Growing up with Michael: The Special Ways I Saw Michael Jackson

Music and memories live on after death. I can still remember the day. Ten years ago, I was driving...

Music and memories live on after death.

I can still remember the day. Ten years ago, I was driving home from work to prepare to teach an evening class. The music was playing in my car and then stopped abruptly. The announcer said four words: Michael Jackson has died. The shock of the announcement hit me hard as I pulled in to park. I parked the car and got ready for the class thinking that it was something not really true. By the time I got to my class, the adult students were all talking about it. The class was all in shock and disbelief. They had a lot to talk about. Everybody had memories of Michael and his music, his songs, his videos, his interviews, and his dancing. I had a lot of memories with the King of Pop but different than the others in the class. The memories were at different times in my life and in different ways.

My first memory of Michael Jackson was him in an animated cartoon. The Jackson Five became an animated cartoon for Saturday mornings in 1971. I would have my bowl of cereal and sat in front of a 27 inch color TV to watch the five brothers from Gary, Indiana. I would sing the songs, and watch them get into different problems. I would especially watch Michael since he was the focus of many stories in the show. But he was just a young boy like me. It was great to see him in this way since this big star was just a kid who wanted to have fun.

My next memory of Michael was him as a TV host. The Jackson family had a variety show on CBS in 1976. He his brothers and sisters would entertain for half an hour with music, laughs and fun. It was one of the few shows to have major Black performers for a television audience at the time. Michael was now a live person instead of a cartoon character. He was tall, slender and had a large Afro bigger than mine. However, he danced and entertained me and made me smile as he did in the cartoon.

Another memory was Michael Jackson the actor. His role of the Scarecrow of the movie the Wiz in 1978 was a fun moment for me. Even though the movie did not do well in the box office, Michael was great to watch. He had humor, sadness and hope to the other characters and showed great emotion. His young shy voice was a great focus as a shy kid myself at the time looking for something that I had to find inside myself.

The most impressive of all for me was seeing Michael for the first time in concert. He was on tour with the Jacksons. I got to see the screen which they played the video, Can You Feel It. I found out years later he was the executive producer and writer of the video which showed me ideas and visions. Michael Jackson used the video as a way of not only promoting music but also promoting in message. After that, I sat and watched him move, sing and dance with high energy. His brothers were great but Michael came ready to perform…and he did.

The funniest memory of Michael I remember was Michael Jackson as a video game. Moonwalker came out as a video game in the arcades in college. I played that game every other day during my breaks in class. The game was a bit silly and the music was not like from a CD, but it was Michael Jackson….and that alone was what made it fun.

I passed on these memories of Michael while teaching my class that evening. I reminded them that Michael made all of us remember a time in our lives that made us forget the problems of the world for a while. He made us enjoy the moment and shared something personal every time we saw and heard him sing, dance or act.

I still have great memories of Michael since his passing. I have the Michael Jackson Experience video game that I played for exercise. Its one thing to see those moves, but whole lot different doing them. I would laugh with friends as we would try (not very well though) to sing and dance like the game.

For the past 10 years since his death. I go to a roller rink located in Columbus Ohio to a special event. The skating session is called a “Tribute skate” to Michael’s music. Many kids dress up with their white sequined gloves, Beat it jackets, white socks and high-water pants. Contests are held every year to see who’s the best Michael Jackson dancer.

My memories of Michael are unique to me but the feelings I have are not. Other people from celebrities to kids have felt his magic when they hear his song or watch him perform. He made us remember a better time in our times. He wasn’t afraid to show a personal side to himself in everything he did. Sharing that, many still enjoy him since his death and he will be remembered and loved…since he showed himself to us.

Written by Thaddeus Armstead
T.J. Armstead has worked as a teacher and college professor. He has a large collection of Black media and has spoken at different colleges on African American images in the media. He enjoys traveling to different cities to experience different cultures such as New Orleans, Chicago and strangely enough, Cleveland. He currently lives in Cincinnati, Ohio where he works on his next project or reading his large collection of African-American books. Profile

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