I’ve been looking forward to the annual Brooklyn Loves MJ party since the last one ended.
Every year Spike Lee hosts this event around the anniversary of Michael Jackson’s birthday. It is now at its third location but, managed to come back bigger and better than ever.
I attended the very first Brooklyn Loves Michael Jackson party in 2009.
It was honestly the first time I had ever experienced listening to Michael Jackson’s music in public with thousands of other people. But more importantly, with people who loved him just as much I did.
Being a dedicated Michael Jackson fan can feel lonely at times. I find this to be true ESPECIALLY now, that he's no longer here. But every year at Brooklyn Loves Michael Jackson, I realize there are seas of people who feel just the way I do.
For those who may not know, Spike Lee directed the short film for "They Don't Care About Us" as well as the poshumous documentaries, for Bad 25 and Off the Wall. This year he hosted the event with Rosie Perez who he starred with years ago, in his film “She’s Gotta Have It”. (On a sidenote, the film has been redone and will be available as a TV show on NETFLIX, on Thanksgiving Day. I am SUPER excited about checking it out after seeing the trailer. )
The Brooklyn Loves Michael celebration is unlike anything else I've experienced as a fan. It's something that I feel every Michael Jackson fan should try to attend, AT LEAST ONCE.
First of all, it’s free to the public.
You’ll see people of all ages, races, backgrounds, and cultures at the block party dancing and enjoying Michael’s music.
Second, except for a few selections- it’s ALL Michael Jackson music, ALL day.
DJ Spinna (one of my favorite DJs) has been on the wheels of steel each and every time and he does a consistently amazing job. His 7 hour set covers all of the hottest tracks from Michael’s solo career, the Jacksons era, and ALL of the greatest hits from the Jackson 5. I spoke with a friend around 7:30pm, as we lingered during the stage break-down. We talked about how amazing it would be for this party to be EVEN longer. That’s us fans- we can never really get enough of Michael’s music.
Third, the sense of community and kinship among both diehard MJ fans, casual fans, and NEW fans is incredible.
My friends come equipped with folding chairs, coolers (this time full of frozen grapes- yum!), and our best Michael Jackson gear. Some people are there just passing by and end up staying. A lot of others are folks from the neighborhood that enjoy watching the festivities from the stoops of their Brooklyn brown house homes. Others bring their kids, decked out in Thriller jackets, fedoras, and rhinestone gloves. Seeing the next generation (some of whom were not even ALIVE when Michael was) ALWAYS makes me happy. Michael Jackson was MAGIC to me as a kid and to know that he’s bringing that same sense of wonder and enjoyment to kids today, really touches my heart.
Two of the moments I look forward to the most are when Spike leads the crowd in singing “Wanna Be Starting Something” and “They Don’t Care About Us” together. At every party, the crew (otherwise known as “MJ SQUAD”) pass out cardboard signs with lyrics from each of the two songs. When the songs are played towards the end of the evening, everyone sings in unison with signs in hand.
Another thing I loved about this year was how involved the audience was.
Both Rosie and Spike interacted with the crowd and called fans up on stage to dance. There were also few appearances and performances by special guests, including hip-hop artist Talib Kweli and JT Taylor of Kool & the Gang.
JT Taylor performed a few songs, including “Hollywood Swingin” and “Ladies Night”. Thinking back to a video I’d seen of Kool & the Gang performing the same song years ago, brought tears to my eyes. I'm an emotional person and moments like these often serve as reminders of Michael's absence.
If you click the link you’ll be able to see a video of Michael singing along to “Ladies Night” at an awards show in 1979. It’s a candid moment and something we don’t see often- Michael Jackson casually singing along with another artist and enjoying a performance as an audience member. In spite of the "moment" I had- the video is very enjoyable- check it out!
I met Spike Lee briefly at Afropunk last year. I was there as a vendor (with my day job) and was completely bummed that I had to work. Of course I loved working the festival but, honestly would have rather been at BK Loves MJ that entire day.
Running into him that night was unexpected and I chalked it up to fate. God had placed Spike Lee RIGHT in front of me and it was only right to seize the moment.
I took the opportunity to go and say hello. It was just before the festival closed and I didn't want to take up too much of his time. I didn't think of anything long and meaningful but, I was able to share that I was a huge Michael Jackson fan. I also expressed how much the BK Loves MJ celebration meant to me and ALL MJ fans. He was kind and said thank you, with a smile.
I'm not sure if anyone has ever thanked him for what he does to keep Michael's legacy and spirit alive but, I'm glad I had the chance to.
I am so grateful to him still and always will be.
For almost 7 hours straight I danced my heart out, spent time with friends, and celebrated Michael.
Michael Jackson would have turned 59 on August 29th this year.
Although I think of him almost daily and miss his presence more than ever, I am so happy that events like this still exist.
I’ll be at DO THE RIGHT THING WAY again next year, same time, same place for the Brooklyn Loves MJ Celebration. I’m already counting down the days.
Stay tuned for another surprise element to my review. (Subscribe to the newsletter to find out when it's live!)