Michael Jackson’s death has been the topic of many articles discussions and events lately. His genius legacy will have many of us look even more closely at the talent emerging around us. Some of that talent is good and need our support.
I was happy to see this insightful review of local talent from my friend Carole Copeland Thomas. Although, I was not there, I trust her perspective. So, this is my way of participating in that legacy of support for local artists.
by Carole Copeland Thomas, MBA
Most would agree that the Jackson Family has generated a gigantic tidy package of hit songs and treasured musical legacies for more than four decades. That became concrete on Wednesday June 24th when one of their youngest, Michael, died suddenly of cardiac arrest. At age 50, Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, had sung and danced his way into the hearts and souls of millions all over the world. And his musical genius will be sorely missed by countless fans from the bright lights of Los Angeles to the rose gardens of Cape Town.
We all appreciate his music, and the music of his entire family. Yet beyond the scores of musical success, it’s their family history of career aspirations in overdrive, physical and mental abuse, and fame on steroids that trouble me the most.
I will be the first to admit that all families have skeletons in the closet and dark secrets that are rarely discussed. I have some in my family. But the Jacksons seem to have numerous family hotspots that stick in the forefront of an adoring public.
Last evening, I was treated to a performance of a local Boston gospel group that reminded me where to find my entertainment role models. Not exclusively in Hollywood but right in my own backyard. The group delivered a different genre than pop music, but it was soulful just the same.
The Harmonizing Stars of Boston reminded me that there are countless local groups all over the world whose passion and musical talent are just as vital as The Jackson Family. And sometimes, as in the case of this local group, it’s a reminder that there are role models all around us.
Dr. James Bruce, one of the original members of the Harmonizing Stars, asked me to read the history of group during the dinner concert. It was a lengthy read, and I was concerned that the audience might get restless as the history was read aloud while steaming plates of baked chicken hit each guest table. My concerns were unfounded. As I read the animated and colorful history of the group, the audience stayed with me right until the end. They loved it.
My reading actually showcased 40 years of an African American singing group who managed to stay together as a gospel staple in Boston. First there were nine who started at the beginning in 1969. Now 40 years later there remain four: two brothers, a cousin, and an uncle. Working by day. Singing by night. Endless rehearsals and unlimited dreams. Countless costumes and an abundance of talent. All acapella. All in the honor of God.
While I read their history, it dawned on me that their history paralleled the Jackson Family. Same time period. Different cities and different musical genres. But still two family acts with very different roadmaps. The Jackson Family reaching fame, fortune and now great tragedy with the loss of Michael. The Bruce/Bradshaw Family, otherwise known as the Harmonizing Stars of Boston, reached high level musical dynamics but never snagged that record contract that would allow them to pursue their road to fame and fortune while keeping their talent, dignity, and integrity in tact.
The songs performed last evening resonated with every person in that dinner hall who came to celebrate a family institution started 40 years ago. Last evening reminded me that our role models don’t have to have seven figure record contracts to make a difference in our communities. Our role models can include that talented poet at the local cafe who makes you stop and think about your life. It could be the young dance group who practice every day after school in the basement of the lead dancer’s home. Or it could be four men who sing their hearts out in matching outfits, just as they have done for decades.
Just months ago The Harmonizing Stars of Boston were named “Best Gospel Group” by the New England Urban Music Awards Organization. That’s quite a tribute for a family group who decided years ago to sing, pray, and stay together. They are a reminder that far too often our hometown heroes are just as important as our Hollywood ones like the Jackson Family.
So the next time you have an opportunity to reach out and support local talent doing good works, do it. It will help remind you that local community arts and culture are strengthened by the artistic talent of its local citizens like the Harmonizing Stars of Boston.
Hats off to this amazing group, and so many others in different parts of the world who are making a difference through song, dance and art.
-You can reach the Harmonizing Stars of Boston at the harmonizingstarsofboston.info or call Dr. James Bruce at 617-259-4398.
Carole Copeland Thomas is a global diversity, multicultural, and empowerment professional and founder of the Multicultural Symposium Series. You can reach Carole at www.mssconnect or email her at Carole@TellCarole.com.