Our Michael / by Naima Lowe



To my dear 13 readers,

Yesterday I listened to the original Beatles version of this song as sped along the freeway through LA in a rental car. This strange city, that I'm starting to love after just a two week trip to see friends and loved ones, has me wondering about what happens to people when they get caught up in what my driving companion called "the fame contract." Sure, there's the way that you belong to your record label or publisher or manager. But somehow the more important set of people that you belong to is your audience, you fans.

Michael belonged to all of us, even when we were mad at him for being too strange. He belonged to black people even when his skin got too white. He belonged to us, but we were mad at him for changing his body and living in ways that confused us, because his body belonged to us and his life was ours to judge. We need black superheroes who can survive abuse and pain more than we need anything else in the whole world, so how dare our Michael betray us by belonging to his own internal strangeness?

Let me be plain my dear readers. I'm not sure that I forgive him. I'm no better than anyone else. I need black superheroes to love themselves in the ways that I imagine blackness should be loved. I need queer bodies to be unquestionably above board in their desires. At least the ones that the rest of the world sees.

I think that's why I love this video so much. Our Michael is unflinching in his beauty and voracity and talent and blackness and queerness and sexiness here. I've seen this video a million times. As a kid I'd watch it over and over in my living room, recognizing how he took something back from those white boys from England and made it his. He's giving me exactly what I need, and I will always love him for it.

Yours Truly,