Sunday, August 30, 2009

Brooklyn Loves Michael Jackson

As the whole world probably knows by now, yesterday would have been Michael Jackson's 51st Birthday. Folks in New York were doing it big, there were parties galore, MJ flash mobs, and all kinds of events. And Spike Lee put together a very special gathering at Prospect Park in Brooklyn. The buzz on Spike Lee's big free MJ dance party in the park had been growing for weeks. The event was even moved from Fort Greene Park to the much larger Prospect Park because about 10,000 people were expected to show up. The music was provided by DJ Spinna, and he dug deep in the crates, pulling out gems like "Enjoy Yourself", "Got To Be There", as well as anthems like "Thriller" and "Beat It".

The huge gathering was not only peaceful but entirely positive. People of all ages sang and danced together, with the lyrics to some of Jackson's songs projected on big jumbo-trons so everybody could sing along. There were also cameramen who moved throughout the crowd and projected wonderful shots of people dancing, and folks in costume. One highlight was a little body who couldn't have been more than four (he was tiny!) jumped out in a fedora and white glove, and started moonwalking, hit all of Michael's signature moves, and then he went up on his toes! The crowd went nuts.
Legendary director Spike Lee also doubled as hype man, commanding the crowd to sing and put their hands in the air. He, Tracy Morgan, and Taraji P. Henson lead the crowd through rounds of "Mama se mama sa mama koo sa" on "Wanna Be Starting Something." The Reverend Al Sharpton also spoke about how Michael broke down barriers and changed the face of music, and tied Michael Jackson's legacy to that of Ted Kennedy's and other pioneers. He also reminded us that this weekend marked 4 years since the Hurricane Katrina disaster, and it meant we still had a long way to go. DJ Spinna played a perfect mix of dance tunes and ballads, and gets props for busting out sister Rebbie Jackson's classic hit "Centipede". He knows his stuff.

A huge part of what made this event so positive and special was the wonderful people of Brooklyn. There is truly no place like BK, and folks bring a communal vibe and high spirits whenever they come together. The energy of the crowd was electric, and also felt like one big neighborhood block party. We woke up to steady rainfall in New York that morning, and at first I worried the event would get rained out. Everyone showed up in their boots and armed with umbrellas just in case. But the rain held throughout the event, and towards the end as we all sang "Man In The Mirror", the sun came out. It was beautiful. Here are some of my favorite shots of people in the crowd. Props to the guy who got real creative and showed up as Mars, Spike Lee's character in She's Gotta Have It. And the brotha knew how to pose. Fierce!! Thank you Michael Jackson for all the wonderful music, and thank you Spike Lee for throwing one helluva party in his honor.

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