On March 31, 1996, the greatest entertainer in the world, Michael Jackson released the fifth single from his HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I, entitled, “They Don’t Care About Us.”
That day changed my life.
The images opened my eyes, the lyrics woke me up, and I never looked at MJ as “just” a singer ever again.
Mike was woke. And thanks to him, so was I. Thanks to Mike, so was the world. They just weren’t ready.
The song was accompanied by two music videos directed by the legendary Spike Lee.
The first was filmed in Brazil.
Mike took to the streets of Pelourinho, an historic neighborhood in Salvador, and Rio de Janeiro, a popular tourist attraction. Michael and Lee’s vision was to show just how much poverty overwhelmed the people there. State authorities unsuccessfully tried to ban the singer from filming, as they feared images of poverty would affect tourism. But Jackson pushed through, and the ban was overturned by an injunction.
The second version was filmed in a prison, complete with inmates, malpractice, and choreography.
Clad in handcuffs, Jackson pushed the envelope to new levels by featuring real footage of police brutality against African Americans, the military crackdown of the protest in Tiananmen Square, The Ku Klux Klan, war crimes, genocide, executions, and other human rights abuses.
And then there is the unreleased version of that video, which, well, speaks for itself.
This song still remains one of the most controversial songs MJ ever composed. It proves that Mike was not only the greatest entertainer in the world, but the most woke one ever.
Happy Bday, MJ.
We miss you.