by Cheo Tyehimba

I know I’ve got to find
Some kind of peace of mind
– From David Ruffin’s “What Becomes of the Broken-hearted”
Today, I’d venture to bet that in every black church or mosque in America a minister used the life and tragic death of Michael Jackson to illuminate a truth or parable about life’s journey.
In fact, its likely that in places of worship across ALL categories of religion and race, someone spoke of Michael Jackson. No question, he was that big.

And there’s more to come. I am willing to bet that over the next year, if we can somehow harness the out-pouring of love expressed in all the millions of speeches, countless blogs, books, and articles written, the special tributes, world tours, and memorials, and put that spirit into volunteer energy for causes, we can make the world a better place. With a world-wide economic melt down, wars and rumors of wars, terrorism, and the deterioration of our planet by global warming, we can use all the help we can get. Its been done before and Michael was front and center. Remember “We Are the World?”

SO how did a such a waif of a man cast such a huge shadow? Was it his mesmerizing talent, generous heart, or acclaimed work ethic? Certainly all of these contributed to his success, but for my money Michael touched so many people for one reason: an unrequited, lost love. But its not the kind you’re thinking. No disrespect to his ex-wives (if that’s what they can be called) but Michael carried a torch of a different kind.

Take a good look at this picture.

By the time he was twenty-one, Michael most-likely had but one divine desire: to find the childhood he’d lost. His songs were the soundtrack of my own childhood and I, like many GenXers, find myself somehow strangely mourning the disappearance of youth, the sweetness of it, in Michael’s transition from this world.

Michael talked about his longing for his childhood in many interviews and its a widely-reported fact. He’d been “working day and night” since he was five years-old, driven be a perfectionist father who saw Micheal as his “golden child” and ticket out of the ghetto. By the time he was sixteen, his childhood was most-likely a buried treasure to be dug up once he became an adult and could do as he pleased. His entire adult life and his cherished “Neverland Ranch” were testament to his love for his cherished youth.

So despite all the controversy he went through in recent years, I agree with Rev. Al Sharpton. Micheal’s creative genius was undeniable at a time when black artists were not given equal treatment as whites in the entertainment business. Wow. I can’t believe I said that. I am not talking about Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry or James Brown and the artists of yesteryear. We’re talking about an artist who only twenty or so years ago couldn’t break into heavy rotation on MTV.

Since his epic album “Thriller,” we’ve come a long way in determining which music genre is for which audience, but one quick glance at statistics across every measurable area for quality of life and its clear that we’re still no where near the “post-racial” society that people speak of. But hope springs eternal. And, it was always Micheal’s child-like insistence that some of the barriers created by adults could be one day torn down. Perhaps his death can lead us to this light.

May Michael Jackson’s soul find rest, his children and family find comfort, and all of his fans find the love they lost.

Here’s a fond memory from a childhood friend of MJ’s posted on a Gary, Indiana newspaper web site.

I went to the same school as Michael Jackson, Garnett Elementary was the school…We all were one big family. I was a hall guard at Garnett. I remember chasing him down the hall because he refused to go down the right side of the hall. I truly believe he enjoyed us chasing him. Just about everyday we had to chase him for something. I remember him putting his foot out in the hall and all of us falling on top of each other. It was about four of us. He would laugh so hard and of course we would be so mad…He was so bad, just like any typical school-age kid… My the entire Jackson family.

— Alice Becton Walker (transcribed from the Post-Tribune, a newspaper in Gary, Indiana.