It began as a private event, exclusive–a celebration of Michael Jackson, who, since his death a year ago, looms larger than life. Devoted fans packed into the world famous Sylvia's Restaurant in Harlem, a location befitting a man widely considered the most influential musical artist of the modern era. They dined, laughed, reminisced and cried. Sure Michael Joe Jackson was unique–blending the fluidity of Fred Astaire and the precision of Gene Kelly with the raw soul of James Brown. His cross-generational and multi-ethnic appeal so evident that evening; and his music touched so many lives in every corner of the globe.
Krystique Ector of Diego Martin, Trinidad, recalled watching her idol on VH1. "His music helped me when I needed to be comforted," she said, touching upon a personal matter. She continued: "His music is clean, nothing to be censored, and as a Christian, I can relate to that."
Such were sentiments shared by YdalizaTaveras, 19, of the Dominican Republic, who was accompanied by her mother. Adrian Japangie, 20, of Brazil, who donned a black glove and Fedora, freeze-framed for the camera, but quickly turned introspective when asked about Jackson.
"I have grown over the years to love him..so many different messages in his music that I can relate to." And Andy Anderson, who is in his 60s, smiled as he remembered watching Jackson as a child star. "I am a Country and Western kinda guy, but gotta tell ya, I got to tip my hat to him."
As the evening progressed, Jackson music blared with a montage of his famous videos in the background. But only for a moment. A hushed silence befell only to be punctured by the sudden appearance of Moses Harper, a female Jackson impersonator. "Michael, Michael," many screamed, as Moses shyly acknowledged the adulation. As "he" popped, spun, locked and moonwalked to Smooth Criminal, it was more than entertainment–bordering on a near necromantic ritual. Jackson seemed to come alive in flesh and spirit. Moses was that convincing, that good.
"Michael's talents were supernatural," "he" said later.
It was a triumphant event for organiser Amada Anderson who viewed Jackson as a builder of communities. Black or White tells the whole story of Michael. He was a world healer. As dusk laboured in, these Jackson devotees filed outside, candle in hand, en route to the "hallowed" Apollo Theatre–a pilgrimage of sorts. Hundreds of other Jackson devotees awaited their arrival. Their idol entertained there when he was just a kid. But the candlelight vigil was anything but solemn.
At every corner boom-boxes boomed; drummers drummed; and street dancers danced–Jackson mania gripping Harlem with an overwhelming grip!
Not an utter of the singer's supposed body dysmorphic disorder, or worse, paedophilia allegations. In a life as complex and troubled as Jackson's, there will continue to be traducers, but on this special day, he was cleansed of all human frailties and imperfections–transformed into a cult hero, a mythical figure–a legend.
Truly, bigger in death than life.
Glenville Ashby is a New York
correspondent for the
Trinidad and Tobago Guardian.