Catching Up With Al Sharpton About Michael Jackson

By Rahman Dukes

The day will forever be remembered.

Roughly two hours before my partner Shaheem and myself were getting ready for tonight's NBA draft we received some bad news from one of our fellow news peers "Did you hear? They're saying that Michael Jackson suffered cardiac arrest!" My first response was "Damn!" As we sat around waiting on confirmation that hopefully it wasn’t true I couldn’t help but let the thoughts travel through my head "What if it IS true? Will he be OK?" Then not even moments later I read a report online that said MJ was not breathing at the time medics came to his home. Not good. Sha and myself, incredibly huge Michael Jackson fans, just prayed for the best. Then the worse news came crashing down: "He's dead." Unbelievable.

After getting over the immediate state of shock I decided to put in a call to my close personal friend Rachel Noerdlinger. Rachel is executive vice president of communications for Reverend Sharpton's Action Network. My intention was to secure a statement from the Reverend for our one of many expected reports. Sharpton was a close friend to MJ and even escorted him to the late James Brown's funeral.

After a brief conversation with Rachel she informed me that Rev was holding a press conference for MJ in front of the Apollo similar to the public viewing for James Brown held two years ago just days after his passing. The Apollo Theater on the famed 125th Street in Harlem is an iconic venue where stars are born. It was only right to celebrate the legacy of the greatest pop entertainer ever at the historical landmark.

As we made our way to the venue we learned we had just missed Sharpton by minutes. I phoned Rachel to see if the Rev would grant us an interview for our live show dedicated to Michael. He agreed. Back to 1515 it was.

When I arrived back at my office I was greeted by Sharpton, Rachel and one security guard. As we made our way inside the studios the Rev began to tell me a story about how he protested with Michael Jackson in a march against Sony Records. That was the only march MJ took part in. He then told a more recent story about James Brown's passing. Apparently Michael was in town at the time of Brown's death and phoned Sharpton in an attempt to view the body. With just one phone call from Sharpton to Brown's daughters Michael was allowed to see his role model for one last time. Sharpton managed to convince Jackson to stay for the funeral where Michael ended up speaking at the services. When I think of Brown's funeral the shot comes to mind of Jackson leaning over tenderly kissing Brown as he lay in his casket.

Before he left Mr. Sharpton told me that after James Brown died he told Michael that Brown had been through a great deal in his life and hoped that he would be more appreciated following his death. Crazy as it sounds, he then said, "I hope the same for Michael now." All I could do is look at him and say to myself, "I hope so too."

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