A Eulogy for Michael.
I never wrote to you as a kid. I didn't take the moment to stick a letter in the mail week after week like my cousin Mechell. I was never pulled into the kitchen by my parents and sat down and told you would never respond to any of those letters. I never ran to my room and cried for hours. I was never dressed in leather vests like my older brothers and performed "Dancing Machine" in the basement under the direction of my Uncle Gordon. However, I did watch the Saturday morning cartoon with the pet snake Rosey. I tuned in to the Jackson Variety Show. I listened to Beat It and Billie Jean and tried to mimic your tone and style like every other kid in small town America. I took advantage of kisses from teenage girls who were so enamored by you that every lean, brown skinned boy with thick eyebrows was the object of their desire. Oh, and Thriller. You, Ola Ray and Vincent Price changed my life. I was determined to live out my existence in video.
I also despised you. Yes, I said despised. I didn't understand the plastic surgeries. I didn't understand the Anglophilia. From Brooke Shields to Elizabeth Taylor, it was clear whom you deemed important. I guess I felt like you abandoned me. I felt that my young blackness was not enough for you anymore. It was certainly enough to feed from and help shape your career and music, but it also appeared to be a thorn in your side. So I believed you were a pedophile. I believed you hired someone to father and mother your children. I believed you had lost your mind. I judged you. And even now I'm not certain how I feel about you and your cultural impact.
But the truth is truth. You were a part of my life. You helped bring joy and vibrancy to my often-humdrum Ohio upbringing. You gave me the courage to dance at parties, hell, to reenact music videos in the streets. Your presence has challenged my ideas about identity and uber-success. So even though I didn't write letters or put on leather vests and perform in the basement, or advocate for your innocence in the pedophile charges, you helped shape my young black life and I would be a hypocrite and a fool if I didn't acknowledge that.
Rest in Peace.
Keith Josef Adkins is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter and social commentator.