Afri-Ware’s all-day Michael Jackson tribute a week ago Tuesday was capped off by an evening celebration with fans in attendance singing his songs and retelling stories of their favorite memories of the King of Pop and his brothers.
The bookstore showed Jackson’s memorial service, taking place earlier in the day in Los Angeles, July 7, on a big screen. Owner Nzingha Nommo recalled few dry eyes at her 266 Lake St. store. But the evening tribute was more festive. Clips featuring Jackson, who died of heart failure on June 25, and his brothers performing as the Jackson Five were played. More than a dozen people showed up, some wearing Michael Jackson T-shirts. Afri-Ware had plenty of T-Shirts and books about the singer on display in the store. Some in attendance went to the podium, one by one, to talk about their memories of growing up as fans of the Jacksons.
Singer Randy Bonds talked about how Jackson influenced him and later performed a medley of Jackson’s songs. The audience clapped and served as his backup. Bonds joked that he needed their help since he didn’t have the Jackson Five backing him up.
Nommo talked about her appreciation of Jackson’s music, referring to him as “my husband, but he didn’t know it.” She also admitted to being critical of Jackson because of his change in skin color over the years but defended the late singer against the media who seemed to revel in criticizing his every move.
“I think he was an easy target for a lot of people,” she said. “Why were they hatin’ on Mike?”
Pamela Hunt, a resident of Austin, covered several topics related to Jackson’s life, from his admission of suffering abuse by his father, Joe Jackson, to the molestation charges against the singer.
“I think he had a great deal of love for children,” said Hunt, disputing the charges against Jackson.
On a lighter note, Hunt recalled some of Jackson’s career highlights, including his debut of the “moonwalk” on Motown 25th Anniversary TV special from the early 1980s.
Oak Park resident Stacia Crawford never considered herself a Michael Jackson fan, but said she enjoyed his music. The owner of the Sankofa Cultural Arts and Business Center, 5820 W. Chicago Ave. in Austin, Crawford said she plans to host a dance class in the future teaching people the dance moves from “Thriller,” and other Jackson videos.
When River Forest resident Julie Allison took the podium, her memories went back to the Jackson Five era of the 1970s. She recalled her older sisters all had crushes on the Jackson brothers, and when younger brother Randy joined the group, she told them, “Now I have one.” The audience burst into laughter. Allison added that she and sisters all wanted Michael. She also noted that Michael Jackson’s music had a universal appeal in her household.
“His music was the kind of music that your parents could like,” Allison said.