In a few weeks a good deal of attention will be paid to the first anniversary of Michael Jackson's passing. One aspect of Michael's career that should never be forgotten was the way he overcame racial and ethnic barriers; the way he included the citizens of the world.
I wasn't a fan of Michael Jackson and I knew very little about Ms. Shields. I watched Michael's funeral for cynical reasons. Michael's tragic death, I believe, put an exclamation mark on a peculiarly American occurrence; a tragedy affecting so many African Americans, affecting those who defy the odds and step on Hollywood's global stage. In addition, Michael was a star during his youth. Rev. Sharpton said it beter than I, "...there's nothing wrong with your daddy. There's something wrong with what he had to deal with."
I watched Michael's funeral. (A way to pass a few hours, I thought) While watching, I was reminded of a pinball machine: the spectacle of beautiful, elaborately dressed and talented celebrities springing--one at a time-- to the stage, giving speeches and singing songs only to be replaced by some other elaborately dressed and talented celebrity. I did understand that they were trying to say something about Michael, his meaning, his contribution, but it was clear--to me--that they didn't have the tools to communicate what the audience needed to hear, and as a result all I heard was the cacophony of pointless speeches and song.
Suddenly this extraordinarily handsome white woman steps up to the podium and starts stammering out an eulogy that, in the end, changed my entire perspective of Michael. In a word, this woman humanized him and projected him to the listening audience as so much more than a Black man who could sing and dance. Michael, it turned out, was a human being. someone who seemed vulnerable and accessible. She not only made Michael human, she awakened me to his particular worldview and his efforts to make a better world. In short, she shattered my personal prejudices. She gave me hope.
For this, I'll forever be grateful. Than you Ms. Shields. Thank you.