Starting Your Dreams Later In Life and Embracing the Detour

Jenee Darden speaking at Creative Mornings I know it's been a while since I've posted anything but that's because of my job. I'm working as a reporter covering Oakland and I host an arts segment on the radio where I get to interview amazing artists from around the Bay Area. Plus I'm publicizing my book  and building my speaking career!  You know what's funny? I thought this would all happen by the time I was 27-30.  Nope. That wasn't God's plan for me. I'm finally beginning to do the things I've wanted to do and I'm almost 40 years old. Some people reading this who are 40 will say 40 is still young. But some younger people reading may think 40 is nearly ancient. But I'm writing this post for those who like me, thought their career and personal dreams would come true much early in life. I'm here to tell you not to give up.  You know, death inspires life. A number of my relatives and friends have passed away, ranging in

Loving Michael Jackson, Drama and All

When I was six and my aunt 15, we fought over who had the better boyfriend. Her man was Prince, mine Michael Jackson. A lot of little black girls claimed MJ as their own in the 70s and 80s. He was cute, an exceptional dancer and he sang sweet love songs like "I'll Be There" and "Rock With You." His brown skin and bright smile were absolutely dreamy. Depending on the era, Michael rocked the perfectly round 'fro and the shiniest jehri curl. Who wouldn't want a dude like that?
My music collection began with MJ's Bad. And boy was the brotha B-A-D. I still remember bouncing on the floor in my grandma's den watching the debut of the Bad movie/video on TV. Michael ripped the floor in his street-outlaw leather jacket and silver buckles. Over time I outgrew my crush on Michael. My childish infatuation for him matured into a great respect for his music.

Black, white, brown, yellow--we all loved Michael Jackson. For black folks Michael held a special place in our hearts. He successfully elevated soul to the international stage. When black folks saw girls in Asia passing out over the gloved one at concerts, we knew this brotha's talents was serious. His music pushed the color barriers off the dance floor and brought awareness to social justice issues like poverty and racism. Michael was one of the first wealthy black celebrities. Not rich, but wealthy. Black folks were proud.

With fame comes drama. Michael's actions outside of music turned some of us off, including me. Skin lightening, allegations of child molestation, wearing masks and pajamas in public, child-like behavior, financial problems, dangling his baby over a balcony and other antics. His actions left us fans thinking, " What's up with that Michael?" And he had so much plastic surgery that the handsome mocha-colored face girls fawned over since late 60s was unrecognizable. The same media that crowned him King of Pop, added "Wacko" to his title. We didn't understand him and so he became an easy punchline at times. But interviews with Oprah in 1993 and Martin Bashir 10 years later gave us some answers. Michael Jackson's recollections of his abusive childhood under his father explained a lot. Eventually, I saw MJ not as someone weird, but troubled and longing for a childhood. The world met him when he was 11 years old and from then on he lived in front of the cameras. All of those factors took a toll on him. That absolutely doesn't excuse some of the things he did but it's true.

We may have our judgments about MJ's behavior. But personal stuff aside, Michael Jackson was without a doubt a supreme artist. I'm sad about his death. As I'm typing this post to "You Are Not Alone" I'm tearing up. I can't believe he's gone so soon. Michael Jackson set the music-bar so high that I don't believe anyone will ever come close to reaching it. His genius can't be copied. And no one can step to his moves on the dance floor. He was phenomenal.

My crush on the slim guy with the curly hair and a glittery glove may have been a phase. But Michael Jackson gave me, and millions worldwide, a love I will never let go. Music.

Michael Jackson

Forever the King of Pop


  1. I was shocked at the news yesterday but mostly my reaction. I was listening to the radio in the car on my way home, and I started balling crying. My love for music started with Michael. My friend and I were talking about which song was our favorite. I honestly can't choose just one. I love and treasury it all. RIP, Michael.

  2. It's a very sad day for the world Micheal was a star and a great customer of ours, i hope he rests in peace and his family are let to mourn his death in private. Lots of love, the team at NUR76.

  3. I hope his family are left in peace

  4. I respect him as an artist but why oh why did Michael Jackson use NUR76 to lighten his skin? Is it not good enough being black?

  5. we love u michael....

  6. Erika I cried when "I'll Be There" came on the radio yesterday.

    To the last anonymous that's why I wrote this post. Jackson was complicated and did bizarre things. Folks were critical of him as person while at the same time loving his music. The skin lightening and whether he loved his blackness was an issue.

  7. Hi jenee! Love this post, xoxo big sis ;)


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