Micheal Jackson might have been born in Gary, Indiana but he truly belonged to the world. Often, we forget the wonderment of his meager beginnings in a tiny house in Indiana and as such, we have yet to pay due tribute to this man, the everlasting King of Pop. When Michael Jackson died, the world dimmed a little, lost some of it’s shimmer, some of it’s brilliance. No matter your own opinion of him, the world will only know one Michael Jackson, ever. I grew up not far from Gary, Indiana, just 80 miles away in a small non-diverse (read: 99% white) town and can remember quite vividly swooning over his album cover “Thriller” during recess with friends in 5th grade. “He’s so hot!” Michael Jackson is frankly,the original Indiana Sexy (and since I coined the term, I get to say so). Michael Jackson transcended racial divides, music genre divides, economic classes, state lines, and country lines. We loved him, we grew up with him, he was all of ours. Michael Jackson was a thread woven so tightly into our daily culture whether with our loving or hating, bullying or teasing, admiration or sheer bogglement, it may not have occurred to many of us to remember, Michael Jackson was once just a kid from Gary, mere mortal, a gift we might lose someday and wished we had treated better.
Three days after Michael Jackson died, June 28, 2009, I drove my daughter to the little house on 2300 Jackson St, Gary, Indiana. Being a struggling single mom, I wanted to be sure my daughter understood where Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, came from so even she could imagine who she might someday become. My daughter left a doll on the sprawling collection of gifts and stuffed animals left in front of Michael’s childhood home and inside the clothes of the doll, I tucked a personal note to Michael. Standing in front of the home, being shocked at how small it was yet knowing how typical it was for Indiana, I was moved and wrote the note quickly on scrap paper with teary eyes and I thanked him for giving all kids hope, my kid hope — hope that no matter where your life begins, no matter the struggles, that it will not determine where you might go or who you might become.
All photos taken at 2300 Jackson St, Gary, Indiana on June 28, 2009, on my flip phone.
In 2009, the year Michael died, the mayor of Gary announced a $300 million dollar plan to fund a Michael Jackson Museum. To date, it is my understanding there is no funding for such a project. The 2008 economic crisis hit Gary hard and this is evident when you drive through the streets. Like many cities and towns in Indiana, Gary is on the uphill climb to recovery. On June 25th, 2010, the city unveiled a monument in Michael Jackson’s honor which stands 8 foot tall and was donated by a local company. The monument, made of granite, is reportedly worth $26,000. The back of the monument is etched with Michael Jackson’s lyrics “Gone Too Soon” which he wrote for Ryan White, another Indiana native, who died at a young age of AIDS.
Indeed, Michael Jackson belonged to the world but he rightly should be honored here, in our state, so the kids of Gary, Delphi, Argos, Flora, Gas City, Linton, Indianapolis, South Bend, Jasper, French Lick, Lafayette, and all the others can take pride and remember hope for their futures too. Let’s not only remember the sports star amongst us with enormously funded monuments, salaries, and stadiums but let us also honor the music, the dance, the hope, the sexy, the awe and sheer magnitude of Michael Jackson, the one and only King of Pop, once just a kid from Gary, Indiana.
Excerpt from the song “Gone Too Soon” by Michael Jackson
Like a comet
Blazing ‘cross the evening sky
Gone too soon
Like a rainbow
Fading in the twinkling of an eye
Gone too soon
Shiny and sparkly
And splendidly bright
Here one day
Gone one night