Residents flock to Jackson family home to honor Michael Jackson
June 25, 2019 marked the 10th anniversary of the passing of music icon Michael Jackson. Fans across the globe gathered to celebrate the life and legacy of the beloved King of Pop. There was perhaps no celebration more intimate than the vigil that took place in front of the Jackson family home at 2300 Jackson Street in Gary.
The former Jackson residence remains a place for family and friends to gather and remember the music genius of the Jackson family and the career of Michael Jackson, the most successful entertainer of all time.
Chart topping Michael Jackson songs played all night amidst the singing and dancing of fans sharing their favorite memories of the pop icon. During the vigil which takes place every year on June 25, fans share perspectives and family reminiscences. There were live performances from Michael and Janet Jackson impersonators who helped fans “Remember the Time” and the moments when Michael’s music touched them most.
Each year, devout fans travel hundreds of miles to celebrate Jackson’s music, life, and legacy.
Michele Bennett from Michigan brought her family and young children for Tuesday night’s vigil.
“We’ve been coming out here for five years for his memorial and his birthday.” She nearly cried when explaining Michael’s impact on her life. “Oh my God, Michael Jackson was a big part of my life growing up. Now, I have little ones and they absolutely love Michael.”
Candle light and live entertainment kept Jackson street well-lit throughout the night.
Rico, who’s been impersonating Michael Jackson for 35 years performed the King of Pop’s signature toe stand, robot, anti-gravity lean, and moonwalk as the crowded exclaimed, “We love you Michael.”
“Michael Jackson’s music is so amazing that no matter what audience I perform in front of, whether they are Black, white, or Chinese they all love it. Michael Jackson gave us great entertainment over the years. I try to give the fans the love that he gave us.”
Janet Jackson impersonator Angela Greene shared insight on the vigil and the Jackson family music.
“We are family here. We are all about family, the atmosphere is positive. I am a line dance instructor and I incorporate Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson in my line dance.”
The vigil led by the co-founders of the Jackson Family Honor was not the only celebration in the City of Gary.
Earlier that same day before the celebration at 2300 Jackson St., the Jackson Family Honor Organization hosted fans at the Bergland Auditorium on the Indiana University Northwest Campus in Gary, to view videos, live interviews, and documentaries on the man who many believe to be the greatest entertainer to ever live.
During the vigil Jackson Family Honor co-founder Theodore McClendon recalled an unforgettable Jackson 5 concert.
“I saw them perform and what I saw on that stage was an immense amount of talent. The kind you don’t see today. Imagine people that young being in charge of a world tour. They were a main act playing all of their own music.”
McClendon grew up in Hammond with Ronnie Ransifer, the original keyboardist for the Jackson 5 and played alongside drummer Johnny Jackson.
Members of the Jackson family helped make the celebration special. Michael Jackson’s first cousin Keith Jackson was excited to share his love for his family with fans.
“It’s an amazing feeling. We’ve been doing this ever since Michael passed. I love the fact that people come out to show their love for Michael. I come out to show my love for my family. I know that’s something Auntie Katherine still does and always wants us to do,” said Keith Jackson.
Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” played as Keith snapped his fingers, danced, and recounted memories of his childhood as a member of the Jackson family.
“I have great memories of watching them rehearse in the house when my dad would bring us over and when they would come to our house we always had a great time,” said Jackson.
Several other Jackson relatives attended the vigil.
Michael Jackson’s cousin Patricia Johnson explained proudly, “Yes I am related to Michael Jackson. Michael’s grandmother and my grandfather are siblings. Jackie and I went to school together and I followed them a lot. I went to Detroit last year to see the naming of Jackson street after the brothers and I stay in contact with them. I am honored that people still come, to remember his legacy, and let everybody know that we love Michael and we love the Jackson 5.”
When asked to name a favorite Michael Jackson song, most fans struggled to name only one citing reasons like, “There are too many to name.” “I have to sit down and think because I like them all.” While others named hits like “Billy Jean” and “Beat It” from the 1983 “Thriller” album, “I Want To Be Where You Are” from the 1972 “Got To Be There” album, “Give It Up” on the Triumph album, and “Rock With You” from the 1979 “Off the Wall” album.
Though fans could not agree on a favorite song, there were unanimous expressions of love for the music icon and appreciation for the message of his music.
“The music means so much,” said Theodore McClendon. “Music is the universal language. It’s the thing that can bridge all gaps.”
Kwabena Rasuli agreed, “I’m from LA and the Jacksons were big in LA just as they were everywhere else. Their music is powerful, its great music. It’s the message in the music. Michael’s music respected us, the Jackson’s music respected us. It talks about love, struggle, issues, and fun stuff but it respected us.” As co-founder of the Jackson Family Honor Organization Rasuli wants to help people see the gold mine that is the Jackson family and what it could mean to Gary. “Our goal is to expand the impact of the MJ celebration for fans and to benefit the City of Gary, similar to how Elvis Presley’s Graceland brings revenue to Memphis.”
The Jackson Family Honor Organization’s main thrust is to promote the value of the entire Jackson musical family. “We know how great Michael was. We also want to remember the Jackson 5. “As our group grows you will see even more,” said co-founder Theodore McClendon.
Their plans include bringing food trucks, and other businesses to honor the Jackson legacy in preparation for an event in August to celebrate what would be Michael Jackson’s 61st Birthday.
Giavonni is a passionate freelance writer native of Gary IN. She covers business, politics, and community schools for the Chicago/Gary Crusader.