Thursday, July 09, 2009

Reflecting on the Michael Jackson Memorial

I don't really want to add to the legion of post-Michael Jackson memorial posts because, as I write this, I wonder what it is that I can say that might be different or even universal that isn't overwrought and overplayed. But having been among the lucky few who were able to go past the police-guarded barriers at Olympic/Figueroa on Tuesday - to literally cross the street and engage in an area that was part of a world event - I almost feel like it's less of a choice and more of a privilege that I get to speak from that perspective. And to be clear, I didn't get a "golden ticket"...

A day or so after receiving a nice cursory rejection email (I know they sent one to nearly 1.6 million entrants, but it was nice that they did in the first place), I pretty much figured I'd be watching the event from work on my computer. But the day before the public Michael Jackson Memorial service, I received an email from my GRAMMY Museum membership offering the opportunity to participate in a simulcast of the event in their Sound Stage theatre. Without a second thought, I leapt at the chance (literally) and headed out of my office to pick some tickets.

The next day I wasn't sure what to expect heading into Downtown - I was glad my mode of transit is the subway, so there was no traffic to deal with - but would there be as many people rushing down as anticipated? Or, for once, were people going to listen and follow Jan Perry's advice of staying home for the event?

And miraculously enough, people listened.

And the fact that people listened seemed to be the theme of the entire thing.

In my seat at the GRAMMY Museum Soundstage with other simulcast watchers, people listened to all the ways a world-known Pop Icon may have changed the world - whether it was as a musician to other musicians as a humanitarian to so many causes or simply as a human being who was a son, a brother, an uncle, and - as the world finally seemed to acknowledge in the final moments of that memorial - a father.

I admit, there were times where I shed many tears (ok, so I was a bit of a teary mess) and was grateful to be in a space where there were others who also openly mourned. Watching an online stream on your computer at work for work would not so much have been the place to do that, so I thank the GRAMMY Museum for providing that opportunity, for opening their doors so that some of their members could have the space to see the memorial and let go.

Over the last few days I've had the urge to shed tears over this situation - that tug of an ache in one's heart that simmers but never boils over. This was particularly true on the afternoon/night of his passing, as I participated in both a loud celebration of his life and a quiet mourning of his death (See "Not the Wrong Star..."). But I never shed a tear until the memorial service and I was glad to be given that time to do so.

In discussing with a friend recently about all this hoopla and "bandwagon fans", I can see how many might label me in that light. I can't say that I spent a lot of time contemplating about this pop icon prior to his death. I've always appreciated the music of Michael Jackson and I know that his music has influenced me throughout my life. Hands down his "Smooth Criminal" is my favorite music video. But is that the stuff worthy of experiences and memorial services and emotional tears? I'm not sure.

All I know is that regardless of one's opinion, I can't really fathom too many people who would be fitting of a memorial service like the one on Tuesday - full of song, history, love, and respect. I could name the people who participated in the event, who are also national or world icons, but, for a moment in time, they weren't just celebrities that people knew, they were mourners like everyone else.

The service reflected much of Michael Jackson's musical and humanitarian legacy. He was recognized as an icon of change. And if there's anything that I believe Michael Jackson wanted to ask of the world, he wanted most of all that we listen and understand and join together in peace.

And we did.

-Charity Tran

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