Saturday, August 29, 2009

michael, may you now be at peace: a reflection (no. 41)

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teacher, i know this day was so full, but i feel so empty right now... my heart was ready and open for the opportunities to come but right now i sit here writing this to you, and it is broken. i type, and the screen becomes blurry until i wipe the tears... this is becoming all too much... too much for me to even fathom.

i know you were there with the world on your day... it seemed like everywhere it rained just a little, and then the sun came out. i had a deep feeling you would be there with all of us, just smiling. as i was riding towards the park where the day for you was going to be held, i said to myself, 'it's gonna be a good day'... as it drizzled for a few minutes here i thought perhaps it was you crying, cleansing the environments of all the august 29ths you were physically here... and now, this is the first one where you were not. and you wanted everything to be fresh for us. this is a new life; a new formation you have taken on.

i got between 20 minutes and one hour of sleep, before i had to get up and go prepare for the event in your honor... despite being fairly delirious from a lack of sleep a wave of endorphins fell over me, because i knew that this was YOUR DAY, and it would be good. after all this time of preparing the radio show and this day, it was finally here. sleep did not really seem to be an option. it was 7 am when i left the house; the clouds were still out, and it was a bit cool, but you just knew the clouds were gonna let some sunshine in...

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i went to the one store that was open at 7 am, to pick up the last of the supplies needed for the event. there were so many things i had strapped on to the back of my bicycle, i was not sure how i was going to lug it all into the store. there was a man standing around in the area where the bicycles were parked. i asked him if he were going to be standing there for a while. when he said yes i asked him if he could watch my stuff, and he was kind enough to. as the store was large, sometimes it's difficult to navigate quickly, in terms of time. i appreciate this man's patience, because i exited the store in what seems like 20 minutes. i told him that i was having an MJ event in the park, and that he should stop by. he seemed interested. he mentioned other events going on during the day as well.

as i placed my purchases on the bicycle, another man happened to be standing there: tony two hearts. as the bicycle fell over due to the weight of everything on it, he helped me to prevent the bicycle from completely falling over. thus beginning a relationship i will never forget.

as he noticed i have dressed as you, dear teacher, he proceeded to inform me that he was once a barry white impersonator. he then sang one of my favourite barry white songs. he actually did look not unlike barry white; with enough effort (and make-up) he'd greatly resemble him. he told me we'd make a great team of impersonators. i told him i was not an impersonator, but he sort of ignored this statement. he also continuously flirted with me, hoping i'd be his wife one of these days. he said that when he got to heaven he'd leave me everything. we would then meet again in the afterlife and seal a further bond, proving to everyone that our relationship lasted. despite having just met, he mentioned to everyone he spoke to that i was his 'lady friend'.

in most cases i would have critiqued or screamed on him immediately. there has to be a line of interaction which must be respected. i am not sure where it was developed in a man's brain that every woman would react favourably to a man's advances. somehow, i found something in tony immediately, that was different than most men who do the same thing. it was as if he was sent to me on purpose.

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i told him where i was gonna be, and that he should come. as i was setting up, he showed up, and stayed for most of the day. initially he kept trying to sell the idea that i should be the lady in his life, but he did recognize that wasn't going to happen. he did leave for a brief period of time, to return as your 'bad' album was playing. i cannot recall which song he returned on; all i know is that when he returned, the songs represented the lead narration in what has unfolding... 'another part of me' rolled into 'man in the mirror'... as the lyrics of self-reflection emanated from the speakers, tony (whose birth name is lawrence; he is part irish and part samoan and initially identified as black) cried out that he wished all the hatred in the world would cease. tears rolled down his face as he wished for people to understand him. he just wanted people to be nice to him... why were people so mean to him? his head pointed to the sky, and he cried, and cried... and cried. the tears rolling down his cheeks, he embraced me. he said that he wanted there to be no more sadness in the world; he loved to make people happy, so he dances and sings.

each song which passed virtually matched with what he spoke of, as if those songs were an extension of himself. he opened up to me about so much, the bad and the good. he spoke of love, of violence in his childhood... of the advice his father gave him. he reminded me so much of you, teacher. i told him that you two were so similar.

the day went by so quickly... the first people to show up at the event were a mother, father and child, from arizona. the father signed something in the book i set out for you... he put down a poem he wrote for you. the mother spoke of how she put on a memorial for you when you transcended (in arizona), and no one showed up. she saw the poster for the event in the park, and she said he had to stop by. she had only been in portland for three days at that point.

then a woman (who grew up in new york city) and her child show up... people were really interested in the setup i did (especially the dolls)...



i even set up some cheese enchiladas for you, because i knew you loved them. i left a space where people could offer you things, and people offered everything from cookies, chips (tortilla and potato), fruits and cake, to a keychain.

there were so many types of people there... people recovering from drug addiction, parents, children, musicians... some weren't even aware of the event, and decided to hang out for a while, and talk about what you meant to them. the day was so positive, and touching. people wrote in the book set out for you, and they showed their love in so many different ways...

i know you were speaking, my dear teacher, because so many children happened to show up! children i didn't even know, nor did they even have a connection with what was going on (they were there for a whole other reason- a get-together for other purposes... a back to school gathering, and a birthday party). but they loved and admired you, and they got such joy out of your music. all the kids kept asking for 'beat it' and 'thriller'! they kept playing with your doll likenesses... they kept looking at photos of you... they went on and on about how much they loved you, and how you were the 'king of pop'. jesse, in particular, kept yelling about how you were his hero. umu continuously interpreted your moves her way, including the 'grab'... cameron was having his 4th birthday party, and he danced right along with the other kids to your music. these kids were not even old enough to catch you on 'motown 25' when it originally came on, but you resonated with them in ways that are inimitable. their love for you was so sincere. the way you have reached many generations is so phenomenal.

these kids were so funny... one little girl asked if you were my brother, because i looked like you... two seconds later a little boy came up to me and told me i looked like you. i was dressed in a more 'casual' outfit- i chose to be minimal, as i am still in mourning. but i also felt that, out of respect to you and your day i would not wear the more 'flashy' outfits. i did wear all black... a longer black button-up shirt, and black trousers, with the stripe going down the seam, with the black fedora. and still, some kids thought i looked like you... i still wonder, as this is not the first (or second) time to happen, if we are somehow related... tenth cousins or something.

in wanted to take all of these children home with me!!! they were all so sweet. i think their parents were doing a fine enough job, so they didn't need me... but still...





spending time with all of these children, as great as it was, gave me such an empty feeling inside. like you for so many years (before you became a father), i have a great desire to have children in my life.

despite there being a huge wave of positivity and love throughout the day, i could feel a growing sadness on tony/lawrence's part... he introduced himself and told people about his life... he even danced to make the crowd happy (and because the music moved him... he wanted to turn the music up louder than it could go!). i could tell people still found him strange, or a bit of an irritant. it can be lonely for someone like him, because people don't understand him. i felt contradictory about him- i wanted to protect him from all the people who obviously were laughing because they thought he was 'not well', or getting too close to them. at the same time i knew he'd be able to protect himself. i did not want to stand in his way of his mission to make people happy. by the time he was getting ready to leave though, he had such a look of rejection on his face. i knew this look very well. he was so happy throughout the day, but something was eating him up inside.

he gave me a kiss on my hand, then bid farewell... he told me he would see me soon. he mentioned something of our plans to collaborate. he left, and then he was gone. i really do hope i get to see him again. he is one of those people you meet every once in a while, who bless you with their presence. most people find them strange (or crazy), but they are here to teach us all something.



wherever he is now, i hope he is safe... i didn't tell him a thing about myself, and he opened his heart to me. that is one of the kindest things anyone can do.

the evening proceeded, and there was a pause in music (as we were getting ready to play thriller (as we were set to do the dance); benny placed himself on the opposite side of the park and played some bongos. i went over to him and told him we were going to work on 'thriller'. he thanked me for playing music, as his batteries would not waste that way. he then moved to the side of the park which was closer to the event, and played away.

denice (who is a foster mother) ended up doing part of the thrillerdance with myself and kate... kate and i both knew the dance but we had forgotten some of the sequence, since we had not done the dance in a while... but denice was just learning it, and she got it down so quickly!!! we moved on from the thrillerdance, and i began doing my interpretation of 'billie jean' (a song we already heard numerous times throughout the day- i was not expecting to repeat any songs, as i brought so many CDs to play!!!).

there were even MORE children i ended up meeting... a little girl came up to me and asked why i liked you... i asked her back, 'you got all day?' she responded back that she thought i was a boy (wow!). i love the honesty of children... they calls it as they sees it. their honesty is not intended to be malicious at all. they state what they think they see. as i was getting ready to answer her initial question she ran off to other kids, who were older (one of them may have been a sibling, or another family member. the little girl (who's name i cannot remember) ending up taking pictures with us.

daniel, denice's foster child, wrote to you in the book, that you were the best "hip-hop singer" he had ever known. see? you were even hip hop to some folks. you spoke to so many people in so many different ways.

when i was sitting with natalie (she came too, teacher), marcus came up to us and asked how you died... i wanted to say, 'he is NOT DEAD!' and explain the concept of transcendence to him, but that may have been too much. he just asked a simple question, so natalie and i answered together, filling in each other's blanks, from whatever information we knew. the answer i initially said was 'drugs', but really, it was more than that. how do you explain this to a little child? when we mentioned the doctor giving you too much... he finished the sentence. "medicine?" yeah! we both answered. this would not really be lying. i don't believe in lying to children. it's important to answer them in ways they can grasp, though. and i was trying to grasp how to respond to his question. when we responded to his inquiry, a sad, puzzled look resulted on his face. he knew something was not right with what happened to you. right after this he informed us that his mother cried over you. he pointed his mother out, and i told him that i wanted to talk with her, which i did. she was quite sweet, and thanked me for coming over and speaking with her. marcus (her son) drew his interpretation of you. he then went over to play bongos with benny.



finally, there was a child whose presence really touched me- kevin. he was a bit quiet, and he constantly disappeared and returned. he seemed like such a sensitive child, but also got along well with others. he was so fascinated with your doll likeness... he examined it numerous times. he got so excited about it he ran off and showed his mother! in the book to you, he wrote: "R.I.P. Michael Jackson, God bless." i gave him a piece of cake, and he thanked me and said it was really good. as he was getting ready to leave, i told his mother how she had some beautiful children... she thanked me, then said they were really excited about seeing the dolls, and me. they called me 'the michael jackson lady'... it's so funny... all the parents mentioned how their kids just ADORED you!!! they overstood the goal you were trying hard to reach- the truth of love...

the day was winding down into evening, and 7:00 was approaching (the time the event was to be over). everyone finally left. rachel was the last person to leave, around 7 minutes to 7), and i wondered where all the time went? to conclude this day in your honor, i had a moment of silence, saying a prayer and expressing my gratitude for all the people who came into my life on this day, and for you.

as i began to clean (the park was full of chicken bones, forks and cake pieces on the ground) alan stops by. when everything was finally cleaned we leave the park together, conversing about life... we end up seeing two people being arrested by the portland police- one arrest we were not too sure of the reasoning; the other arrest was due to a DWI. the poor guy couldn't even lift his leg without falling... the police arrested him without any sort of resistance. alan took photographs of the arrest, as he documents incidents happening around MLK blvd. as we were talking about what just happened, a woman walks us to us (having just come from the supermarket across the street) and questions us. she asked if the man was wrongfully arrested. she then began to say she didn't trust us, because we were too clean-looking. she spoke about the government and the state of the world.

she then moved onto asking me what the armband i was wearing was about. when she saw that it was for you, she then defended your honor, then proceeded to tell me i was doing a good thing in honoring you, but i needed to make money in NOT focusing on your celebrity status. she then returned to speaking about the state of the world, the senate and why that system should be changed, and the coup in honduras. she moved around so much in what she was saying, and she never really stopped talking. we were there for what seemed like 40 minutes to an hour. i eventually left (having to go get lumbia some food; i thought alan was going to go with me, but he remained there speaking with her...

again! she seemed to be one of those people who just end up in your life... you don't know why, but they just do. and you learn a little something. she said so much, you had to connect dots and trim a little to get to the actual point. and when you finally realize the point, you learn something every time.

i am sure i have missed out so much about this day, and may have even gotten the order/timing of some things wrong; all i know is that this day- in your honor- was really special. i have been blessed with so many gifts on this day, it's virtually impossible to name them all. didn't you once allude to the fact that the best present of all was love?

well, i think you received an abundance of it on this day, where in this life you would have been 51... however, rather than celebrate the years which are NOT to be had in this form anymore, we should honor you by example. we should share what we have learned from you. we shall present you presents by remaining present...

and even through all of these tears i still shed, i thank you so very much, my dear teacher.

your humble student,
jamilah

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Friday, August 28, 2009

michael, may you now be at peace: a reflection (no. 40)

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i sure do need your smile right now...

i read the transcript to one of the speeches i had heard from you so long ago; the one where you spoke at oxford about the need for children to be loved, and for families to become units again. reading it gave me so much joy, because this is the person i love, and learn from... this is the person who has lived through much pain, but is looking for ways to find a place for healing. this is the person who constantly looked to the truth in love.

i love this speech, because i saw you working through so much in your own life. you used your work with children as a vehicle to deal with and make amends with the 'disappointments and confusions' in your life. despite this, there still seemed to be such a fog you could not see through.

and even with all the joy i have gotten from reading the transcript, i still feel this ultimate sadness, not just about you, but for myself... every time i feel like i am getting better emotionally, there is a fog witch returns.

so i need to feel your smile right now, dear teacher.

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i have been feeling so overwhelmed working on this radio show for you, i got extremely nervous/anxious about it. i just kept thinking of the worst scenarios to occur, before and during the show... all day i had butterflies. i have not been this nervous about a show since i first started doing the show... i felt a mixture of wanting to throw up, and losing my appetite.

so now, the show is done... it has aired. i have no idea really who listened to it. i suppose i can say that i feel a sense of accomplishment now, after working on it for almost a month, but i don't. i still have anxiety over the show, i still have worry; even though it's already aired. i just need to hear one response, to know if i have done you any justice.

it's like every other week i get responses... and now this time it's not the same.

on my way to the station i stopped for a pedestrian at a crosswalk... for the second time a pedestrian told me to go, instead of having me wait for them. this time was different. this woman (most likely around my age) let me pass, but she walked as i began to ride. she approached me and she exclaimed, 'you are so pretty!!!' then walked off. it sort of threw me off... i mean, people tell me that sort of thing, that i'm pretty. but this time, in the anxious state i was in, it threw me off more than usual (and it usually does throw me off). i just wanted to cry out, 'but you don't even know what i look like, i am wearing sunglasses!' i wanted to say that i don't look as pretty without them.

and i began to think about you, and how all these people thought you were beautiful, but you didn't seem to think that way about yourself (most likely due to being told the opposite growing up). i grew up like that... i know people say that it's easy to just not believe all these things you are told when you were a kid; but when you've had it drilled into you for so long, it's not that easy to unlearn it. i still struggle with people giving me compliments about my looks, because i don't see what they see.

and whenever i see footage of you pinning your eyes to the floor whenever someone gave you a compliment on your looks, i see myself in that.

and after she told me that i was pretty, i rode my bicycle and i cried.

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and as i keep saying, for me it doesn't even matter what you look like... i find such beauty within you, that it transfers to the outside. through your sad, beautiful eyes. i'm not too concerned with what you look like. except for the fact that i was really concerned that you were too skinny. you were such a tiny man. i was really worried for you. that smile of yours was so beautiful. the way it radiates a room...

and i am looking for it right now...

and i went home and looked into your eyes and asked you if you heard the show at all. i really need to know if i did a good job; if you were humanized, at least a little bit.

my anxiety has yet to end, as there is still the event on saturday- YOUR day... will your spirit be all over the park, and all over the WORLD, on this day?

maybe i will hear from you then...i will look for the rainbow (without rain) in the sky...

your humble student,
jamilah

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

michael, may you now be at peace: a reflection (no. 39)

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i have finally finished the show to you, to be aired on thursday... it took a lot out of me to do. but it was worth it, i think... i put a lot of love into it. i'm sure you've listened to it already in some form (i've listened to it in what seems to be dozens of times at this point, to make sure it sounds okay for the airwaves)... i really hope you like it.

it has been TWO MONTHS exactly, and i am still sitting here crying right now... in the midst of finishing up the show in the studio this morning i started crying, singing along with you. i made some on-air statement for the show, in terms of how i feel about you. but everything i said seems so wrong. it's as if more should be said, or not what i ended up saying. it's as if ANYTHING i said would have come out wrong anyways. or, anything i would have said would not necessarily be overstood. there was so much i wanted to say to you, but i could not think to say it at the time. i wanted to really speak more in depth on what you've done for me, and what you mean to me, but everything i would have said would seem so small and insignificant. yes, i realize it's the sentiment that counts, but still... i just feel like there is something missing. my hope is that people really get a sense of why i feel the way i do through my words, and through listening closely to you.

i am really nervous to put the show on... it is this gift i have given from my heart and i want to share it with others. but i am still nervous because it is going out to so many people. i don't really know what this nervousness and fear is about. i suppose i do, but i can't put my finger on it. and i think part of it is, the closer this day approaches, and the more i see you; the more i realize i truly love and care about you. and this makes me cry even more. and i just want to do the best job i can with this show.

i have done this before, done shows for you. but now, it's in a whole different context. i pre-produced the show because i don't want to cry live over the air. and i think on thursday i'm gonna be in the air room by myself. i really hope you like your gift, dear teacher...

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i want to support something positive, amongst all this negativity right now... yesterday, people kept asking me if i heard the news... i still cannot see 'those three words' together without feeling a sort of sickness. but those words are everywhere. to me, you HAVE NOT... 'died'... you are still here, your spirit watching over us, waiting to see if your message will finally be heard. but all of this news (which i have been very adamant about not wanting to hear since your transcendence) keeps being relayed to me...

'have you heard the news?' of course it's about you so they volunteer to inform me of what they have learned. 'it was ruled a homicide'... teacher, i am just going to step outside of all the arguments supporting this statement and be the 'odd man out'. deep in my heart i don't believe it's a homicide. people want to bring me into all of this negativity so i feel i will respond to it, slightly. i was not there, but i don't know if i believe you were purposely murdered. once again (as you are all too familiar with) this is someone's livelihood that's being dealt with. sure, the doctor should certainly take responsibility in this situation (as you were under his care) but as high-profile of a patient you were, would he really ruin his life to purposefully end yours? something does not sound right to me. please let me know if i am wrong about this, dear teacher.

but!

your day is happening in just a few days... on this plane you would have been 51. now, even though your spirit still surrounds us your life has taken on a new form; you have been born into someone else. i will continue to honor you in the form i met you in, and continue to learn from you in your new form, as well as the prior one.

your humble student,
jamilah

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

michael, may you now be at peace: a reflection (no. 38)

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i haven't had much time to breathe, preparing for events in your honor... i have been working as much as i can, till sunrise, on the radio show; and i finally got a poster done, to let people know of the event coming on your day, in the park. people seem pretty excited about both things... it's a bit sad to me that i didn't see this much excitement when you were still physically here. but as they say, in 'death' it takes many to truly see a person.

i felt a bit disoriented towards the end of the night, but overall i had a feeling it would be a good day. to be honest, i think it was your smile. it's one of the things to keep me going as of late, besides lumbia. to hear your laugh in my head makes me smile. i have to go back to those videos once in a while, where you're just laughing all over the place. and then i think about all the times i've had a good laugh... i mean, a huge belly laugh, where i can't stop laughing. i don't even know if you knew how healing your smile and your laugh are.

in editing for the radio show i have been listening to your lyrics a bit closer than i have been (and i usally listen pretty closely), and it seems to me that your smile kept you from feeling the absolute pain of the words you sing as well. as you were dancing and fidgeting at the microphone when you sang these songs (i can hear you snapping in between the drum beats) i wondered what was going on in your head, and if you thought happy thoughts to keep you from crying.

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natalie told me she contacted you again, and she let me know you are doing fine. she said that your kids are fine too. i still worry about you sometimes, and i have to be reminded that you are doing okay...

she told me that you said it's okay that i finish the book. IS THAT TRUE? should i really finish it? please give me some sort of sign, so i know that is okay with you... i don't want you to think i am taking advantage of you in any way.

i heard your name being called again at work today. i am still trying to figure out if that is you calling me, or another one of the ancestors... i've been so busy working on the show i didn't hear anyone calling for a little bit. even though we haven't talked for a bit (in this fashion), i'm sure you know i think of you constantly.

i keep thinking about what i would say to you if you were still physically here... i really wanted you to read the book. i wanted to know from you if i did it any justice. i wanted to tell you (in person) that you are such a beautiful person, and what lies there in your eyes is more beautiful than any physical alteration. that may sound awkward; it's one of those things where i know what i want to say but how i said it would make or break how you felt about me... this is why i wanted you to read the book.

i suspect that each blog entry i write could be seen as a chapter in the book of life with you. however, this is me just trying to deal... yes, yes, i know the book i was in the process of writing was a way of dealing as well, but as i said before, i know what i want to say. this is a whole 'nother part of life i wasn't emotionally prepared to deal with. and now i am just taking it as it comes.

your humble student,
jamilah

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Sunday, August 9, 2009

michael, may you now be at peace: a reflection (no. 37)



it usually happens when i am alone... i hear someone calling out your name. it's with more frequency now than when i was in the midst of heavily writing the book. now, i hear it about every other day or so. it happens when i am sitting here typing, or at work, or riding my bicycle. sometimes it's a soft whisper; other times it's just a flash, and i can't figure out what voice it is. i know that when i was writing the book and heard your name it definitely was not you calling me. but now, i am wondering if it's you (saying your own name?). or was it the ancestors the whole time bringing you to consciousness, in order to further connect with you. was it them guiding the vivid dreams i had with you, or was it simply the fact that you've weighed so heavily on my mind for two years? the dreams don't happen now; and when they do they are inconsistent in their content. but your name is still there.

there is so much contradiction and confusion as to how i feel about you now. this could be why your name is being called at a more consistent rate now- to get me to focus. ultimately, i am actually at the point where i can say with conviction that i am truly happy for you now. in my heart i know you are at peace. i know you are free from all the troubles of this plane. but there still lies a sadness so deep. there is a sadness which is paralyzing, in a way. i still need to hear from you in order to truly feel better. i need to know that writing the book is okay. i need to know your children are okay. i need to speak with you, just like that last time you spoke with me for that moment, and told me that i will 'know what to do'...

the root of my sadness is even deeper. yesterday, as i was thinking about how happy i was for you for being on a more peaceful plane (after having another stimulating conversation with natalie) i saw a friend of mine who i recently had a difficult time with. we got so close so fast, and we shared an intense friendship over time. but the paths in terms of where each of us desired the relationship to go crossed. i desired more commitment, and she felt she needed more space. this created a distance in our relationship, to the point where the range hit between silence and civility. things are more or less better between us now, but things most likely will never return to how they were. we are on friendly terms. i love her and if anything were to happen to her i'd be heartbroken, because i value the experiences we've shared, and she means a lot to me. all i can think about now though, is that i don't want any sort of intense relationship in my life; because i most likely will end up feeling rejected or abused. i have issues with trust (i acknowledge that), and if i meet someone i feel i can trust enough i will commit myself to my half of the relationship. my frustration is that i don't feel that i get the same commitment in return. so it makes me withdraw and refuse to make any deep connections with others.

one of the things which has been said about me is that i am a person who most likely uses logic; i am a person who relies on the head and not 'the heart', as a reaction to how i feel i have been treated in my life, particularly my childhood. there is some validity to this: whenever i open my heart really deeply i end up feeling rejected, simple as that. i don't want to appear vulnerable to 'the outside world' because i don't want the world to take advantage of me. i felt your pain when you shared this sentiment. you opened yourself up more to that vulnerability, more than i think even you imagined. one of the ways people who lived with some kind of trauma or abuse is to stay guarded. you did this for the most part, but by nature of you being one of the greatest public figures you opened yourself up. in your own way you've made yourself accessible. i don't think people caught on to this while you were physically here; and so now people are asking, 'what was he like? what DID he like?'

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this is what creates the conflict i have with you. we have shared a type of relationship so instantly; a relationship which can appear to be one-sided to anyone outside the relationship. the more i learned about you; the more i became connected with you (through the connections of how we grew up), the closer i became to you. some may view this psychic relationship as bearing no weight (as we did not physically know each other). but in learning more about you- paying attention to your words, and the silence of your body language (and your eyes) i began to truly love you. and the love i felt for you coincided with this anger i felt for you (and the anger i felt for myself). it was may of last year where i openly acknowledged that i loved you, yet i was still exploring the depths of that love.

my love for you was so deep that it did consist of the intensity that either a parent, a child or a partner has for someone. you were my companion for two years. i have shared so much with you. now that you have travelled to another plane i feel like i can never share that experience with anyone else. i feel like i can never love again. this most likely will sound ridiculous to many- 'what are you talking about, you didn't even KNOW him'- but it's entirely difficult to explain. the tears i shed were not for you as 'MJ, the guy who made thriller'. it was for the person i shared my life with for two years.

and the root of my conflict in finishing the book is not only in my desire to not be part of the onslaught of books capitalizing off your name now; but it is also the fear in sharing with others what i have shared with you, in context of your transition. there are so many people coming out and saying they now recognize your humanity. but i don't want what i write to be lost in all of the 'sudden revelation' stories... i don't want my experiences with you to be trivialized. one thing i could do is just finish it and keep everything to myself (i WOULD NOT feel right about that; i'd rather just not finish it). the other option is to finish it and share it with people who already were aware of the work i was putting into it. with this, i could be missing out on connecting with others who have shared similar experiences as you or i.

the option i feel which is left is to just finish it and publicly release it. i have great reservations, due to what i just mentioned- i don't want to capitalize off of your name. this is why i consistently ask you for guidance in this situation.

i want to make sure that future generations are able to take from what you have taught me, and can progress to find ways to heal from generations of the cycles of abuse... i want to be sure that kids like the ones i met yesterday are able to continue their search for wonder, even in adulthood.

at my work there were these kids running around- there was one kid who obviously was the dominant one in the family. he is six years old. he went over with his sister, to the 'alter' (for lack of a better term) i have for you, and he was amazed... the kids are usually the first ones to see it. they recognize the child in you, i think... he says (not even that loudly) 'i love michael jackson'. my 'MJ radar' went off, and i said, 'i do too!' he looked back at me, surprised to know i was listening. he then talks about all the dolls, and the pictures. his mother comes over and is also amazed by the alter. she mentions her son's love for you, and how whenever he hears your songs on the radio he wants to know everything about them. he had all of these questions, and i answered them to the best of my ability. he and his sister were standing there for a good 20 minutes to a half hour, talking about you.

when they were getting ready to leave, he and his sister were still standing near the alter, but he ran up to his mother (as if on cue) and asked her if you've ever been to jail. she looked at him curiously, and i answered, 'no.' i think there was a look of relief on his face, and she mentioned that i had a lot of answers, and that if he had a question he should get a hold of me. i hear that from a lot of people... as they were leaving she thanked me for sharing information.

i then realized that you had briefly been to jail, after you were arrested on the first charge in 1993, i believe. the kid's excitement lead me to say no, because i had either blocked out that moment or forgotten. subconsciously i may also have wanted to not shatter his love for you. but somehow i did not remember you went to jail. how could i have forgotten that, i asked myself.

after my response to him and i realized my error, i looked at this situation logically (there's that old logic again): you may have been handcuffed but you did not get charged with what you were arrested for, so technically you were not in jail. but does that make sense? because you did indeed get arrested. and then i began to feel bad because even if i did so on accident i gave that kid the wrong information. i don't want the kid to come back to me and think i was lying to him, because i wasn't. my intention was not to lie. i don't want that kid to hate me. i think a response which came out of this was not to worry too much about it, because that kid should not be subjected to that sort of news. still, i don't want the kid to think of me as a liar. and i don't want to inspire the pattern of lying for this kid either.

i really hope i get to see this kid again, so i can correct my mistake. we can't bring the past back but we can correct mistakes.

so still, my days are filled with the momentary contradictions of sadness and happiness, at times merging with one another.

every day is a new opportunity to learn. and even in your transcendence i learn.

your humble student,
jamilah

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

michael, may you now be at peace: a reflection (no. 36)

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today was a bit more of a challenging day... not necessarily because of anything specifically related to you; but at the same time it is related to you. with all of the excitement around being with kids, and all the spontaneity yesterday, i went back in the world with 'adults' (aka 'work'). i do really like where i work, but i admit that it's hard to deal with people, because of the culture of apology. PEOPLE APOLOGIZE TOO MUCH FOR THINGS THERE'S NO NEED TO BE SORRY FOR. i know i speak of the cycle of violence in more concrete terms; but this culture is so pervasive in a way which extends beyond the more obvious forms of violence.

where does this culture of apology come from? was there a place in our childhoods where we lost self-direction and autonomy? what place is this, where even in adulthood we need approval/validation/permission to do things THAT WILL NOT HINDER ANYONE ELSE? how did we become so self-wallowing as a culture, to the point where if there is no permission granted, then we feel we are somehow in the way, or causing harm? when did we lose our sense of assertiveness as a culture?

it's assumed by more than enough people that assertiveness is the same thing as aggressiveness, when that is hardly the case. of course those two things can merge; but assertiveness implies a sense of self-control and responsibility. aggressiveness is making attempts to wield power or control over a situation or thing; possibly due to the lack of control one has in life. i am prompted in finding out more about this whole thing now.

when you made all of those business moves did you feel as sense of assertiveness or aggressiveness? which moves had more to do as a reaction of how you grew up, and which ones were a reaction to what you've seen in the industry? people always saw your actions out front as being weak (due to your quiet demeanor and soft voice). one of the things i've admired about you though, is your ability to control a situation even WITH that voice. i never saw you raise your voice when in a conference; and in performing on stage your speaking voice was raised only slightly. you are definitely an aggressive performer; an angry one (as fred astaire used to say), but it was a sort of aggressiveness that was an aspect of your performance. it didn't extend beyond the stage. it kept people on their toes. in terms of asserting your power... yes, that definitely moved beyond the stage. you were no joke with that. being a young guy making all those moves you did, that is pretty amazing.

still... what is the root of all you did? what line was there for you between assertiveness and aggressiveness?

this is something i am struggling with in living here in the northwestern part of the country. and the more i struggle with it the more it makes me love kids, with their honesty and the lack of hangups they have.

see what you've done, teacher?

your humble student,
jamilah

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

michael, may you now be at peace: a reflection (no. 35)

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i'd love to say 'i wished you were here' but the thing is, i know you were... i know you saw how beautifully the day went- in fact, i was the best day i have had since you... transcended. it was a day you would have reveled in, had you physically been here. it was the first time i actually saw portland, oregon filled with so much love and community.

i spent a portion of the day anticipating seeing your performance as the scarecrow again. i can't emphasize enough how much warmth you brought to that character... the second time within a week, you ask? this time it was free, in a park. it was related to an event where communities could get together and know each other. that was the idea(l). i went by the park to see where the film was playing, and i saw so many children happily playing without a care. the adults created a water slide for them to play on; there would be a man spraying the slide as the kids passed by.

before i went to the park i went to the veterinarian so i could change the date for lumbia's appointment (she's due for a checkup soon). the office appeared to be closed a half-hour early. i was confounded by this but i trudged on, as the park was in close vicinity anyway. as i was walking i heard a conversation happening about 'the wiz'... something to the effect of, 'yeah, diana ross and michael jackson are in it. and he had a big afro.' they didn't seem to remember who else was in it. i walked across the street and i informed them that i heard them speaking of 'the wiz'. one of the women sitting outside mentioned they were thinking about going to see it in the park. my eyes lit up and i opined that they should go. the woman asked me if i remembered who else was in it, besides you and diana ross. i did mention some other names, and i spoke of my love for you. i told them i was putting on an event for you in the park at the end of the month, as well as doing a radio show. i also mentioned that i had been writing a book for two years.

in the midst of conversation a tiny toddler walked up close to me and said, 'we are gonna go see mikah jakson tonight!' i just fell in love right there. it's amazing how little kids who may not even realize the wealth of your art get so excited about you. i think they know anyone who seeks the truth of love, whether or not they physically know that person. i showed everyone the shirt i was wearing with your likeness (as i was displaying my love) and one of the older children said to me that she loved my jewelry. she asked me if i was hot, with all the clothes i was wearing (i am quite fond of layers; besides, it doesn't really get THAT hot here). i told her that i was from new york, so the weather we were having was not that hot at all. she mentioned that she was going to a wedding, and was going through the desert to get there. she also mentioned that she was working on her bicycle because by the time they would get back from the film it would be dark.

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i bid them all adieu, and hoped i'd see them at the park later on. as i continued on i ran into a pair of brothers, who were just messing around as brothers (who were about the same age) are want to do in the middle of a summer's day... when i see children i usually say hello to them. but these two beat me to it. in ever a playful mood they both eagerly waved hello to me. with the same excitedness i waved back. i told them hello in spanish; i though i had heard them speak to me in spanish, so i responded accordingly. i also asked how they were in spanish. their mother (or adult companion) smiled with a sort of comfort, or amusement. i began to run, and the kids ran with me. they kept waving hello, and i kept waving back. it was one of the most touching moments i've ever had in my life.

whenever i have these moments with children i recognize the light you had in your eyes...

in between all of this and going to see the film i went to run errands, you know, the 'adult stuff'... i went to my work to pick up some food to eat during the film and i saw a young man with his trousers extremely baggy (so much where they were on his legs as opposed to his waist). personally i don't find that to be very attractive. and taking with the socio-political history of the 'sagging trousers', i am not sure i get why others find it attractive. (i'm not sure if anyone told you that bit of history, as you came from a generation which did not wear their trousers like that. but the 'sagging trousers' derive from when black boys and men were hung on trees, where a large portion of the town would celebrate their hanging. as part of this celebration, the one who was hanged would have their privates cut off. the trousers would be let to hang so as to show their 'manhood' had been taken away).

this is so intriguing to me, when it comes to you, teacher... people would always say things about you, about how you were 'less of a man' than other men, because of some of the things you said or did, without looking at WHY you may have done some of those things. yet so many others do things which have a history of pain attached to us. people wear really large trousers so as not to fit on them, perhaps as a reaction to 'tight pants' (which are said to be 'not manly' it is a psychological manliness, so to speak... however, the style of pants they DO wear has a real, physical history of 'manhood-snatching'. life's ironies can be quite funny sometimes.

with this i saw the young man outside, and i said to him matter-of-factly, 'pull up your pants, young man'. i felt like a parent. the young man (he looked to be around my age) turned around and responded, "oh, you're checking me out? you think i'm sexy?" i said, "nope. i'm just saying to pull your pants up." there is a time and a place to explain these histories to people... everyone is not always receptive to what you will give them. body language is everything. however, he was receptive to my statement, and when he realized i was serious (but not condescending) he gave me a look and pulled his trousers up a bit (if not all the way). if i see him again i'd love to speak with him about the histories of this style. i wonder if he thought about the consequences of his actions as he pulled them up. perhaps so, perhaps not.

one thing i am learning more and more (i knew this but i had lost it over the years) is that you must open yourself up to giving people the benefit of the doubt. this opens up to spontaneity. i am not so sure if anybody would have told him to pull his pants up. people just ride off folks who dress a certain way as being socially insignificant, and the base of these relationships are of fear. if you are to move about in the world with a desire for 'true freedom' you have to lose so much of the fear. was he receptive to my comment about his trousers because i called him 'young man'? i don't know. but my hope is that i created some sort of an impact (particularly with my matter-of-factness).

it is also curious that he associated my comment about his trousers as having some sort of sexual connotation. we have become so conditioned in this society to believe any and every gaze is either set for mating or violence. we aren't allowed to just be. i don't know how you coped with all of that, teacher... i realize you used a lot of that energy as part of your performance; but in your private life i'm sure it was difficult for you to always be put in a position to take sides, when asked if you were in a 'relationship'. of COURSE you were in a relationship. you've had many: with fans, with friends, with family. but people hardly asked you about that. it was always, do you have a girlfriend? do you want to be married... as if those types of relationships guarantee more happiness or satisfaction than the platonic or familial kinds. i've been put in that position as well, but obviously not like you have.

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anyways, back to the park... the sun was getting ready to set for the film to be watched, and there were SO many kids! my heart just melted. there were so many kids there to see the brilliance of your art. i take the doll of your likeness out, and the kids loved it! i think some of them found it a bit strange a 'big person' like me would have a doll (which i carry around everywhere with me), but nevertheless they were fascinated!!! they would go 'is that michael jackson?', and the parents (all mothers) would laugh. there was one really small child (one who just learned some body parts) who enjoyed the doll tremendously. when i asked where the doll's head was, he pointed to it! when asked about the nose, he pointed as well... he kept holding the doll's hand. it was wonderful. devin (one of the people i went with-both devin and rebecca went spontaneously with me) told me i was really good with kids. i don't know about that; i just know i love them.

the movie began, and as the opening credits rolled your name came up... everybody clapped! i think it's funny that now you are no longer physically here, people realize the greatness of your art. or were they simply paying respects? either way, it's a good thing.

i danced the whole time during all the songs, and i said the lines right along with you. i anticipated your entrance as the scarecrow (everyone clapped again after your introductory song) and i felt sad after your exit. i cried a bit more this time, because the concept of 'home' meant so much more to me on this day. even devin cried a bit. when dorothy returned home after her experience, i knew. i just knew. i rode home on my bicycle singing the song out loud, and i cried a bit there as well. i got home (no pun intended), i listened to the song on the turntable, and tears streamed down my face.

all of the wonder of children, and the spontaneity of the day was home for me, if just for that moment. and i looked over to my right as i was riding home, and i saw you there; you were smiling. i know i saw you smiling.

thank you for being there with all of us on this day.

your humble student,
jamilah

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

michael, may you now be at peace: a reflection (no. 34)

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when one transcends, a new life is born. that doesn't discount the life of the one who has transcended; instead this should encourage us to take what we have learned from those who left this plane and apply it to the next generation.

i spoke with my mother yesterday (she loves the phone as much as i do, sarcastically speaking). she told me that it was good i was sounding better. she was worried about me as well, and called a few times to check up on me. i told her that i was sad, but i am feeling better (some days i feel better than others in relations to you but as i said, i can laugh these days. and that's a good thing). she then spoke about how you were all over the news. she was inundated with information about you. i responded with stating, the reason i feel better is because i don't pay attention to the news. she opined that it was a good thing i don't pay attention to the news.

i spoke with my aunt too... she knows what it is like to lose someone close to her; she lost a son by gunshot. my once-extremely optimistic aunt became inconsolable around this time, and i felt at a loss as to how i could help her. i lost a cat friend around this time as well (due to cancer), and i was devastated by that. this was a few years ago, and she is feeling much better about life now.

i will not state the old cliche of life being precious; in a funny way, preciousness would require a neglect of the struggles. preciousness requires that we hold our lives so delicately as to not be broken. but we are broken in so many ways, due to cycles of violence we act out in so many ways- from the minute to the epidemic.

of course, the word precious ultimately defines worthiness or something of high value (which is how we should treat each other, and ourselves). however, when we view something as precious we handle it so delicately, like a fine piece of glass, or artwork. therefore for me, when i look at the value of life i want to examine all of it. when we look at both the good and the bad, some glass may break along the way, if we are to truly halt this conditioning of the cycle of violence.

this begins with us examining what we have learned from those who are still here, and those who have transcended. we take what we have learned, and we provide the next generation with a better framework and overstanding of ceasing this cycle.

i would like to emphasize that it is we who are fragile (a word attributed to something which is precious, like glass), not life itself. when we transcend, life will still be here. life has many tales to tell of our fragility. we can just "follow the pattern of the wind"...
Michael Jackson

i spoke with my niece as well yesterday... i think the state of youth is definitely precious, yet those who make up the youthful generations have strength enough to withstand the direct effects of the cycles of violence, if they are surrounded by a stronger force of love. i see my niece in this way.

she has spent a significant part of her life with my mother, who is of course, MY mother. my mother has done a tremendous amount of healing work (particularly since her husband transcended) but still, she is so rooted in negativity and 'the cycle' that she seems reluctant to move beyond a sort of hopelessness. my mother has so much potential... but as you know, you can't make anyone do anything they don't wanna do. my niece though, despite some negative environments she may encounter, is growing to realize her potential more and more.

she had a stage where she hated her hair and parts of her physical self (i recognize this pattern and i'm sure you do too, teacher); but she's become so occupied with artistic activities (like dance and music lessons) that she appears to have surpassed this stage. that precious little one is growing up to have an armour of strength and autonomy. i know she will make it out a lot better than you or i did, teacher. this is the biggest gift of all- to know the next generation will succeed, both mentally and physically.

i spoke with her the day after her day of birth. i know she struggles emotionally sometimes (she is still a recipient of the cycle of violence in some ways- i've spoken to her when she was in tears), but even through her sadness she shines. she was adamant that she wanted to come to visit me. i told her that i wanted to see her too, and that we would work it out. the last time i saw her, she was about 5 years old. we shared some laughs some smiles (i asked her how tall she was and she said she didn't know) and some initial stages of plan making... most of all we shared love.

we can never let moments such as that slip away... i know you knew that... i see the images of you with children, and i saw the peace on your face. i saw how you accepted the gifts they shared with you from their hearts, and the hands and kisses you placed upon their heads for comfort. despite your stature as a public figure, when you've done this it did not echo political opportunism.

is it possible your love for children may have stemmed from your experiences at the hands of the cycle of abuse? you openly felt that children represented the 'face of GOD'; but some of these 'faces' have also lived in the same or similar cycle as you or i. that would be up to us to inform them of the alternatives to the cycle. and to not give up on them when they leave childhood. we can't leave them, when we know that there is a world out there which anticipates their failure, and discourages autonomy and community.

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when you transcended you created a new awareness... there were suddenly hundreds of people acknowledging your humanity and making those connections between you and the cycle you grew up in. for better or for worse, they were still doing it. at times i have gotten frustrated and i ask, 'why didn't the lot of you vocalize his humanity when he was physically here?!' i become so weary thinking about that. i try to think, well, to humanize you now is better than not doing it at all. still, it makes me wonder how much we value each other whilst we are still sitting here amongst each other.

and i get weary sometimes as well, when people come up to me and send me their condolences (believe it or not, it's still happening to this day). because it never leads to a discussion about what you mean to them, or about the larger consequences of your life and transcendence. so i am left just going, 'thank you, thank you...' i see such potential in discussing the larger picture, because so many people have a point of reference when it comes to you. it may not be all the same, but we can start somewhere. and when we start we can learn from each other.

i am learning how even though we are so vulnerable/fragile, life supports us in the best way possible; but life cannot do it alone. the best example i can give is the plant i mentioned to you so long ago, teacher... the plant which recently blossomed a fourth leaf is now sprouting a fifth bud. after all this time of nothing growing, within months there happened to now be two leaves. somehow the plant may have felt enough love or care around, in order to grow new leaves so suddenly. i can only hope this is the case.

such is the wonder and strength of life... even though you are not physically here i feel you speaking to this; you have left a legacy we can all grow from. those of us still here can create a positive impact and encourage the next generation so they live better than previous generations- with the knowledge they are surrounded by love at all times.

your humble student,
jamilah

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Sunday, August 2, 2009

michael, may you now be at peace: a reflection (no. 33)

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people will never let me forget...

for some people i will forever be associated with you. someone said to me today, "when i heard the news i wasn't concerned about michael, i was concerned about YOU!" his concern for me, like most people who have approached me in this way, seemingly may be related to the slight hope that i did not become so distraught that i hurt myself over you. body and face language; and tones are important to determine cues which are not so vocal. i was also the first person he thought of when he heard the news, he said. i am still receiving this commentary, teacher...

it looks like i'm stuck with you... i may be having these conversations with you for a while.

i keep thinking of your eyes. those phenomenally beautiful eyes. and i just thought of an exercise i learned when i was training to be a yoga teacher some years ago: a meditation in trust, where you just stare into someones eyes for a period of time. when i first learned this exercise i cannot tell you how extremely difficult this was to do. but if i was to be a confident teacher i had to test myself. looking into someone's eyes, and having them look into yours with full attention (and intention) is difficult because it requires that we maintain some level of vulnerability. this is a huge aspect in trust.

you know the test where you fall back to see if the person behind you will catch you? i'm sure you know about that one, teacher. you have to be vulnerable enough to allow yourself to willingly fall, and trust you will be supported. the eyes are the same way. you have to trust you are able to be vulnerable with someone who will not steal your soul. it took me a very long time to look into someone's eyes for long periods of time in conversation. i have not done the staring meditation in years (and i have not taught yoga classes in years). no other classes i have been to do not utilize this form of meditation.

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in a world (and sometimes familial situations) which consistently deprives of of reaching our full potential (and in the process ravages the soul) it always feels safer to look down, eyes fixed on the ground. as a popular figure you stared into the camera's gaze. you trained yourself to look at the interviewer. however, there are many times where you were lost for words or you were uncomfortable- these are the moments your eyes dart across the room, remain locked to whatever object you can stare at... or you just wore sunglasses. and occasionally took them off "for the girls in the balcony".

i look into your eyes all the time, as much as i can. is it a trust issue with me? not necessarily, as we've never met in person. but i can say i learned a lot about my vulnerability through looking at you. looking into your eyes has given me a better ability to look at others... because i have been talking so much about your transcendence. when i look into people's eyes i can feel your spirit there. i cannot say that you are always there, but i know you are speaking to (and through) people in some way.

the person who shared his concern with me mentioned how disturbing it was, that there was a poetic beauty in the 'good dying young'... he opined that those who were inherently good left this world violently; the beauty/irony of their 'deaths' lends even more to their goodness.

later on i see a message from a friend of mine, stating that he just heard your song, 'they don't care about us' for the first time... it seems as if from his writing this statement he never saw you in a political context (only a popular culture one), so he never really examined the impact you made, on all ends. i responded to him that you are underrated as an artist, and that your political voice has been severely overlooked/disregarded. you may not have considered yourself to be a political person, but you have made such an impact on others (including my friend) with songs like 'they don't care about us'. you continue to open eyes with your messages every day, even after your transcendence.

every day i look at you with new eyes; they are open and ready to learn some more. and i will never forget.

your humble student,
jamilah

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