On July 6, 2002, Michael Jackson spoke about racism within the entertainment industry to a crowd gathered at the headquarters of Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network in Harlem, New York.
Thank you, Al Sharpton. Thank you, Johnnie Cochran. Thank you for inviting me here and all the lovely people here tonight.(original transcript provided by theidolhands)
I remember a long time ago, in Indiana—of course I was like six or seven years old—I had a dream that I wanted to be a performer, an entertainer.
Whenever I’d couldn’t get to to sleep at night, or my mother would wake me up and shout, “Michael, Michael, James Brown is on 2! Turn it on!”
I’d jump out of bed and I’d just stare at the screen and he’d twist and he’d turn and he’d bump and he’d grind. And then there was Jackie Wilson. He’d just go on and on, just phenomenal, unlimited, great talent. It’s very sad to see that these artists really are penniless. They created so much joy for the world, and the system, meaning the record companies, totally took advantage of them.
And it’s not like they always say, you know, “They built a big house, they spent a lot of money, they bought a lot of cars.” That’s stupid. That’s just an excuse. That’s nothing compared to what artists make. I just need you to know that this is very important, what we’re fighting for. Because I’m tired—I’m really, REALLY tired of the manipulation, I’m tired of how the press is manipulating everything that’s been happening in this situation. They do not tell the truth! They’re liars!
And they manipulate our history books. The history books are not true! It’s a lie! The history books are lying. You need to know that. You must know that. All the forms of popular music: From jazz to hip-hop, to bebop to soul. You talk about the different dances from the cake walk to the jitterbug to the Charleston to breakdancing. All these are forms of BLACK dancing!
What’s more important than giving people a sense of escapism, and escapism meaning entertainment. What would we be like without a song? What would we be like without a dance, joy, laughter, and music? These things are very important!
But if you go to the bookstore down at the corner, you won’t see ONE BLACK PERSON on the cover! You’ll see Elvis Presley. You’ll see the Rolling Stones. But where are the real pioneers who started it?
Otis Blackwell was a prolific, phenomenal writer. He wrote some of the greatest Elvis Presley songs. And this was a black man. He died penniless. And no one wrote about this man ever, they didn’t write one book about him at all. His songs were heard all over the world. I met his daughter today, and I was so honored. To me, meeting her was on the same level as meeting the Queen of England.
I’m here to speak for all injustice. You gotta remember something—the minute I started breaking the all-time record in record sales—I broke Elvis’s records, I broke Beatles records—the minute it became the all-time best-selling album in the Guinness Book of World Records, OVERNIGHT they called me a freak, they called me a homosexual, they called me a child molester, they said I bleached my skin! They made everything to turn the public against me!
And this is all a complete, complete conspiracy. You have to know that.
I know my race! I just look in a mirror. I know I’m black.
You know, it’s time for a change! Let’s not leave this building and forget what’s been said. Put it into your heart. Put it into your subconscious mind, and let’s do something about it. We have to. We have to.
Because this has been a long, long time coming. And a change has got to come!
So let’s hold our torches high, and get the respect that we deserve.
I love you. I looooove you!
PLEASE don’t put this in your heart today and forget it tomorrow, or we will have not have accomplished our purpose if that happens. This has got to stop. It has got to stop. That’s why I’m here with the best, to make sure it stops.
I love you folks! And remember, we’re all brothers and sisters, no matter what color we are.