I remember it was only yesterday, maybe Late ’79, that you came to visit. Now you’re gone. But we’re still here, experiencing this thing called life, still here to carry on. We are here: fighting, crying, laughing and playing. Yeah, ,79 was really Off The Wall. I’m sure you’re proud of what we did: Maynard H. Jackson, Jr. was elected the first black Mayor of Atlanta and Coleman Young was elected the first black Mayor of Detroit. But still; we miss you. We want to be with you, to have just one more good time to Rock With You.
I was talking to Bille Jean just the other day in ’82. We were talking about what a Thriller it was: Rev. Ben Chavis’ struggles to block a toxic waste dump in Warren County; North Carolina launched a national campaign against environmental racism. And, Bryant Gumbel was named anchor of The Today Show and became the first African American to hold the post on a major network. I was so pumped up! She said that I always Wanna Be Starting Something. Na, I’m just tired. I’m tired of pouring out swigs for my “homies.” I’m tired of attending funerals. I’m tired of walking behind draped chariots or following in somber processions. I’m tired of 21-gun salutes. I’m tired of dancing in the streets with fewer of my friends. I’m tired of being tired. I guess I’m just tired of seeing good men die too young.
You left too soon.
You see, I will never forget The Way You Make Me Feel—the joy, pain, sorrow and happiness. Sometimes I didn’t like it. Sometimes I didn’t understand. But through it all one thing remained constant—I always felt real. Yeah, ’87 was a rough year; hundreds of our families that really felt Bad. We remember that this was the year that HIV/AIDS ranked 10th as a cause of death for African Americans (third for African-American men, fifth for African-American women between 25 and 34 years of age, and ninth for African-American children ages 0 to 14). Even more sadly, many of those inflicted were treated like some sort of pariah…Smooth Criminal.
In ’91 did you Remember The Time Roland Burris become the first black attorney general of Illinois? Or who could forget the Los Angeles police force beating and arrest of Rodney King after a San Fernando Valley traffic stop? What about Clarence Thomas, taking a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court? Or Julie Dash releases “Daughters of the Dust,” the first feature film by an African American woman? And although our emotions would sway too and fro like a ship in the wind, we had your music and your life to see us through. I had you Michael to Rock My World.
But now, you are gone. You are no longer with us. In this year, when we have so much to celebrate—most notably the election of Barack Obama as the first African-American President of the United States. And so many challenges: home foreclosures, Wall Street, bank bailouts, healthcare reform. The list goes on and on. I guess we will have to hold on to the memories, both good and bad. And as I think about it, I know what you would tell me, tell us. I, we, must do our best…because We Are The World.