Tag Archives: Michael Jackson

2019 WJSS Year-In-Review

31 Dec

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is M4RJ2017-scaled.jpg
March 4 Racial Justice, organized by local activist, Ria, India Point Park, Providence RI October 2017
It all still matters!
Keep on working white girls!

I wrote here a lot less than I have in previous years. It’s not that I am not thinking about race, cross-racial connections, and breaking down the systems of racism. It is definitely not that. I still think about all of it every day, pretty much 24/7.

I’d say part of the reason why I haven’t posted as much is because I sense I need to shift my focus away from shouting out racism in print because we know it exists, and we see it every day, even though there are certainly a number of, mostly white people, who will gaslight you all day and say, “it’s not so bad, ” or “every one has a chance to succeed if they just work hard, like I did,” or “well, you must have done something to provoke,” and here is where you fill in the blank: “the store clerk to follow you,” “the neighbor to call the police on you for being a Black real estate agent showing another Black person a home in a “white” neighborhood,” or, “the police officer to shoot and kill you for being in your own home playing video games with your nephew.”

I know I need to concentrate more on whiteness, what whiteness and white supremacy has done, and continues to do–how it shows up in our every day lives, and how I, as a white woman, and how all of us who are white, play a part in upholding white supremacist institutions and policies and ways of living, that make sure that racism and racist policies continue to exist, therefore, ensuring that inequities continue between Black people and white people in this country.

(Note: As most of you know, my focus on the blog is about the relationship between Black people and white people in America. I know there are many more areas where inequities take place, many more intersections of race, gender, ethnicity, country of origin, etc., that impact all of this, but my focus is on us, here in the United States)

I have wondered if the writing is still of any value, and how to make it more so, and that, too, has kept me from writing. I also have strived to be doing instead of writing. To speak up when I see and hear either, blatant racist comments, or actions, and speak up when I see and hear things said by white people, that don’t seem to be conscious of their implied racist undertones. I like to call it coded language, that again, may be unconscious to the person speaking it, but to my ears and eyes, implies the exclusion, obliviousness, or an implied inferiority in reference to race and Black culture.

Finally, I have been working behind the scenes on a couple of writing projects, both related to race, which one of these days I will share here. I mention them to hold myself accountable, to keep on working on them. I used to write other things–poems on Facebook made from my friends’ status updates, memoir, and creative non-fiction, but it seems, I can’t not write about race, and so it goes. Here is what I wrote in 2019:

I took a look at the film, based on the James Baldwin novel, If Beale Street Could Talk, which prompted me to think about time, and what I saw as The Problem With White People Time.

In February I got My First Letter To The Editor Published in The Providence Journal. The letter was because of that coded language which I could not believe the critic used to describe the Trinity Repertory Company’s production of the play, black odyssey. The letter prompted a Barrington, Rhode Island man to write an editorial reply to the newspaper and tell me how I was part of what is wrong with America today, and my questioning the validity of a white critic’s perspective on a play representing African diasporic culture, was divisive.

In March, I knew I couldn’t Watch The Michael Jackson Documentary. At Least Not Yet.  A fan from the time I was five years old, I couldn’t bear to watch the one-sided documentary featuring two of the young boys, now men, who had accused Michael of child molestation decades ago. Not here to defend himself, and not wanting to watch the take down of MJ, I still have not watched the documentary. Shorthly after the film aired, I wrote and submitted a short story to a local bi-monthly reading series of writers’ personal essays. The theme that month was Biggest Fan.

I thought my piece on MJ was cool, and looked forward to sharing it at the reading. I also feared that because of the documentary, that anything to do with Michael Jackson would be cancelled, the term we use these days when a celebrity makes a misstep, big or small, and the masses decide they are done with that person, and push them off their pedestal. The pushing usually begins in the form of tweets and social media articles. I got an email that my essay on MJ was not chosen to be read that month. It could have been they had too many other worthy stories. But I couldn’t help but think the organizers of the reading most definitely cancelled Michael.

In April, I was one of the people who finally took the time, a little too late, to find out more about the prolific, and more importantly, philanthropic hip hop artist and entrepreneur, and wrote about my Finding Inspiration In Nipsey Hussle’s Beautiful Being.

In July, I wrote about what I intimated above: wanting to be about the work of breaking down racism, instead of just talking or writing about it. I wrote, If It’s Not What We Say About Race, It Must Be What We Do.

My last post of 2019, was born out of my frustration with myself for not speaking up when I knew I should–once again, in a situation where I felt coded language was being used to denigrate Black culture. In looking inward, I wrote When White Fragility Comes Knocking, which explored my own, and my college age daughter’s struggle to not fear having dialog about race.

I continued to keep up with educating myself by reading books like Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped From The Beginning, and How To Be An Anti-Racist, and joined in on the community book clubs for both books, led by The Center For Reconciliation. I kept up with blogs like Black Girl In Maine, published by BGIM Media, and helmed by Shay Stewart-Bouley.

I stayed inspired by daily learning about racism, and lived racial experiences, from friends, colleagues, and scholars, near and far, in real life, and on social media. And I stayed ready every day to do my best to speak up on not just the easy-to-call, blatant racism and racist statements I witnessed and heard, but also did my best to model my perception of what it means to ask questions during those moments that could so easily go unnoticed–those times where something needs to be said that de-centers whiteness, that speaks to who is being excluded, so that the spaces I move in recognize their white-centeredness, and do not stay white-centered, with hopes that other white folks, too, begin to chip away at the structures of white supremacy, and inequity. Things don’t always go as planned. I am human, and flawed, and stumble over my words much more when speaking, rather than writing. It is a process, but I know I must always try.

As the year comes to a close, like many of you, I feel, to put it lightly, disheartened, at the state of things these days, but I know I must stay optimistic, must keep on going, must keep on doing things to make things better, because for one, it’s white people’s job to do this work of breaking down racism and racist structures, and two, while I know we can’t daydream racism away, and we must seriously do the work, I am a relentless Pollyanna, and believe that things will get better. We will do the work to make things better, because can you truly rest your head on your pillow comfortably at night, as you settle for the alternative?

I want to thank all of you, readers, new and old, for being along on the journey during this year, and years past, and for all of the unwavering support you give to me.

I would love to hear what you have been up to this year. What you’ve read, who you entered into dialogue with, who inspired you to keep working to make things better for everyone. I wish you a beautiful beginning in this new decade, 2020. I wish you a decade filled with love, hope, joy, connection, and most important, freedom, and justice.

Thank you. xo

Happy New Year.

SPECIAL SHOUT OUT TO SHERRY GORDON, MY NUMBER ONE CHEERLEADER, WHO SENDS ME THE MOST BEAUTIFUL, UPLIFTING, MESSAGES, AND WHO KEEPS ME GOING WITH HER JOYOUS, LOVING, AND GENEROUS SPIRIT! <3 <3 <3

Why I Can’t Watch The Michael Jackson Documentary. At least, not yet.

12 Mar

me, a couple of years ago in the MJ tee a good friend sent me right after Michael’s passing.

What do you do when your first love dies three times?

I can’t even. How do I even begin to write about all that I’m thinking and feeling, or more like, how do I write about what I don’t want to think about?

Michael Jackson. When MJ died, everyone was all like,

“Wendy, did you hear?”

“Wendy, are you okay?!”

“Wendy, our condolences…”

And, now, these past two weeks, it’s been,

“Wendy, did you hear about the Michael Jackson documentary coming out?”

“Wendy, are you going to watch the Michael Jackson documentary?”

“Wendy, did you see the Michael Jackson documentary?”

And then there was their commentary:

“..it’s very believable..”

“very credible..”

“very disturbing..”

“scary upsetting..”

“heart-breaking”

“sick”

As if I’m not sick over all this. “I can’t bring myself to watch it,” I tell my co-worker, Guy, whose Green Bay Packers screensaver I have changed to every MJ photo imaginable anytime he leaves his computer open. There’s been the Jackson 5 MJ, brown-skinned, fluffy teen afro MJ, white-skinned MJ, plastic surgery gone too far but not so far that I can’t look at him anymore MJ, Billie Jean MJ, and the American Music Awards, sparkly sequin ambassador jacket with Bubbles and Brooke Shields MJ.

Maybe it will make more sense if I share that I was supposed to marry Michael Jackson. I really, really was. I mean, at age 10, I had the scenario all planned out, and the written imagining is one of the many MJ blog posts I’ve posted over the past seven years that I’ve had the blog.

From the time I played the Jackson 5 Third album in my basement when I was in fourth grade, dancing to Mama’s Pearl, in my heart, I had teleported myself to the Jackson’s Gary, Indiana living room, just like how Michael and his brothers sang in “going back to Indiana..Indiana here I come..”‘

Now these documentary people want to take all of that, that adoration and love of Michael and his genius, away from me. I have not watched the documentary and I am not reading any articles about it, but have caught commentary from friends, strangers, and celebrities on social media. My eyes land, spend more time, on the ones I want to see.

“Just them lynching another black man.”

“He’s dead and can’t even defend himself.”

“Why’d they wait until he died to do this?!”

“He was on trial for this for years and he was cleared of all charges. He was found innocent.”

When the child molestation charges first came up in the early 1990’s, I had the briefest, oh no! moment, but quickly and firmly did not believe in these allegations. It was not that I chose to not believe them. I simply did not.

Now I don’t know what to do. Friends who watched the documentary comment on how credible and disturbing the story the two men, who claimed Michael Jackson accused them when they were young teenagers, shared as adults in their 30’s now. While during their original trials when friends I respected said they weren’t so sure he was innocent, it was easy for me to dismiss them, and believe I was right about Michael’s innocence. But now, I find myself wavering. Everyone seems to say the evidence is overbearing in its proof that Michael did these horrendous things I never thought he could have, would have done. Yes, I thought him odd. Yes, I wondered about his sexuality. But I didn’t believe he was a child molester.

“They took down Bill Cosby. They are taking down R. Kelly. Now they’re taking down Michael Jackson. They want to take down all of our successful Black males.”

But what do I do?

What do I do with the box of MJ memorabilia containing the two Michael Jackson dolls, countless magazines featuring Michael on the cover–Time, Rolling Stones–concert programs, MJ pins, earrings, trading cards. And, the fake newspaper my Mom ordered with the made up headline that read: Michael Jackson Admits To Loving Wendy.

And what about the MJ hologram poster my sister Sarah gave me? The MJ playing cards I bought on a visit to Seattle? The MJ decoupaged light-switch plate my sister-in-law Paula gifted me? Or the most amazing Spike Lee first Michael Jackson Memorial Dance Party printed label I peeled off a building on my way back to the subway from the Prospect Park tribute in Brooklyn?

And what about the most fabulous, show-stopping plastic, young afro MJ earrings that everyone always comments on, and the patients at the psychiatric hospital I work with get a kick out of, thinking they are really fun? Except for that one guy a few years back who said, “why are you wearing a dead pedophile on your ears?”

And now I really don’t know what to do. I mean he was said to be the pop entertainer of the century. I mean, Fred Astaire revered him as an extraordinary dancer. He was loved by millions, or probably billions, right? Wait. I just had the thought/question pop into my head, I wonder what Chris Tucker thinks? The comedian and MJ were supposedly close friends. What does Quincy Jones think? What do all the young boys and girls who still wear white gloves and practice their moonwalks think?

Is it true?

Does white America love taking its Black heroes down?

I’m not standing up for anyone who has done gross wrongs, and am not by any means giving any kind of pass to other recently accused celebrities like R. Kelly. I’m not from the camp either that with R. Kelly says, “well, I can separate the man from his music and still listen to his music.” Or at least I think I’m not.

I have not listened to R. Kelly since hearing about his documentary, and trust me, I used to. Ignition was a song I’d sing along to in the car when it came on the radio. I once even almost bought a hipster, heart-shaped necklace charm inscribed with the words, After the party, it’s the hotel lobby.

Guy, that co-worker whose screensaver I was always MJ hacking and I are both on the same page right now about not watching the MJ documentary. He was a huge fan, too. We are also both concerned about whether this means we have to stop listening to MJ music. Guy, in weighing this kind of decision out, said he is fine without listening to R. Kelly, but he is really hard-pressed about having to give up listening to Kelly’s song, Step In The Name Of Love. And, yeah, I can relate. That song is pure, escalating joy. But, never listen again to Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough, I’ll Be There, or Never Can Say Goodbye? Do I burn my Off The Wall album?

It’s another death of Michael. It’s the third death to be exact. There was the actual death of Michael Jackson on June 25, 2009. Then, as my friend Anisa, who I met up with at an outdoor film night, right after hearing about Michael’s death, shared, it was as if for her that the Michael she once knew had already died in a way, once he kept going further and further with his plastic surgery, and I think she may have also mentioned, the earlier child molestation charges. She said that his actual death didn’t hit her as hard because of that. I understood what she meant. I too, had frozen my MJ at the time of his Bad album and subsequent concert tour. I didn’t care as much for his later albums, and I was saddened by all the changes he was making to his appearance with extreme plastic surgery procedures and skin whitening. Of course, so much can be written, and already has, about what these things meant to him; about him. Still, his actual, second death hit me hard. Real hard.

That’s why it touched my heart when a good friend sent me in the mail the beautiful artist-made memorial MJ t-shirt pictured above, right after Michael died. Do I have to burn that now, too?

This is where I am at right now. Some may say I am in denial. But I can’t even come to any conclusions just yet. It is enough to think about the falling.

A house of cards collapsing.

A moonwalk abruptly screeching to a halt.

It’s the same question I began with. What do you do when your first love dies three times?

Here are some past Michael Jackson blog posts. There are probably more than what’s listed here:

Why Are You Wearing Those Michael Jackson Earrings

Calling Michael Jackson

The MJ One Cirque de Soleil Show: Never Grow Up And Still Never Can Say Good-bye

Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: Michael Jackson and The Jackson 5 – Never Can Say Goodbye

31 Aug

Friday, August 29th was Michael Jackson’s birthday. And, you know me. I’ll always take the opportunity to squeeze something about MJ onto this site.

Here’s one of my favorite tunes of his from his Jackson 5 days:

 

 

 

SOURCE:  www.youtube.com, The Jackson 5, Never Can Say Goodbye, posted by TheSoulKings

Remembering Michael 5 Years Later

25 Jun

michael_jackson_off_the_wall

Michael Jackson - Off The Wall Album Cover

Michael Jackson – Off The Wall Album Cover

Today marks the five-year anniversary of Michael Jackson’s passing, and I’m not sure what I want to say about that.

That I still miss him?  That my little bits of MJ memorabilia–the Michael light switch cover my sister-in-law Paula gifted me, the Best Of Michael Jackson 8-track cassette turned key holder hanging in my kitchen that I bought myself, the MJ in Billie Jean regalia hologram poster my sister Sarah gave me on a recent birthday–are teetering into fanatic fan territory?  That I’m grateful that so many of my friends tag me on photos and highly creative videos involving all things Michael on Facebook?  But, that I sometimes tire of having to defend Michael’s standing as one of the most talented entertainers of this century because a mostly younger generation only remembers the post-way too much plastic surgery Michael, or the pedophile rumors?

As for the last question, I know the Michael that even I long for most, is the Michael from the Jackson 5, all the way through his peak in the 1980’s.  I remember hanging his Off The Wall album cover–my favorite–on my college dorm wall, and dressing in a vintage tuxedo jacket with the sleeves rolled up when I went out dancing.  I can freeze Michael there, and not have to worry about the sadness that creeped into his life, the price of fame, the emotional and physical pain that he sought to escape, and fix by remaking his identity over and over again, until there was barely anything recognizable left of him.

Except his talent, and his passion, and his mastery of his art.  That never waned. His music, and the small tokens around my home remind me of his greatness. Today I wear my MJ earrings.  Proudly.

Here is a link to a wonderful piece that Rolling Stone Magazine put out this week in honor of Michael:  50 Best Michael Jackson Songs.

What do you want to remember about Michael?  Share your comments here.

________________

SOURCE:

www.rollingstone.com

Photo Credit: www.onehellofaneye.com

 

 

Keeping MJ Alive…Without The Hologram

23 May

I have to admit, I sat on my couch with much anticipation for the Michael Jackson hologram performance on the Billboard Music Awards.   Despite some tweets and Facebook posts beforehand already slamming the idea, I held onto hope.

I miss being able to witness the otherworldly talent and energy that Michael emitted on stage, and wished for the goosebumps that dimpled my arms on those occasions–like the time my sister Robin and I watched Michael’s historic performance of Billie Jean on the Motown 25th Anniversary Show.

Alas, the hologram did not give my goosebumps.  I don’t want to say it gave me the creeps either, though I did post on a friend’s Facebook thread that night that I thought  there was something creepy about it.  Yes, the technology to create Michael’s moving figure through space was amazing.  And this virtual Michael still had a healthy nose, and a healthy physique.  But, it didn’t satisfy.  It wasn’t human, and it made me wonder, what’s next–entire concerts performed by deceased stars–MJ, Whitney Huston, or a full-on Tupac show, that expands on his Coachella hologram from a few years back?  The hologram left me feeling empty, and missing the real Michael.

Luckily, the feeling of aliveness returned this week in the form of a high school talent show in Turlock, California.  Many of you may have already seen splashed across social media sights this video of a high school student performing Billie Jean, but if you haven’t here it is, and if you have, it’s worth watching again.  This boy, who happens to be white, has recreated the dance, move for move, and does a brilliant job.  When I watched, I imagined how many hours he must have studied Michael’s Billie Jean performance, and how many more he danced in front of a mirror to nail every move just so.  Most of all, I thought this boy must revere Michael Jackson, and how great it is that Michael’s work continues to live on, even in this generation, by those that recognize MJ as one of the greatest entertainers of the 20th century.

My friend, Keith Thompson, who is always sharing amazing music with me, shared this video today. Keith works at Brown University as a senior computer education specialist, and I am certain he will be featured more in-depth in a blog post in the near future.  About the boy and MJ, Keith had this to say:

I thought is was possibly the best rendition of that dance that I’ve ever seen.  I remember watching it when I was a kid on television when it actually happened.  We likely lost our minds when he broke out with the moonwalk. 

I’m thinking most of his fans were not black, but mostly of international origins.  I don’t even think blacks were his biggest audience in America.  So to see this young man doing his act isn’t a shock at all to me.  Most black people want to do some sort of hybrid (Usher, Chris Brown etc) of his dance, but nobody actually breaks out MJ.  Blacks claim Michael Jackson now, but when he was alive they didn’t claim him and he didn’t claim us.  He was more of the people than of race.  Which is what made him in my mind so amazing, he completely obliterated the color barrier when it came to entertainment.  In the same breathe as Jimi Hendrix did….

Thoughts about Michael and race could fill a blog post and a half themselves, but I wanted to include Keith’s perspective, and love his line that Michael “was more of the people than of race.”

Skip the hologram.  Watch this.

 

SOURCE:  www.youtube.com, Teen Dances To Michael Jackson video posted by Global Flare

Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: Michael Jackson & Justin Timberlake – Love Never Felt So Good

4 May

mj xscape image

Did you even have to guess what this weekend’s pick would be? 🙂  Thanks to my cousin Samantha for delivering the video link right to my inbox on the day of Love Never Felt So Good’s release.

 

______

SOURCE:  www.youtube.com, VeVo, Michael Jackson & Justin Timberlake, Love Never Felt So Good

 

I Should Tell You About Everett Company, Stage & School and The Freedom Project (Instead Of My MJ Magazine)

25 Mar

I’ll admit it.  Sometimes I read something, or hear something related to race and race relations, and it’s serious and it’s important, and so I feel an obligation to blog about it here, but then I sometimes get that, “oh, geez, this feels too much like work–like I’ve got a big school paper to write, and I don’t feel like doing it.  So there.”  Some form of writers’ block I suppose.

See, because what I really want to do is write something “fun” like about […]

Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds: MJ Lego by Annette Jung – Round Two

22 Sep

Perhaps this is more of a scream than a sound…

Annette Jung is amazing!  I caught her last MJ Lego creation, and this is the latest.

I’d love to see the entire epic MJ Thriller done this way–I wonder how long that would take to create.

Lego Thriller by Annette Jung from Talking Animals on Vimeo.

photo credit:  www.fanpop.com

Wendy Jane’s Weekend Sounds (Leni’s pick) : Bruno Mars – Young Girls

29 Jun

My daughter Leni and I were two lucky gals who got to see Bruno Mars in concert this week.  Bruno may be short, but Leni and I agree, he is a powerhouse!  His singing, dancing and showmanship, outstanding!  So many singers only sound good on their studio-enhanced recordings, but Bruno’s voice is rich, textured and powerful.  The band, with a great horn section, and the back-up singers were tight.

I want to call him, like friends of mine have intimated, my MJ replacement.  I think in time, I can.

This weekend’s song pick is from Leni–her favorite:  Young Girls.

The video on youtube posted by Prince Kiki, in which Bruno performs for a French audience,  had these comments posted below.  I agree with the French guy–give the audience a break–so what if they can’t clap in time?

American gal: whoo, how can people clapping off the key so badly xD

French guy: Bruno Mars is an american singer. It’s very rare for us, french people to have a chance to see him perform live in a TV show, and you have like 1 chance in a million to be a part of the audience. People were just very excited and wanted to show how much they appreciate him, by doin’ something, and they were clapping. It’s not pretty, but it’s not that bad. Don’t be so hard on them. Let them be happy. And be happy that Bruno Mars is from your country, we only have one concert date in Paris.

 

 

 


SOURCE:  www.youtube.com, posted by prince kiki, Bruno Mars – Young Girls (Live- Le Grand Journal)

Photo credit: www.last.fm

Why Are You Wearing Those Michael Jackson Earrings?

25 Jun

Why are you wearing those Michael Jackson earrings?” the adult patient asked me at the hospital I work for.  “Is there a special reason?…Or, do you just like him or something?”

Some of the patients who have been in the hospital before and know me, know the MJ earrings, and know the answer all too well.  But, this new patient didn’t, so I told him… […]