By William P. Muhammad
With the recent death of pop legend and musical icon Michael Jackson, people from around the world have taken pause to reflect upon his life, his music and his humanitarian message. The final period now placed at the end of his one of a kind life and career, Mr. Jackson’s work now stands as a witness to a world in need. Joining the ranks of those few persons, spoken and unspoken, who have diligently worked for freedom, justice and equality, his legacy will be remembered as a testimony to world peace and universal brotherhood.
Bringing to mind the necessity of human redemption, the condition of today’s common man bears witness that “greed, lust and inordinate self-interest” have together caused tremendous bloodshed and suffering. Not only with the earth’s human population, but also with the environment, the few who rule “this world” have done so through the degradation of the impoverished and defenseless.
The poor, many of whom live on less than two dollars a day, labor under multi-national indifference and corporate deal-making that treats them as assets or liabilities to be exploited. While the well-to-do knowingly or unknowingly live at their expense, the poor have few voices except for those bold teachers from among us who dare to speak truth to power.
Through his recordings, Michael Jackson lives and continues to teach of “the man in the mirror.” As other past and present teachers have taught, the message of individual transformation continues with his legacy. Providing the keys of redemption for both rich and poor alike, humanity, with all of its flaws and defects, is better served when voices of truth emerge as reminders. From the pulpit, to the street corner or within music itself, the speaking of truth banishes falsehood while giving people the opportunity to examine, analyze and correct their ways. A true mercy for humanity, right guidance and correction may take many forms as those who teach virtue struggle to do so in a world of opposition.
Reflective of a bottom-up rather than a top-down approach, the most effective servants and advocates for the poor have usually been from among those encouraging change from within self. While government and philanthropic organizations clearly have a role to play in the correction of society’s ills, it is the collective change of an ethos that ultimately forgives our trespasses and heals our world.
Humanity’s servants are known by their good works and deeds, and by their consistent track records they are remembered for the best of what they have done. While tyranny exists where good people do nothing, and injustice continues where indifference occupies hearts and minds, messengers of truth (as they always have) pay a price for waking the sleeping masses. Whether maligned, mischaracterized or shrouded in controversy, those serving the “rejected and despised” will always rise above the manufactured din of media generated distraction.
With the violence of war, domination and oppression afflicting people of color and the poor all over the earth, there is a universal cry that sets into motion that which truth and time eventually makes manifest: mankind’s corruption and frailty in the face of universal justice. As defects become evident and failures are made known, the wicked of this world will continue to lose their grip as those determined to breathe free overthrow the yokes of falsehood and oppression.
Taking responsibility to rebuild our communities and our world requires more than just paying lip service to its necessity. It requires a transformation among individuals who both see and appreciate the greater good while valuing the preciousness of life. As Mr. Jackson conveyed through music his desire to unite the masses of humanity, those who have taken his message to heart have come one step closer to that goal. The Black man who became the “King of pop,” electrifying the masses through song and dance, heralded an even greater message that redemption would come through the children of Africa and the descendants of the once enslaved.
Teachers, messengers of truth and wise men have always emerged from the longing of our people, and today, as we mourn the loss of one of our great entertainers, we should be cognizant of the legacies that each of us as individuals will inevitably leave behind. The collective testimony of this generation must be one of excellence in all fields of endeavor, and with the transformative effect of truth, we will become witnesses to a new world dedicated to freedom, justice and equality. Michael Jackson proved that a Black man of humble origins can grow to affect the entire world, and like those past and present teachers from among us would agree, now is time to look in the mirror and make that change.