MJ Symposium

I'm Not Gonna Spend My Life Being A Color


Prof Tamara Roberts, UC Berkeley Music Department

What is popular music? Is it white or black? Do African American practices become more “white” as they enter the music economy? Or does the extended reign of hip-hop indicate that, really, pop music has just been “black” all along? Is there a racial connotation to the notion of the “mainstream”? As the King of Pop and oft-discussed racial chameleon, Michael Jackson is perfectly poised as a figure through which to investigate these questions.

In this presentation, Professor Tamara Roberts, UC Berkeley, suggest that instead of reading Jackson’s artistic journey as one from black to white, we instead look at the ways he muddied the divide between dominant conceptions of what constitutes “white” and “black” music. To explore this idea, she discusses some of Jackson’s musical strategies that diverge from the standards of the various African American traditions he incorporated into his work. Instead of simply performing pop music that is “whiter,” Roberts argues that Jackson’s work can more productively be read as a particular vein of more experimental, “Afrofuturistic” musical practice.

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Ghosts

Blair

An original poem by spoken word performance artist and national poetry slam winner, Blair. More info about Blair and his award winning work can be found

here

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An original poem by spoken word performance artist and national poetry slam winner, Blair.

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Michael, Michael, On The Line


Cecilia Cissell Lucas, Education

*Michael, Michael, On the Wall* * * Who’s the –est of them all?

For decades, Michael Jackson’s face, body, voice, actions, beliefs, music, and dancing have been discussed in superlatives and dichotomies, arguably often reflecting as much if not more about ongoing anxieties in U.S. society (in particular regarding race, gender, and sexuality) than about the pop-star himself.

Cecilia Lucas draws on Jackson's music, dance, films, and interviews, as well as on visual and discursive representations of him created by others to reflects on the possibilities and pitfalls of trans-politics, trans-discourses, and trans-performances for progressive artists, activists and academics.

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Working Day and Night': Performing Black Manhood as the King of Pop

Prof. Adreanna Clay, San Francisco State University

Prof. Adreanna Clay recounts a 1969 television appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, where a child Michael Jackson leads his brothers in a cover of Smokey Robinson’s “Who’s Lovin’ You,” singing lyrics about love lost on the playground. However, through this skillful portrayal of an adult male mourning the loss of his true love, he was accepted as a man. In her talk, Clay argues that the public’s sexualization and later disposal of Michael Jackson as a Black male in the public sphere, mirrors the spectacularization of Black men and Black male bodies in popular culture and discourse.

Prof. Adreanna Clay recounts a 1969 television appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, where a child Michael Jackson leads his brothers in a cover of Smokey Robinson’s “Who’s Lovin’ You,” singing lyrics about love lost on the playground. However, through this skillful portrayal of an adult male mourning the loss of his true love, he was accepted as a man. In her talk, Clay argues that the public’s sexualization and later disposal of Michael Jackson as a Black male in the public sphere, mirrors the spectacularization of Black men and Black male bodies in popular culture and discourse.

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