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Religion & Culture | Michael Jackson Defending a piece of our history

Published:Sunday | March 17, 2019 | 12:25 AMDr Glenville Ashby - Contributor
The inimitable Michael Jackson.
Glenville Ashby
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“It’s easy to destroy the black man because his people will help you do it.”

 

Leaving Neverland aired on HBO on March 6 to mixed reviews. Lines are drawn in the sand as Michael Jackson’s defenders work overtime to protect the legacy of arguably the most influential pop artist in history. Even renowned documentary film writer and director John Ziegler has joined the fray as he publicly questions the credibility of the film.

For so many who embrace our judicial system and rule of law, it is unsettling that after a man has been acquitted of numerous charges and even survived a decade-long FBI probe, he is now the target of what appears to be a witch-hunt. It is even more disturbing that this man is long deceased.

Many are asking why two men who swore under oath in the 2004 Jackson trial that they were never sexually abused now claim otherwise and are given a huge platform to do so. And why no less a person than Oprah Winfrey was used to validate their claim.

The answer is more complex than imagined.

Before his death, Jackson had a well-publicised falling-out with Paul McCartney and Sony Records. The former Beatle had accused Jackson of stealthily purchasing the group’s music catalogue, an unforgivable act in McCartney’s eyes. Jackson also fell out of favour with Steven Spielberg, David Geffen, and Jeffery Katzenberg, three of Hollywood’s most influential people.

Maligned by Hollywood

Jackson was maligned by Hollywood and the media in the later part of his life. His sudden death, though, proved to be a financial windfall, with earnings surging past US$1 billion by 2015 alone. ( https://www.cnbc.com/2015/06/25/1-billion-michael-jacksons-estate-surges...)

Substantially more earnings are estimated, thanks to the movie This is It, trademark and publishing agreements with Circus Soleil, record sales, streaming, and an upcoming Broadway show, Don’t Stop till You Get Enough.

As an artist, Jackson’s global appeal had long eclipsed that of Elvis Presley, a man who was unapologetically marketed as the ‘King’ despite his brazen appropriation of black music at a time when black artists were used and whimsically discarded.

In Champion or Copycat: Elvis Presley’s Ambiguous Relationship with Black America, Brian Ward wrote, “After Elvis Presley died on August 16, 1977, the African-American newspaper, the Chicago Defender, explained: “When Elvis Presley breathed his last breath and the press hailed him as the ‘King of Rock’, Ol’ Man River cried out, ‘Naw, he ain’t! My friend Chuck Berry is the King of Rock. Presley was merely a Prince who profited from the royal talent of a sovereign ruler vested with tremendous creativity. Had Berry been white, he could have rightly taken [Presley’s] throne and worn his crown well.’”

Jackson’s title, ‘King of Pop’, never sat well with the power structure, nor was his public feuding with Sony records and Hollywood’s power brokers that was captured in the song They Don’t Really Care About Us. Acquitted after a gruelling trial only to have his stock soar astronomically after his death only ruffled more feathers.

But a sworn enemy never forgets. And the enemy never fails to follow the script that always works: recruit one among us to do their dirty work.

This time it was none other than Oprah Winfrey, a woman who celebrated her 65th birthday on David Geffen’s $300 million yacht watching Leaving Neverland along with Paul McCartney and friends. You guessed it: The fix was in.

It is regrettable but necessary that Winfrey, who assumed the treasonous role of ‘plantation mammy’, be challenged by our community. Winfrey’s many troubling missteps have been deflected by her friends in Hollywood and the media. But Winfrey cannot distance herself from her friendship with accused rapist Harvey Weinstein, nor can she undo her promotion of James Arthur Ray, a charlatan who was found guilty of manslaughter after his wellness retreat in Arizona ended with the death of two participants. And it was Oprah who personally galvanised the popularity of John of God, who is held for multiple counts of rape in a Brazilian prison. To date, some 600 women have accused the Oprah-endorsed holy man of sexual abuse.

CLEAR ANSWER

So I ask, why would Winfrey sign on to promoting recycled allegations against Jackson? The reason now is as clear as day.

And to Winfrey and others who see nothing wrong with digging up a dead man to only kill him again, I ask: Are you not opening a Pandora’s box? And if you must, should we not try Elvis Presley in the court of public opinion? Wasn’t he accused, like Jackson, of the same offences? Hollywood and the media are well familiar with the sore details captured in Elizabeth King’s Elvis Was the King of Treating Women Like Sh** and Luring 14-Year-Olds into Bed (Broadly, October 7, 2016). But they remain silent.

And what of Jerry Lee Lewis?

And as for the living, why not publicly go after Ted Nugent, Roman Polanski, and Woody Allen with the same tenacity directed at Jackson? And what of Kevin Spacey, a man treated with kid gloves by the media?

And again I ask, wasn’t Jackson exonerated in the court of law?

For all his shortcomings, Michael Jackson came out of the black experience. He is our music, our art, our history. Hollywood and the mainstream media protect their own.

We must now defend what belongs to us.

- Dr Glenville Ashby is the award-winning author of the audiobook Anam Cara: Your Soul Friend ad Bridge to Enlightenment and Creativity. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and glenvilleashby@gmail.com, or tweet @glenvilleashby.