Jackson family members carry the coffin of Michael Jackson. (AP photo)
For the previous installment of 10 Great Moments in African-History 2009 by Aberjhani, please click here . The conclusion of this special series countdown begins now.
NUMBER 3: Michael Jackson
The death of Michael Joseph Jackson which has been ruled a homicide, occurred June 25, 2009, and sparked world-wide responses ranging from public expressions of inconsolable grief to public dancing and singing in celebration of the beloved performer’s life.
The immediate and overt outpourings of affection for Jackson took much of mainstream media by surprise because a large part of the focus on Jackson’s life over the preceding decade had been on issues and events that generated more sensationalism and scandal than respect or appreciation in regard to Jackson. The assumption that the majority of the global community shared in its frequent ridicule and condemnation of the megastar was proven erroneous as one tribute after another testified to his empowering mentorship in the lives of others, his overall impact on performance artists of several generations, and practices of philanthropy that improved the quality of life for millions around the world.
A public memorial for Jackson was held July 7 at the Los Angeles Staples Center and a more private funeral service at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California September 3, 2009. The celebration of his life kicked into a higher gear with MTV’s classic star-studded send-off during the Video Awards Show September 13.
While the planned “final tour” and anticipated “comeback” scheduled to launch in London July 8 could no longer take place, many have noted that Jackson’s death did indeed lead to an extraordinary final triumph. In the very week of his death, his CDs and music videos occupied the top 15 positions on Amazon.com and his album Number Ones topped music charts the first half of July, providing the music industry and general economy with precisely the kind of stimulus for which many had been calling. Moreover, the rockumentary film culled from rehearsals for the This Is It concert produced a two-hour visual and sonic phenomenon which thus far has netted some $252 million in ticket sales worldwide, making it the top-grossing concert movie to date. It also generated a new number one single in the form of the title song as well as a number one CD.
Jackson continued posthumously to top himself when he won four American Music Awards, bringing his total to a record number of twenty-five. The publication on December 7 of The Official Michael Jackson Opus served to further validate the public’s celebration of the positive over the negative in recognition of the rarity of Jackson’s legacy.
With exceptional individual tribute sites like Seven/b’s excellent MJJ-777 appearing weekly, a special lifetime achievement Grammy Award slated for a private presentation January 30, and the one-million-dots MJ tribute portrait by David Ilan currently in the works, the year 2010 appears likely to pick up where 2009 left off in regard to revising the history that Michael Jackson made as one that was not reprehensible as so often reported in his final years but rather one that was truly and admirably heroic.
NUMBER 2: The Unites States’ First African-American President
Few could have imagined when Barack H. Obama delivered the keynote address for the Democratic Party in 2004 that four years later the people of the United States would elect him as the nation’s first African-American president, yet that is exactly what happened November 4, 2008, followed by his inauguration January 20, 2009.
President Obama’s first year in office has been defined largely by the economic crisis that pushed unemployment rates into double digits around the globe, and by the battle for a national health care plan that at times turned Town Hall debates into near riots. In both cases, he and the United States in general have been able to claim some measures of victory after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke proclaimed an end to the recession, and with the Senate’s dramatic Christmas Eve passing of an historic health care bill.
President of the United States and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Barach H. Obama.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, both initially generated by the attacks of 9/11, also continued to provide major challenges as Obama scheduled the withdrawal of troops from Iraq while later pledging to send at least 30,000 more to Afghanistan. Conservatives like radio commentator Rush Limbaugh and Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele maintained that the president achieved little while in office other than to increase government spending. However, the Nobel Prize Committee in Oslo, Norway, decided on October 9 that Obama’s efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and to achieve nuclear disarmament were worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize. In the committee’s words:
“Very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future.”
NUMBER 1: the NAACP Turns 100 Years Old
The fact that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) survived long enough to see its 100th anniversary is more than a major coup for African-Americans alone. It is a powerful testimony to the democratic spirit of American people in general because the organization in fact began as a multiracial effort which in May 1909 received the ringing endorsements of such outstanding social visionaries as W.E.B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Mary White Ovington, and William Lloyd Garrison.
The NAACP has led the battle to win some of the most important civil and human rights cases in United States history, including the landmark 1954 case, Brown versus Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. Brown versus Board of Education ended the legal endorsement of segregation in public schools and inspired the 1950s and 1960s civil rights movement that eventually led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
More recently, the NAACP has addressed such contemporary issues as consumer protection, climate change, and the controversial case of Troy Anthony Davis (currently on death row in Georgia). Benjamin Todd Jealous currently serves as the NAACP’s seventeenth president and is the youngest to ever hold the office.
The NAACP celebrated its centennial with the publication of NAACP: Celebrating a Century, 100 Years in Pictures, a volume of more than 450 pages featuring images from its exclusive files, and the release of a CD of traditional freedom songs. Members also enjoyed the distinction of hosting a presidential inaugural ball for Barack Obama and conducting its 100th Annual Convention in New York City. Moreover, the NAACP received an exceptional birthday present in the form of $1 million from acclaimed director and actor Tyler Perry.
It was, said organization officials: “the largest gift ever given by an individual entertainer [to the NAACP]. In addition, Perry purchased several NAACP commissioned Jacob Lawrence lithographs and additional lithographs by celebrated artists Jonathan Green, Elizabeth Catlett and Sam Gilliam.”
Arguably, without the NAACP’s historic beginnings, any listing of great moments in African-American history for any year since the organization’s incorporation in 1911 would be very different. Because those beginnings did in fact take place, many who have thrilled at the presence of their name among acknowledgments of African-American achievements have often made it a point to thank the NAACP–– as Perry so graciously and generously did–– for helping to make their accomplishments possible.
The National African American Art Examiner and author/co-author of eight books including Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance and ELEMENTAL The Power of Illuminated Love.
More Great Stories and Personalities of 2009
- 10 Great Moments in African-American History 2009 Part 1
- 10 Great Moments in African-American History 2009 Part 2
- 10 Great Moments in African-American History 2009 Part 3
- Writing the Year 2009 Michael Jackson Legend
- Official Michael Jackson Opus Published (Report Part 1 of 2)
- Work and Soul In Michael Jackson’s This Is It
- Michael Jackson Legacies of a Globetrotting Moonwalking Philanthropist
- Barack Obama Joins Distinguished Predecessors as Winner of 2009 Nobel Peace Prize
- List of Peace Prize Nobel Laureates
- Savannah Talks Troy Anthony Davis The Supreme Court Says Yes
- Savannah Talks Troy Anthony Davis Part 2
- The NAACP in Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance