Michael Jackson 1958-2009

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The King of Pop is dead. What an incredibly tragic ending to an epic life.

When TMZ announced Michael’s death I just sat there slack jawed.  I knew it was true because they’re always right, but I didn’t want to believe it.   I had been surfing the web madly for several minutes when I saw it.  From the initial reports I could tell that the end was near.  Now that it is over I am just numb.

The world’s most legendary living entertainer has died at the young age of 50. We admired the showman, the incredible dancer, writer, singer, and composer, but we never really knew him. Behind the entourage, security, screaming fans, and the outlandish and palatial estates, was a tragic and reclusive figure that never seemed to thrive despite his fame and success.  That Michael, the fragile tentative soul that millions never got to know, is gone forever. I mourn for him. Many judged him by the farcical dysfunction and the over-the-top-lifestyle.  Some judged him by the salacious allegations of abuse. Others took his measure by looking at his entire life.  What I saw was a tremendous amount of pain and a hole in his spirit that could never be filled. We never got to see what caused his pain, but we could all see that it was there.   The sweet, shy little boy whose music defined my generation is gone and I will miss him deeply.

While Oprah Winfrey got credit early and often for the more than $300 million she has donated to various charities, Michael Jackson, who was a celebrity before Oprah was in High School, equaled her in his donations to charity making the pair the biggest black philanthropists in U.S. History.   The chief patron of the Heal the World Foundation, which he started, also made the 2000 Guinness Book of Records for being the pop star with the most charitable commitments.  All told, Jackson was a patron to more than 39 organizations:

AIDS Project L.A.
American Cancer Society
Angel Food
Big Brothers of Greater Los Angeles
BMI Foundation, Inc.
Brotherhood Crusade
Brothman Burn Center
Camp Ronald McDonald
Childhelp U.S.A.
Children’s Institute International
Cities and Schools Scholarship Fund
Community Youth Sports & Arts Foundation
Congressional Black Caucus (CBC)
Dakar Foundation
Dreamstreet Kids
Dreams Come True Charity
Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation
Juvenile Diabetes Foundation
Love Match
Make-A-Wish Foundation
Minority Aids Project
Motown Museum
NAACP
National Rainbow Coalition
Rotary Club of Australia
Society of Singers
Starlight Foundation
The Carter Center’s Atlanta Project
The Sickle Cell Research Foundation
Transafrica
United Negro College Fund (UNCF)
United Negro College Fund Ladder’s of Hope
Volunteers of America
Watts Summer Festival
Wish Granting
YMCA – 28th Street/Crenshaw

Katie McKoy of Examiner.com has compiled an impressive list of Michael’s philanthropic accomplishments. Go on over to her page and show that young lady some love.  Try and keep your mouth closed while you read the list.  I bet you can’t, I couldn’t.  It is amazing how one of the most lonely celebrities in the world was able to give back to the less fortunate some of the love and adulation of his fans gave him.  His compassion seemed boundless.  It is all the more amazing to realize that had Michael not given away this massive fortune, he would have been financially secure.  Rather than focus solely on himself, he lavished attention and love on others.

The tragedy of Michael’s life is that his career, family and philanthropy weren’t able to help him heal the deep emotional scars of a lost childhood.   Michael is free now, free from the burdens of celebrity and free from the pain of scandal and loss of innocence.  Mourn his passing but remember the richness of his legacy.   Lift up Rebbie, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, La Toya, Marlon, Randy, Janet,  Mr. Joe, Miss Katherine, and little Michael Joseph, Paris Michael and Prince Michael in your prayers.

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