Abstract: Kerry Hennnigan experienced that we can still learn a lot from Michael Jackson and his care for people. Michael Jackson had no constrictions when helping those in need.
Column by Kerry Hennigan, editor of the monthly newsletter, A Candle for Michael, and administrator of the widely-subscribed Facebook group, Michael Jackson’s Short Film ‘Ghosts.
Hennigan, Kerry. “MJ Studies Today XX (14-08-2017).” The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies 4, no. 3 (2017). http://michaeljacksonstudies.org/mj-studies-today-xx/.
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Michael Jackson’s lesson of inclusiveness in a discriminating world. By Kerry Hennigan
Something unsettling happened to me recently when I “shared” a charity campaign via social media on behalf of a friend overseas. Someone responded that while they were sympathetic to the plight of the beneficiaries of the campaign, they preferred to support their “fellow Countrymen”. To my dismay, another friend “liked” those sentiments. (Neither of them are Michael Jackson fans, I’m relieved to say.)
It’s true we don’t all have the benefit of a global view when it comes to the needy. While one might support a United Nations campaign in aid of refugees or better health services in third world countries, another might prefer to give to the local branch of the Salvation Army or homeless shelter. “Charity should begin at home,” they say.
They’ll get no argument from me – especially not if they are actively donating or volunteering or just “sharing” on behalf of a charity. We’re all entitled to our preferences, but, as someone who doesn’t discriminate because of nationality (or anything else, hopefully) I think Michael Jackson’s legacy of inclusiveness is a lesson a lot more people would benefit from learning.
I’m not suggesting we should dig in our pockets for every request for funds we receive… or any, for that matter. Most of us aren’t wealthy, and some of us are bordering on poverty. However, with social media and the internet generally, we can help get the word out to others who might gladly contribute a few dollars to what they consider a good cause, whether it’s at home or abroad.
I guess, too, it depends on one’s own definition of “home”.
If we look at Michael Jackson’s list of charities he supported, we see that he dug deeply not only for his fellow Americans, but also for international campaigns. His own Heal the World Foundation did not come with national limitations. Michael’s stage was the world, and his humanitarian activities encompassed that world.
The lyrics of his famous protest song They Don’t Care About Us reveals that Michael Jackson, an African American (who was even criticized for betraying his race by some, due to his vitiligo, and the measures he took to disguise it) identified with the downtrodden everywhere. The original lyrics of the song which caused so much fuss when first published, were right on point. (1) Michael was highlighting the name-calling that some ethnic or religious groups suffer because of their “otherness” within his own society which, for better or worse, influences much of the Western world.
Michael was raised a Christian, but didn’t care if someone was a Jew, a Muslim, a Hindu, Sikh, Animist or something else (or nothing) if he felt they needed his help. His aim was to make a better world, not bow to the societal constrictions and discriminations of the current one. He could support the United Negro College Fund while also supporting children’s charities in Kosovo, Africa and elsewhere. Of course, these few examples just scratch the surface of his largess both in the US and abroad.
Michael Jackson continued to give when he really could no longer afford to do so, if we consider the history of his finances in later decades. He gave his money and/or he gave his time and creativity. He used his celebrity status as an agent for positive change, as in refusing to perform a scheduled concert unless conditions were immediately improved in a hospital ward or orphanage.
He could be visiting sick or orphaned children in Manila in the Philippines or Bucharest, Romania. (2) He didn’t care. He didn’t discriminate. The only criterion was need. Imagine if we all felt this way, irrespective of our financial capabilities? Charity, surely, begins not at home, but in a loving heart – like Michael’s. (3)
(2) Video compilation of Michael visiting children in hospitals around the world https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeKmKoSX64E
(3) Michael visiting an orphanage in Moscow https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iOagI_tuZKI