Block party celebrates the life and music of Michael Jackson
By Matt Mikus email@example.com August 29, 2013 10:18PM
The Roosevelt Dance Team performs at the Michael Jackson birthday celebration in Gary on Aug. 29, 2013. | Jim Karczewski\For Sun-Times Media
Hosted By Glenn Cosby, starting 3:30 p.m.
Special Presentation to Mrs. Jackson
Impersonator Julian Treveno
Rapper UNO 220
Impersonator Rico Hampton
Armar’rae Hill and True Foundation Gospel Choir
Primetime’s KruciialKreatiionz Dance Crew
Impersonator Johnel Henderson
Keith Jackson & The Triple Dose Band
Starting 11:30 a.m.
Continued Block Party, games and contests
Concludes with fireworks display
Updated: October 1, 2013 6:38AM
GARY — Fans and performers from across the country gathered at 2300 Jackson St. to celebrate the life and career of Michael Jackson on what would have been his 55th birthday.
Four years after his death, the King of Pop still reigns in his hometown. Members of the Jackson family, including Katherine Jackson, watched the celebration from the single-floor house the family once called home.
Performances began Thursday afternoon, and will continue through the weekend. Well-wishers like Mary Singer of St. Petersburg, Fla., traveled long distances to remember the most influential performer in pop music.
Singer loved everything about the performer, and said she was a fan when she lived a few blocks away from the Motown recording studio in Detroit.
“I remember seeing the whole family go into Motown Records one day,” she said. “I’ve loved them ever since.”
Carmen Rodriguez of Schertz, Texas, flew in to Detroit and drove to Gary to celebrate her favorite singer.
“I still cry when I hear his music,” Rodriguez said.
As an artist, Kerry James Jr. of Gary said Jackson’s work influences his performance as a musician, both in dancing and singing. He stood in the crowd clutching his guitar in a soft case.
“He was a fantastic performer,” James said. “He’s an inspiration for a lot of the songs that I wrote and how I sing.”
Carlo Riley of Denver dressed as the pop performer, and often posed with fellow fans for pictures.
“He’s just a magical person,” Riley said. “That’s why he has fans across the world. There’s a third dimension to his music that everyone just identifies with.”
Dancing as the embodiment of Michael Jackson, Angel Diaz, 11, of El Pazo, Texas, has performed as an impersonator for years. He recalls when his mother told him of Jackson’s death, and began to watch his music videos, mimicking his moves.
“My grandpa showed me “Thriller,” and I was watching and started to dance. I practiced every day,” Diaz said.
James Malinchak and Tony Branch, who were featured in the ABC television show “Secret Millionaire,” talked about Jackson’s contributions to the world. Malinchak spoke about Jackson’s career as a musician, including the records set in sales. Some of his songs, such as “We Are the World” and “Heal the World,” provided millions of dollars to charity, they said, and Jackson created several charity organizations and often donated ticket sales from performances.
Speaking to the crowd, Branch drew comparisons between Michael Jackson’s work of breaking down racial barriers, and the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech during the March on Washington in 1963.
“Martin and Michael cared more about other people than they did themselves,” Branch said. “They did so much for the race. And I’m not talking about the black race, or the white race, but the human race.”