Michael Jackson gets a hometown tribute

Sat. July 11, 2009 12:00 AM by Chicago Breaking News

Gary, Indiana -

They came by the thousands to the ball yard in Gary on Friday night, in white sequined gloves and high-water pants, to celebrate the musical legacy of hometown hero Michael Jackson.

The public memorial at the U.S. Steel Yard downtown, barely a mile from Jackson's boyhood home, was a world away from the somber and star-studded celebration in Los Angeles this week, Gary's tribute was an upbeat affair to remember the boy wonder who escaped humble beginnings to forever change pop music.

"It's still hard to say that Michael Jackson is dead," said Rev. Jesse Jackson, of the singer who died unexpectedly two weeks ago. "But you measure Michael not by the length of his life, but the journey he traveled in his 50 years."

Several members of Michael Jackson's extended family, including father Joe Jackson, were said to be in attendance at a musical showcase that included singer and Gary native Kellee Patterson and many local entertainers.

Several youth dance groups from area schools performed Jackson's hits through the eras. Some dressed in full makeup and zombie costumes for a rousing performance of "Thriller." Others spun and grooved to the sounds of "Billie Jean" and "Bad."

"He is beloved because Michael connected with an audience from every generation -- men, women, children," said Carmen Cooper of East Chicago, who still is trying to come to terms with his death.

"It still hasn't sunk in for me yet," said Cooper, who brought her husband, Dwight, and 10-year-old niece Sonicia Curtis. For Tina Winfield, also of East Chicago, the large crowd was a testament to the message and the man.

"His music was all about bringing people together, unity," Winfield said. "He'll never be forgotten."

Tina Loschky, drove in from Indianapolis, and said, "He always had a story to tell in his music."

Jesse Jackson had a special sentiment for the young fans who looked up to Jackson despite the personal problems that sometimes overshadowed his music.

"I want young people in Gary not just to dance like Michael ..., but to study like Michael, to be disciplined like Michael, to make the most of their abilities like Michael."

Written by: Joel Hood



Article provided in partnership with ChicagoBreakingNews.com.