MJ Studies Today LXXIX

Abstract: This month’s MJ Studies Today contains columnist Kerry Hennigan’s personal reflections on the thirteenth anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death in 2009. Like many fans unable to travel, Kerry spent the anniversary at home, following events on social media. At Jackson’s resting place at Forest Lawn, Glendale, tribute was paid to the teachers and children who died as victims of recent gun violence in the US, reflecting Jackson’s profound concern for the wellbeing of children and his countless humanitarian actions.


Column by Kerry Hennigan, editor of the monthly newsletter, A Candle for Michael, administrator of the widely-subscribed Facebook group “Michael Jackson’s Short Film ‘Ghosts’” and MJ blogger. Student of Ancient History, Archaeology and Anthropology.


REFERENCE AS:

Hennigan, Kerry. “MJ Studies Today LXXIX: Thirteen years without Michael Jackson: turning a sad occasion into a celebration and paying tribute to all ‘The Lost Children.’” (14-7-2022). The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies 9, No. 1 (2022). https://michaeljacksonstudies.org/mj-studies-today-lxxix/


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Thirteen years without Michael Jackson: turning a sad occasion into a celebration and paying tribute to all “The Lost Children.” By Kerry Hennigan

Photo montage compiled by Kerry Hennigan

On 25 June 2022 Michael Jackson fans the world over paused to reflect on the death of their idol thirteen years ago (2009). With all the anniversaries of his classic albums and world tours that fans celebrate, this one date each year is by its nature a time of sadness. Yet for many who meet at Forest Lawn or the gates of Neverland, or perhaps attend a performance of MJ One in Las Vegas, MJ: the Musical on Broadway, or a seminar featuring some of his musical colleagues, it is a time for catching up with friends made through the international fan network. So, the sad occasion becomes, instead, a celebration, with our shared love for Michael bringing us together.

Despite being someone who has claimed to be an MJ pilgrim since the first anniversary of his death in 2010, this year I was once again at home, following the commemorative activities around the world on social media and joining in the global Major Love Prayer. That makes me one of countless Jackson fans whose circumstances degreed they do the same. But we are not less dedicated fans for being tied to our homes, dependants, jobs or circumstances. This year before and after the fateful date, I suffered from a cumulation of concerns in my personal life that brought on anxiety and depression. I have medication for this, but for the first time in many years, it seemed to be letting me down. How was I going to deal with the anniversary of Michael’s death under these circumstances?

As it turned out, it was helpful to focus on searching the ‘net for things to share online relevant to the occasion – like the tribute organised at Forest Lawn to the victims of the recent school mass shooting in the US, at Uvalde Elementary school, with heartfelt words from choreographer and creative colleague of MJ, Vincent Paterson who spoke out against gun violence. This was followed by the release of 21 white doves in honour of Michael plus the children and teachers who lost their lives in the shooting. [1] Charity groups I follow such as Michael Jackson’s Legacy (MJL) and Michael Jackson Fans for Change (MJFFC) and other fan groups that support various charities, provide opportunities to make a difference in the wider world in Michael’s name. This is positive action, life affirming, and a wonderful tribute to the man who urged us to “heal the world; make it a better place.”

Michael’s name and various supporting hashtags could be seen trending on social media in many countries during the weekend and days following the anniversary, i.e. #13YearsWithOutMichaelJackson, #RIPMichaelJackson, Michael Jackson Lives Forever plus various others along with some of his most powerful songs. It was heartening that “Earth Song” appeared on the trending chart, as this was the final song Michael rehearsed on the night of 24 June 2009. He then stood on the floor of the auditorium with Kenny Ortega and watched choreographer Travis Payne rehearse Man in the Mirror with the band. [2] Michael was always looking for ways to improve his performances, for kinks to be ironed out, for changes to heighten the emotions in his audience. Little could he know that the next day our emotions would be sent plummeting by the news of his passing.

But, for my own and everyone’s wellbeing, I think it more important to focus on that last night of rehearsal rather than the events of the day that followed. We can’t undo what happened, but we can remember Michael’s enthusiasm for making “This Is It” the greatest show on Earth, and his desire to use his earnings from the residency for the wellbeing of sick children. That was Michael being Michael; it wasn’t practical, considering his financial position at the time, not even if he subsequently took the show on to other residencies throughout the world. But it was always in his heart to help children live a better, happier life, and for them to have a healthy planet on which to live. He’d already poured his heart into songs like “We are the World,” “Heal the World,” “Man in the Mirror,” and “Earth Song,” to name the obvious ones.

At Forest Lawn on 25 June this year, “The Lost Children” from Michael’s “Invincible” album was played as part of the tribute for victims of the Uvalde school shooting. In this context, the song took on new, chilling resonance, reminding us yet again of the relevance of Michael’s music, his words, his humanitarian actions in our world today. Michael Jackson acted from the heart; and his heart was full of love.

“Love is a funny thing to describe. It’s so easy to feel and yet so slippery to talk about. It’s like a bar of soap in the bathtub – you have it in your hand until you hold on too tight…

Holding on to love is not wrong, but you need to learn to hold it lightly, caressingly. Let it fly when it wants. When it’s allowed to be free, love is what makes life alive, joyful, and new. It’s the juice and energy that motivates my music, my dancing, everything. As long as love is in my heart, it’s everywhere.”

Edited excerpt from “Love” by Michael Jackson. Dancing the Dream, Random House, 1992. [3]

[4]

Sources:

[1] izzy @peacelovemjj on Twitter https://twitter.com/peacelovemjj/status/1540819118030344193

[2] Kenny Ortega on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/CfM6CqDll-K/?hl=en

[3] Jackson, Michael. Dancing the Dream, Random House 1992 p.66.

[4] Commemorative plaque at The Planetary Society, Pasadena, California. Sponsored by Kerry Hennigan. Image supplied by The Planetary Society. (Installed October 2021) The quotation is from the poem “I searched for my star” from the book Dancing the Dream by Michael Jackson, Random House, 1992 page 112.

Illustration: “24 June 2009…” compiled by Kerry Hennigan. No infringement of photographic copyright is intended in this not for profit, educational exercise.

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