Thursday, June 25, 2009


i saw michael jackson when i was about 8 years old, with my dad, jackson 5 live at the richmond coliseum.

schools integrated late in VA. last in the nation as far as i know. i'll never forget the first day of school that year. we stood in the main auditorium of the school, a circular room surrounded by classrooms. white kids on one side, black kids on the other. we just stared at one another. the white kids were from the neighborhood, the black kids bused in an hour from the inner city. i remember the lead up, lots of adult conversation about the upcoming event, but we were kids, and i don't remember giving it too much thought. the year before, they had introduced some black teachers, so it wasn't a complete shock to most. i, unlike alot of my classmates, had actually known black people before. my grandparents employed a few in their business that i regularly saw and conversed with. wow, reading back over those last few sentences is pretty mind-boggling today, but this was the old south where black was black and white was white. i don't remember separate bathrooms and drinking fountains, but the axiom of black and white was ground into us from an early age, and it bugged the living shit out of me from time that i could remember. i can still hear things coming out of people's mouths that crushed me-- and some of those people are ones i'd have taken a bullet for. those were seeds that led me to question race, individuality, and ultimately the southern "thing" as a whole.

it was a funny time. the mix of the suburbs and the inner city was actually pretty uneventful. i don't recall animosity and i really don't remember thinking too much about it. we kinda kept to our own. marching in line with society.

michael jackson was my first rock star. i had the records, the posters, watched the cartoon, had the 'goin back to indiana' record and tv special memorized. he was this 8-10 year old's james brown.

about 2/3 of the way through the school year, the jackson 5 came to town. my dad took me. can still feel the excitement hangin in the nosebleeds watchin tito storm the stage w/ gtr in hand. was a magical moment when michael came out. 8 year me screaming. bout halfway through the show, a group of black kids approached us. i lost it, yelled to my dad, "these guys go to school with me!". they were flummoxed I was there, me likewise. my dad ended up emptying his wallet buying popcorn & sodas for everyone. we had a fucking blast. and next day at school, i ended up being the white dude who knew the black dudes.

i stopped in on michael over the years, but it was nostalgia for me at that point. "off the wall" was pretty great ... i still remember exactly where i was when he did the moonwalk ... i think "thriller" is WAY overrated ('billie jean' excluded) ... king of pop? whatever ... and the ghouly and creepy last decade + was ... well, just that.


ope said...


Kiko Jones said...

"...and next day at school, I ended up being the white dude who knew the black dudes."

The almighty, motherfucking power of music.

Very heartfelt. Thanks for sharing.

larry darnell giles said...

Love the voice and style in this, Will!