renee-michelle-harris_web.jpgUp until a couple of years ago, when Usher became married with children, my 15-year- old daughter had her bedroom walls plastered with posters of the R & B superstar.

When my husband voiced his displeasure and demanded that she remove them, I stood up for her because I could totally relate.

Many, many years ago, my bedroom walls were plastered with posters of Michael Jackson, torn oh-so-carefully from my Right-On magazines. My cousin and I argued, seriously, over who would grow up to marry him.

Growing up with Michael, first as front man for the Jackson Five, then as the most popular solo performer in the world, exceeded the typical celebrity-fan relationship.  I understood the girls fainting and grown men crying. His was a once-in-a-lifetime presence that penetrated the soul.

I am not one to play the race card, but I do so here because it is so relevant. As much as the world loved him, no group (except, of course, his family) loved him as unconditionally as the black community.

Even after committing the ultimate acts of self-hatred, changing his skin from its beautiful brown hue to the translucent white that at times appeared ghastly, and mutilating his proud African nose, we still adored our Michael. He could hate himself all he wanted. We never could. He was ours, we loved him, and there was nothing that he could do to change that.

We saw his physical transformation, not as an effort to distance himself from us, but to distance himself from himself. We understood his pain, and kept our focus on his soul. What he looked like mattered far less than what his heart and his music conveyed.

OMG, the music!

The moves. The majesty that oozed effortlessly from his pores first as the young boy with the voice, then as the incredible artist that carved out a popular musical path that was unapologetically emulated by many, Michael Jackson’s connection to humanity transcended the human experience.

If we really are spiritual beings having a human experience, each with a unique purpose, then the spirit that incarnated as Michael Joseph Jackson on Aug. 29, 1958 came here to touch lives through music, to remind us of our connection to each other and to celebrate life.

Mission accomplished.

Renee Michelle Harris is the associate editor of the South Florida Times.

Editor’s Note: Michael Jackson was diagnosed with a rare skin condition called vitiligo, which causes a person to lose melanin, the pigment that colors the skin.