss the value of Michael’s Philanthropy an environmental consciousness? Michael’s story echoes the ongoing crises of experience and identity faced not only by Black America, but the Black Diaspora. These conversations demand space beyond a video tribute.

Day 1:
Friday, June 4

6 p.m. Opening Reception
7  p.m. Opening Plenary with featured guests Nelson George, Author, Filmmaker, Television producer, and Critic & Touré, Music journalist, Cultural critic
9 p.m. Closing reception: Jackson Rhythms provided by WildSeed Music NY

** Sugested $10 donation at the door.

Day 2:
Saturday, June 5

11 a.m. Can You Feel It? A Multi-Media Collage of the Decades-Long Jackson Family Musical Career

Panel Discussions

12 p.m. To be White, Gifted and Black: Managing Acceptable Representations of Blackness as the "King of Pop"
Moderator: Esther Armah, International journalist, Published author, Public speaker, Radio host, and Playwright.
Panelists:Arthur Jafa, Filmmaker, Cinematographer, Writer; Dream Hampton, Hip Hop journalist; dj lynnee denise, WildSeed Music NYC; and DJ Qool Marv

2 p.m. Keep it in the Closet: The Historic Speculation Around Michael Jackson’s Gender Bending Persona
Moderator: Steven Fullwood, Schomburg Center
Panelists: Mark Anthony Neal, Associate Professor of Black Popular Culture at Duke University, and Author; Asadullah Muhammad, Educator, Father, Poet, Writer; and DJ Reborn, Music Consultant and Teaching Artist; and DJ Selly

4 p.m. Black Ain’t Green: Honoring Michael’s Environmental Consciousness and Philanthropic Endeavors 
Moderator: Walker Sands, Majora Carter Group
Panelists: Andres Carter, Sustainable South Bronx; William Thomas, Green Jobs Leader, Trainer, Business Man; and Anisa Keith, Sustainable Business Committee, Co-founder

5 p.m. Closing: Jackson Rhythms


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Finally some thoughtful,

Finally some thoughtful, intelligent, and critical reflections on Michael Jackson, the music and the man. Thanks very much for deciding to process and post this material.

I appreciate the access for

I appreciate the access for these videos & discussions, never saw them before today. I'm fro the Philippines btw, & I find a panel on MJ & Black culture very interesting, especially since I'm halfway around the world. I also loved the stories of George about MJ's women in the studio in the 1st session, & Jafa's recount of his friend's story on MJ being a Black man from Gary Indiana. Given that, I have to say I disagree & am quite disappointed with a few discussions that I find very skewed in its view of MJ. Some of the speculation & assumptions are rooted on ignorance or rumors. We all know by now MJ's battle with Vitiligo but few take into account his issues with Lupus. Lupus is an autoimmune disease that is the cause for the rhinoplasties, his odd look in 2001 particularly, & the use of NECESSARY pain killers. A lot of these stories of drug dependency to the point of addiction comes from dubious sources or sources that had little to no contact with Michael Jackson in his latter years. His autopsy does not support drug addiction, the doctor from 1995 disproves Lisa Marie's account of the 1995 collapse to drugs, & it's fairly well know that these 'drug interventions' by family members were nothing but 'concert interventions' that the family has persisted unrelentingly since the Victory tour. I recommend that more insight & research are given to these considerations, particularly on his Lupus disease, & there lies the answer to many of MJ's eccentricities. I also think it is really unfair to judge MJ as irrefutably ashamed of his Blackness due to adopting 3 supposed White kids, & I wonder if anyone on that panel or the woman who asked the question ever took time to browse through pics of MJ's 3 kids. I would think that people would know certain fats & evidence regarding MJ before accusing him of something so false & insulting, the fact that Prince has Vitiligo, a genetic hereditary disease MJ had & had gotten from his father's side of the family has all but disproven all the innuendos & malicious gossip that those 3 white kids are that & not MJ's. Lynnee says that watching the film TII & seeing MJ dying of a drug overdose was not surprising but I don't think she realizes that MJ died of acute propofol intoxication, as well a 3 benzos prescribed to him, none are uppers, all are sleep medications, & there would not have been any side effects after. So whatever it is that she saw due to sleeping aides, it has no relevancy on TII. She could not have seen an addict on stage of TII bec the drugs in his system nor propofol supports addiction. Nothing in the autopsy supports drug addiction, these prescription drugs found in his system or propofol is not known for addiction. I think some are overanalyzing MJ naming his 2 sons after his grandfather, Prince Sr. is the father of Katherine & MJ was close or admired him at a very young age. This idea that he named his sons Prince in reference to the artist is very far reaching tbh, I feel too many people view this man as an alien with such over the top explanations as to what, why & how when all the answers can be found here on earth, & disappointingly very simple without scandal or hype. It is jarring & disappointing to know that someone all the way from the Philippines knows more about MJ, his music than experts on a panel. Though I appreciate many of the insights offered, much of them were tainted by ignorance of well known credible & logical facts which leaves an informed viewer disappointed & an ignorant viewer even more ignorant. & those are only from viewing the 1st 2 sessions, I don't expect much from the other succeeding 2 tbh. I hope panelists & experts can further their research beyond their own limitations & biases already set the by the media into considering Michael Jackson, I think it's time that the truth is told instead of lies, propaganda, or tabloid sensationalism is allowed to overshadow his legacy. e does not deserve it, his legacy does not deserve it, nor does his children. Here are a few links to help you along the way: *Dr Richard Strick (who was appointed and paid for by DA Tom Sneddon performed the court ordered examination of MJ in December 1993 and had viewed his medical records) on MJ's RHINOPLASTIES: **Was MJ a Drug Addict?** **Is Prince, Paris, & Blanket MJ's Biological Children?** **Did MJ have Systemic or Discoid Lupus?** **Statements About Vitiligo & Lupus:** **A Letter in Response to the National Enquirer:**

In the Closet

Session 3: I just wanted to comment on the view that there was little chemistry between MJ & Naomi & that there was this disconnect between them physically. I think some of these panelists would benefit from watching the behind the scenes video of In the Closet: -- & I think they also missed this particular part of the video: OR this: OR this one that was cut from the video: So there were quite an amount of physical contact between the 2 actually. As for MJ's performance of a marriage with LMP, this theory doesn't really fit into the fact that after their divorce in 1995, they continued seeing each other covertly for 4 more years until 1999. Debbie Rowe has been known to have been a result of his mother Katherine pressuring him to marry Debbie bec she did not want illegitimate grandchildren from MJ. There were initially no plans to have married Debbie if it wasn't for Katherine.

MJ's Blckness

Although I am not Black nor am I an American or a Westerner, I feel like I should address some of Mr. Jafa's allegations that MJ was ashamed of his Black roots & ancestry. Some of the posits here are from AAs I've met online & I find their insight on this intriguing, while some are my original thoughts coming from foreign interpretations, seeing something not akin to Asiatic or S Asian or Western White Caucasian culture, but a Black African rhythm. Mr. Jafa mentioned that the older MJ got, after Thriller, the farther off his Black roots he traveled. & I have to disagree on this. I was just rewatching Moonwalker on Bluray & I find many aspects of it not Western Caucasian nor Asiatic, the long pause in Smooth Criminal (the long version on Moonwalker) reminds me of (I admit) films & music I've seen or heard of Southern Black culture in America. It even reminds me of all those plantation slavery movies I've seen of people toiling amidst everything, always toiling, never resting. There's something very primeval native about it, that I think only a native who is closer to the land some cultures are can detect, even a non AA or someone who isn't Black. Doesn't it remind you of stories, films or even the waking up of an aborigine from his toil? Or even the breakdown from that toil & a reawakening? I feel that many of the panelists here have not really taken much time to view each of MJ's films, films on a dvd or bluray, not on YT. YT has a way of editing & cutting & blurring one's appreciation or perception of any film. It is a very very poor way to review or gain insight into a very complex man such as Mr. Jackson, or his films. I noticed that much of the films shown were all from YT rather than from a dvd. Another, I give credit to an AA poster I encountered explaining a certain scene in Bad that I never ever truly understood or comprehended. The scene was when Darren (played by MJ) is in the subway & he's being eyed by a Hispanic Native American male, & you anticipate trouble. But then, he's asked 'how many guys proud of you?' -- I never understood this. I had always interpreted it (wrongly) that it was in reference to his 3 friends back home who were never really supportive of him, & that he only ever had 3 people who supported him, never shown who. But it was explained very thoroughly to me that this was actually in reference to his White classmate who had condescendingly told him, 'he was proud of Darren & to keep it up.' As a foreigner living in my own land & me not being a minority, I never GOT that part until it was pointed out to me. I would imagine minorities, particularly AAs in White America who struggle to achieve & succeed encounter such brimming arrogant condescension from people all the time. & the thing that really is at the heart of the matter is that these so-called well-intentioned people are really quite bigoted in thinking that they as a higher authority could & should condescend to minorities as if they were ignorant stupid inept children. They don't even see the issue in their actions, & who else would point out such a 'seemingly insignificant' daily occurrence but another Brother who experienced it all & is speaking out for himself & his culture on their behalf? That to me spoke of his underlying frustrations with the people he most likely encountered in his life, telling a Black man that they are proud of him. At the end of Moonwalker, we hear an African chant, a chant not of AA but a chant of Black Africa & it showcases the simplicity YET complex, the beauty & the heartache, & the joy & the melancholic sadness of the past, a rich rhythmic chant of a people that few have bothered to present to us on a theatrical format. It is simply beautiful, I loved it! This segment comes after the Come Together performance. How is this missed? How is this not Black? How is this not more Black than many pop culture references distorted by Western thought? & how can this be dismissed or just simply forgotten? MJ is very much Black, Mr. Jafa has referenced the panther scene in B/W, Remember the Time with an all Black cast in Egypt, & They Don't Care About Us. It seems to me that MJ was actually one of the most prominent Black artist showcasing & in his way an activist, what Black culture is all about. The culture that is beautiful, the culture that is exasperated, a culture that isn't distorted by White propaganda, & yet through it all, he's seen as a man who turned his back on his own roots when in fact he was nothing but proud of it? When he was a Black activist in his own right? How is that fair to a man who has done much not only for humanity, but for minorities & his own people? & in the end, the propaganda that was sold - 'he hated his race' - is what lead his own people to abandon him in the end. Mr. Jafa also mentioned that MJ became more about the numbers than the art, & I again have to disagree with this. I notice that people who dismiss MJ's latter work are people who never truly bothered to listen, really LISTEN to it to begin with. History is & was his most personal album, it is the angriest & darkest of all his albums. The songs & the music is filled with as much anguish & anger that it is very very hard to listen to. It is not an easy album to take, not like Thriller or Off the Wall. It is far from a pop album, in fact, it isn't an album 1 can enjoy with the upbeat of Bad, Thriller, or Off the Wall. Invincible is actually my favorite of all of MJ's albums, I find it to be the most sensual, the most sexual, & the most painful. Speechless is by far my favorite MJ song & that's within Invincible. If numbers were what MJ sought for & only the numbers, wouldn't it be more logical to produce pop records? Yet, both albums are the anti-thesis of pop, it isn't upbeat, it is raw, it is angry, it is hurt, it is in anguish, & it calls for understanding or the ear to listen to it. Where are the Pop records with an upbeat tempo? Records for children, records for the shallow teen, records to forget your woes with dance of happyness & bliss, YET he chooses in the last 2 albums to present a raw & hard album that few with little patience can listen to? I recommend that some of these panelists & even those who come here to take the time to listen to both albums. Invincible I personally believe is a classic, a classic that will get its due in time, hopefully when the White media propaganda has been squashed or silenced by time & vindication on Mr. Jackson's behalf. Here is 1 particular review of History that you may enjoy: & here's a blog on MJ's Blackness (type it on google bec I can't put the link here, it's recognized as spam)-- In Memoriam Part 2: Michael Jackson – Long Live The King PS. Oh, it was mentioned that both accusers were White boys? This is a common misconception, in fact the 1st boy was of AA (his mother) & Jewish (father) ancestry. The second boy is Hispanic. The media purposely distorted the facts of the case & presented a false image, that of 2 white Blond hair blue-eyed Nordic boys, when they were anything but. I would also recommend that you purchase & take the time to read Aphrodite Jones' book on The Michael Jackson Conspiracy.