I’m usually more interested in the behind-the-scenes mechanics than the public spectacle. It makes sense to look at how the memorial to Michael Jackson accomplished the intended goals of its organizers — the Jackson family and the business interests behind Jackson’s intellectual property.
By way of perspective, I flew into Los Angeles for the holiday weekend on Thursday, when none of these plans were solid. By Sunday, my host was preparing for more guests from the East Coast, flying in on 24-hours notice to attend the memorial.
Just the mere act of producing the memorial in that time frame is a matter of no small consequence. Not to mention, the individual feats of each of the fans who participated.
With all that energy, was it effective?
JACKSON’s LEGACY — With the program, the family and those business interests dramatically seized the agenda for writing Jackson’s history from the innumerable cable pundits and congressmen speaking out of turn and out of ignorance. The memorial will be the tableau for answering the question, “Who was Michael Jackson?”
JACKSON’s CHILDREN — A powerful case was made for keeping Jackson’s children in the care of his immediate family. The image of them surrounded by the brothers and sisters and the closing remarks by his daughter is too high a bar for any after-the-fact pretender to overcome, with the proviso that anything, anything can happen to an African-American in a California court (or anywhere else south of the Canadian border).
JACKSON’s FINANCES –You can put Jackson’s debts in past tense. Some one, some where has a new mailing list of more than 1.6 million people willing to spend freely on anything related to Michael Jackson. And despite all the drama likely to flow out of the woodwork, it is increasingly likely that settling his estate will go more like the Chrysler bankruptcy filing than a long-running saga. There will more than enough money to go around.
JACKSON’s FAMILY — One of the retentions of African culture that has survived best in America is the importance placed on life transitions. One can see the detail and workmanship and creativity of coffins in Ghana, where President Obama will be landing this weekend. The family needed a respectful, honorable way to show their grief and receive the love of the fans. One of the benefits of these celebrations, like the band-led parades of New Orleans’ krewes, is creating the awareness that each soul survives the demise of the body. The question will be what do they do with the powerful new platform they’ve been given.
Jackson fans will have to contend with the fact that one who stands to gain mightily is conservative billionaire Phillip Anschutz, owner of the AEG group, which was to produce the 50 concerts in what was to be Jackson’s final tour and hosted the memorial service. As many observers talk about the barriers that Jackson broke down, it is ironic that proceeds from his work may support the backlash against equal opportunity.
In the larger realm, it does show what can be done with the sufficient motivation. But just the day before, the 33-year-old Watts Credit Union, an institution born out of the Watts riots here, was closed by the State of California. Some how we’ve got to learn how to give memorials while institutions and people are still alive.
During the month of August, National Black Business Month is a great opportunity to pass out roses to the businesses which support your community. They pull off miracles every day just to stay in business.