Why the Skeptics Should Watch Leaving Neverland

First let me explain to you what this post is NOT about:

  • Cancelling Michael Jackson > I don’t believe in ‘cancelling’ anyone. How can a group of human beings cancel another? It’s impossible. I do believe in viewing a person or a situation from a nuanced perspective. At least as much as one can. We are all flawed and have committed evil acts in our time. As a matter of fact, as flawed humans we are presently capable of dastardly deeds as much as acts of generosity and love. We choose our actions daily.
  • A Referendum on Michael Jackson’s Music >The root word of ‘fan’ is fanatic. Fanatic is defined as, ‘a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal.. especially for an extreme religious or political cause.’ In this case the religious and political cause is Michael Jackson and his music. I’m not asking you to watch Leaving Neverland so that you can stop listening to Jackson’s music. How you reconcile love for his music vs what he’s accused of is up to you. In a world full of either/or’s, there is room for and/both. Facing harsh truths about our icons makes us better more responsible humans.

It’s frustrating to hear people dismiss something as a lie that they have not seen. I’ve heard and read more than a few in the Black community say they refuse to watch the documentary. The reasons vary from, ‘They just want money,‘, or ‘The media is out to destroy Jackson,’ or ‘Why didn’t the come forward years earlier or why lie about it before?’ These questions are tremendously shortsighted. For example, I was sexually molested as a child. Am I a liar because this is the first time I put it in print? Less than a handful knew before I hit ‘publish.’ Also I know that molestation has been an issue in my own family.

I recall a time when a family member called a family meeting to confront another member. The incident or incidents happened to them as a child. (I’m being vague to protect privacy) During this meeting they gave their account of what the person did to them. Their pain and agony filled with tears was devastating to watch as they described what was done to them as a child. This relative was in their 40s. On another occasion it was suspected that a member was molested. A safe space was provided for them to open up. They denied it for about 15 years. By the time they were ready to admit the truth and face the trauma, they were on the verge of a nervous breakdown. There are more examples I could give but I’ll stop here. The point is one cannot determine for someone else when they should be ready to share their truth. And it should be understood that the high level of skepticism of victim’s stories is part of the reason why it’s so hard to come forward. First of all victims tend to blame themselves. The longer the secret is held, the deeper the guilt and shame. Couple that with the fear of not being believed creates a no win situation. Every time someone says, “I don’t believe any of the victims in the ‘insert public molestation or sexual abuse scandal,’ you reinforce the need to remain silent lest they too be called a liar. Not to be missed, it both covers and empowers the perpetrators.

I was listening to the radio the other morning and caught the tail end of an interview with Arsenio Hall. He was on the “Tom Joyner Morning Show” talking about a sequel to the film, “Coming To America.” At the very end of it without being prompted he said, “Don’t waste your time on the Michael Jackson documentary. It’s slow, it’s annoying and people letting their kids go to Michael’s for five days in a row without their parents. …He then joked. “You know what? Tito didn’t send his kids to the ranch for five days.” Finally he took shots at one of the alleged victims Wade Robson, saying, …“the boy has Rob in his name…Unless you had ‘thief’ in your name you couldn’t have a worse name for the documentary.” This is fandom. Since Arsenio knew Jackson and is a lifelong fan, he would rather ‘cancel the accusers.’ Regardless of how he feels about Jackson’s guilt or innocence, discouraging people from watching the documentary and using their own judgment is weak!

As someone who has seen the complete documentary, including the Oprah Winfrey interview, “After Neverland,” I find the critics terribly uninformed. They site money as a motive. They question the timing. (as usual) They speak as if it’s merely 4 hours of simple minded accusations without any road maps, logic or rationale. I too didn’t know what to expect. What I found upon viewing is that it’s really not so much about Michael Jackson. It’s about grooming, not just the kids but the adult parents as well. It’s about how the young underdeveloped brains of children can be manipulated into a false sense of love. It’s about seduction and how even small children can be turned on both in a sexual and erotic sense, leading to confusion and self blame. It’s about the fallout of recognition, confusion, and deception as the child grows into teen and eventually adulthood. It’s about how those who are in charge of security can be hypnotized into forfeiting basic protections which should be forged with common sense. It’s a story of tragedy that the victims and their families including the wives of both Rob Robson and Jimmy Safechuck must endure for the rest of their lives. Jackson is merely a vehicle to illustrate the story.

Oprah (a sexual molestation survivor) said that what director Dan Reed accomplished with this doc was what she tried to accomplish with 217 shows on the subject matter. I agree. I have no idea how the director got all of the interviewees to open up the way he did. Even with the sometimes graphic descriptions it’s carefully done in a totally non salacious fashion. Personally, I believe it should be required viewing. I would consider Oprah’s interview ‘The Workbook’ if the documentary were text. Whatever one takes away from watching, these men are not laughing, they aren’t rejoicing, they certainly are not mentally or spiritually free. To ignore what is presented is missing an opportunity to learn how children are seduced and preyed upon, often right under our noses.

The truth of the matter is that historically we have had sexual abuse and assaults damaging our youth for generations. It’s happened in our homes, our churches, our schools, in back alleys and public spaces. Sadly we haven’t done a good job in protecting our children or creating a pathway of safety for them to reach for help when something evil happens to them. It’s all about preserving the secrets. Victims aren’t listened to enough. And when the accused perpetrator is a celebrity, we send clear messages that past and future victims will not be believed. But it’s time to take the covers off and recognize that this isn’t a problem, it’s an epidemic! We’ve ignored the injured. We’ve empowered and embolden the perpetrators. We must stop this vicious cycle!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Random Thoughts & Mini Rants

Michael and Murray

One of the things that really bother me about the Conrad Murray trial is the total denial on behalf of the Jackson family and friends.  Let me be clear.  I grew up loving me some Michael Jackson.  He is a musical icon beyond measure.  I have respect for the King of Pop and the hurt that the family has for losing their most talented son, sibling, and friend.  But for his family and friends to get on TV and act as if the same Michael Jackson who totally lost his childhood; had multiple plastic surgeries to the point of totally restructuring his face, (and lied about it on TV saying he only had one) clearly the most eccentric and driven figure in the history of show business with all of his ups and downs with the Pepsi accident, multiple child abuse allegations including a trial, that it would be IMPOSSIBLE for him to be hooked on drugs; “He’s such a caring person.  A great father.  He’s not the type,”  I’ve heard it said from Jermaine Jackson to Kathy Hilton and Dionne Warwick.  Well caring people who love and are attentive to their children can indeed be drug addicts.

Conrad Murray’s role as a physician was reprehensible, and he shouldn’t be able to practice medicine again.  Still, being the personal physician and catering to whatever Michael Jackson wanted for 150K per month is something many other doctors would have busted the door down to do if he hadn’t.  Michael Jackson was the boss.  And for these folks and fans to act as if they want to put all of this on Murray is ridiculous!  We’ve all dealt with family members who did their own things and you couldn’t tell them anything.  I was one who fit that mode a time or two in my life.  I find it too hard to believe that they didn’t know what was up.  The Jackson family could have had an intervention when Michael shrugged away from them.  I think the bottom line was that that cat was paying too many bills for them to confront him.  And like the rest of us they didn’t think the very worse case scenario could happen to Michael.  As a result, now they are just looking to blame someone else for their own lack of action in hopes that it will cover their hidden shame and perceived failures.

**PS… Media please stop showing that picture of MJ deceased on the gernee.  It’s wrong and disrespectful!

Obama vs the CBC

Sometimes the POTUS kills me.  I never expected him to be president of black folk.  He should govern the United States accordingly without leaving black folk behind as most presidents have.  For all intents and purposes he’s made it clear in one way or the other that he doesn’t want to appear to appease to Black Americans.  He’s tried his best to be Teflon Don.  But for whatever reason he feels the need to lecture and speak maternally to groups of black people as if they owe him something.  This past week wasn’t the first time.

He sounds like a man who pays no attention to his wife and kids and then chews them out for ‘crying about it.’

Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining. Stop grumbling. Stop crying. We are going to press on. We’ve got work to do.

I mean who wrote THAT speech?  Were ‘Lazy and Shiftless’ too busy last weekend to make it in?

Suffice it to say I think his tone was kind of shitty.  But I will accept it as soon as he starts talking to white folks, Hispanics and Jews with that same tone. (Speaking of my Jewish peeps… Happy Rosh Hashanah! ) Critique of policies or lack thereof is part of being any politician let alone POTUS.  And loyalty is a two way street.  We are sophisticated enough to be both loyal and critical.  I’m not on that Tavis Smiley kick either cause he and West are working my last nerve.  If the POTUS want’s some, he has to give some.  Hell I don’t know. Just treat us like you do Boehner and the Republicans.  That’s a start!  If you don’t that’s fine.  Just don’t come up in the spot talkin mad sh*# like you’re the pimp and we’re the hoes that better get in line!

***Now the other side to that is this.  I don’t see big business hiring until Obama is out because they don’t want things to get better while he’s in there.  They’d rather wait till Romney or Perry gets in whether it’s next year or an additional five.  To say they don’t hire because of ‘uncertainty‘ is a crock of sh#!  Name me one business that has total certainty that isn’t named the NFL with it’s astronomical guaranteed TV revenue?  Part of being a business organization is operating in a way that is proficient and profitable.  Bush sure as hell didn’t make anything more ‘certain’ when he was in office when this recession got started.  I’m just keeping it 100!

David as Goliath!

So the latest I hear about the NBA negotiations is that the owners are asking for in addition to more overall revenue, for current player salaries to be cut by  five percent on all existing salaries for this season, a 7.5 percent reduction of all 2012-13 salaries and 10 percent reduction of 2013-14 salaries.  It’s ain’t my money or nothing, but Stern must be crazy.  Or is he?

I guess the tale-tale sign will be whether the players who are not stars and who have not already signed a deal with a team overseas have not spent all of their money and are able to hold out.  Only an idiot would spend all of his money knowing this lockout was looming for the last couple years.  But we all know there are plenty of those in professional sports.  We’ll see.

***Pac Man vs. Money May… let’s get it.  Enough already!

Time Machine Chronicles

Somebody threw a banana at Philadelphia winger Wayne Simmonds?  In 2011?  REALLY?  I guess he couldn’t get a watermelon past security.

Thriller! Celebrating the Life of An Icon

It didn’t take me long to figure out which of the many lasting memories that I wanted to share upon hearing of the death of Michael Jackson.  I could have gone with the time the Jackson 5 had four consecutive number 1 hits of “ABC,” “The Love You Save”“I Want You Back” , and “I’ll Be There” in the early 70’s.  Or the way I tried to do “The Robot” like he did in the middle of “Dancing Machine.”  Those were great. 

But one of my favorites was the time The Jackson’s (the older version of the Jackson 5) were on American Bandstand one Saturday morning.  The year was 1978 and I had gotten their latest LP “Destiny” for my 11th birthday. I was familiar with all of the songs and new them by heart.

Normally, when Bandstand came on, I would peep the opening to see if the musical guest would be worth my time.  There would be two bands or groups on any given show.  You may get the Bay City Rollers for instance with KC & The Sunshine Band.  But this time The Jackson’s were on.  The guest list included…..

wait for it…..

The Jacksons.  That was it.  There were no additional guest or second act.

As Dick Clark tried to open the show with his usual monologue, the crowd was screaming so loudly that you could hardly hear him.  You knew it was going to be a wrap. 

The first part of the show was the usual dancing and stuff.  We all waited for the brothers to appear.  It was mundane at best.  “Let’s get on with it, ” I thought to myself.”  Even the dancers looked impatient.  Finally, after the first two numbers and the first customary commercial break, it was that time. 

As Dick sat in his usual place with fans behind him waiting to witness the show.  He once again tried to introduce The Jackson’s to the TV audience.  The crowd wouldn’t let him as they screamed and screamed continuously.  There was no curtain on AB so the group was obviously already visible to the live audience on the set.  Clark just gave up and hurriedly exclaimed, “Ladies and Gentleman, The Jacksons!”

Now at the time the hit that radio stations were playing was “Blame It On The Boogie.”  If you had the album you knew “Shake Your Body Down (To The Ground)” would be a mega hit to come.  But do they jam either of these as an opening?  NOPE!  These cats come out with “The Things I Do For You.” 

After that signature intro – Michael goes off!

People all over the world are the same everywhere I go
I give in to this, I give in to that
Every day it bothers me so

Am I in a bad situation
People taking me to the extreme
Am I being used
I just need a clue
I don’t know which way to go

So I took my problems to a doctor
So he could check it out, he don’t know
Took it to a palm reader so she could
Read my hand, she don’t know
Five minutes later I started to understand
I started screaming, shouting, acting mad
No one could help me but myself
But I gave everything I had

Chorus:
It’s things I do for you
In return do the same for me
It’s things I do for you
In return do the same for me

Destiny

Right off the top it was a show stopper!  The song, (arguably the best on a GREAT album) was not even released as a single.  Talk about confidence!  They killed it!  I sat in front of my 13 inch black and white television with my mouth agape.  Michael sang his ass off and moved like the wind.  It was surreal the way they opened the set.  The energy, the positive vibes.  I mean you couldn’t just sit in front of the television and merely observe.  You couldn’t listen without moving.  Ha!  Man I was like, “Damn!”

You got to understand that at that time, there was no Prince to compare Michael to as it were in the 80’s.  In terms of groups and musical icons it was Michael with the Jacksons and everybody else.  Nothing else was even close.   Michael had the best voice, the best and most innovative moves, he was a pin up star and teen idol.  He had the entire package even then.  This was before “Off The Wall” let alone “Thriller.”

Now don’t get me wrong.  Michael had his own style for sure.  But all great artist take from the foundations laid before them.  Some merely copy styles, but the great ones can take what you did and put their own brand to it and make it their own.  Michael was a great student.  As a friend of mine who saw the Jackson 5 perform in Gary Indiana, told me today, “We grew up on James Brown, but we grew up with Michael Jackson.”  James Brown and Little Richard laid the foundations for Jackson.  Mike just took it to a new level.

He also borrowed from former Shalamar member Jeffery Daniel who did a dance called “The backslide,” which Michael turned into The Moonwalk.  It was no shame to it.  Mike was secure with himself in terms of performing and loved to watch others, and learn. 

It was common knowledge back in the day that Michael Jackson and Prince used to sneak in and view each others concerts during the 80s.  Though their music was totally different, they were the heartbeat of the 80s.  When Thriller and Prince’s 1999 were out at the same time, the music on both albums dominated the radio and party scenes.

I will most definitely mourn Michael.  I am not ashamed to say that.  He is the greatest entertainer ever… period.  He’s the original MJ.   Elvis made the ladies cry.  But Michael is the only dude I’ve ever seen who made other dudes cry.  I am glad to have lived during the early and glory years. 

I’ve got more to say about MJ.  I just have to get it off my chest.  It’s a cleansing for me. 

But for now I will just say to Michael, “Rest in peace dear brother.  You gave a lot musically, gifts from your soul for a lifetime.  We around the world received those gifts.  And we will be forever grateful.” 

Michael Jackson

Albums That Helped Shape My Life

Music is wonderful.  I consider myself a scholar in the area.  You have your one hit wonders, as well as the genuises that laste and laste.  I won’t get into the artist as much.  That would take too long.  But some albums are everlating in my heart.  Meaning they will always have significance.  Here are my top ten… subject to change upon memory of albums that have helped shape and make a big difference in my life. (In no particular order)

1. What’s Goin OnMarvin Gaye * Music and lyrics just as relevant today as they have ever been!  An album too honest for the times and still underappreciated fully for the substance it contains. 

What's Going on

2. Thats The Way of the WorldEarth Wind & Fire * A mixture of grooves such as Shining Star and Happy Feelings.  The title track along with Reasons are timeless classics.  This album is music that covers our afro traditional roots along with complicated relational and interpersonal issues.

That's the Way of the World 

3. The Isley BrothersThe Heat Is On * I mean forget Fight The Power – I don’t have to even go there.  But it has the Big Three on side 2: For The Love of You, Sensuality, & Make Me Say It Again Girl!  I used to listen to these over and over again even as a little kid.  Lots of black folk were conceived on that side of the album.

The Heat Is On

4.  JourneyEscape * The first Rock and Roll album I bought.  Journey introduced me to other groups like REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Rush, Genesis, Teg Nuggent, Led Zepplin etc.  Don’t Stop Believing is still being played in bars all over the country.  It may be sappy, but after a couple pops, your singing along too! “Strangers – waiting – Up and down the boulevard – their shadows searching in the niiiiight!”

Escape

5.  Earl KlughHeart String *The first jazz album I bought.  I credit Jeff M. an old friend I used to bus tables with for hipping me to this wonderful guitarist.  We used to smoke the hippie lettuce while sitting in his car jamming this.  I have this CD in my car right now as a matter of fact. 

Heart String

6. Michael Jackson – Off The Wall * I know for a lot of people it’s all about Thriller.  Thats a great album and the sales records prove it.  But without Off The Wall and it’s success at the hands of Quincy Jones, there would be no Thriller.  The record exeutives didn’t think a jazz man could produce a pop album.  Michael said he wouldn’t do the record unless “Q” was the man to produce it.  Well when Mike spoke it was like EF Hutton.  The rest is history!

Michael Jackson Off the Wall

7. Prince1999 * During the height of the competition of who was the King – be it Michael or Prince.  Prince changed the game with this one.  A double album with crazy stuff like D.M.S.R. and Lady Cab Driver.  The bass line on Lady Cab Driver is one of the funkiest of all time.

1999

 8. Stevie WonderSongs In The Key of Life * Still his best and most complete work in my opinion.  Cut for cut this is a musical kaleidescope of rhythms and lyrics.  A must have for any music fan. 

Songs in the Key of Life

9. Teena MarieIt Must Be Magie * Actually my second Teena Marie album.  Irons In The Fire was the first.  But with jams like Yes Indeed, (brilliant piano by Patrice Rushen) 365, Square Biz and Portugese Love… it was a wrap!  A great album from a great artist.  Go ahead Lady T!

It Must Be Magic

10. Fred Hammond and Radical for Christ – The Inner Court * At first I didn’t get the excitement others felt for this former member of the gospel group Commissioned.  His voice sort of irritated me.  But the more I listened, the more I understood this brilliant artist who literally worships God through his music.  Listening to this album is much more of an experience than anything related to normal entertainment.  And when I sing along I find myself worshipping as well.

The Inner Court

 What are your favorites?