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Friday
Aug292008

Happy Birthday, Jacko

I wouldn't have known that today was Michael Jackson's birthday except for the fact that I happened to get to the newspaper before husband absconded with it this morning.  The  article in our daily rag wasn't particularly kind to Michael, calling him "Wacko Jacko" and referring to him as a freak.

 
I have a decade on Michael.  In spite of that, we sort of grew up together.  My children were born in the early 1970s when The Jackson Five was at the pinnacle of it's success. The Jackson Five was all I heard as my daughter played "Billie Jean" over and over and over. 
 
In the early and mid-1980s, I was an urban minority educator.  I taught in the Northeastern United States where DeFacto segregation was alive and well.  I taught in city schools where bussing wasn't happening.  I taught children who were classified as "emotionally disturbed."  They weren't.  They were Black and poor and living in squalor in ghettos.  They had no understanding of white middle class values, manners or the middle class expectations upon which our schools are predicated.  The one thing for which I will always love Michael Jackson was the joy he brought to my African American students.  Every boy and even some of the girls had a red "pleather" jacket with zippers everywhere, just like the one Michael wore in his "Beat It" video. 
Georgie, who was ten and  still couldn't spell much more than Cat, Dog and his name, entertained us all by daily grabbing my classroom yardstick and singing and dancing the entire "Putting on the Ritz" Michael Jackson video, never making a misstep or flubbing a lyric.  Smart much?  You tell me.  Georgie must be in his early thirties by now.  Past on past experiences I am doubtful that he's gotten much farther than that ghetto.  But for a time, when he was a little boy hidden away in a self-contained special education classroom, he was a star.
 
Michael Jackson, I wish you happiness on your fiftieth birthday.  I'm sorry that you have been unable to find joy in your life.  I thank you for the joy I witnessed you bring to poor kids who knew little joy.  None of us are all one thing or all another.  It is the Ying and Yang of life...the Ebb and Flow...
 

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