Here are excerpts of the preface and the first three chapters of this inspirational book.
It was June 25th, 2009. A beautiful day in Chicago. The clear blue sky was only outdone by the radiant sun that seemed to sit above it. My wife, Sherree, and I were with our two youngest children, Sloan, seven years old and Sterling, five years old. We were traveling back home to the south suburbs of Chicago after spending a beautiful sunny day at the Brookfield Zoo. After entering a ramp with a nearby sign that read “I-94e to I-57s,” I’d received a call on my cell phone. As I glanced at the caller id, I noticed it was my sister Colette calling. She had moved to San Francisco after living in Chicago for approximately ten years. Colette would often call to brag about how beautiful the weather was in the Golden State. For this call, I was prepared to share the details of the beautiful weather we were having in “Chitown.”
I answered the phone to hear Colette crying. “Michael passed away today.”
“What did you say?” I asked incredulously. Though I heard her, I found it difficult to believe what I was hearing. I never questioned which Michael she was referring to.
“Michael is gone…” she responded, followed by complete silence.
“Michael has died?” I said aloud. Sherree, who was sitting in the passenger seat next to me, stared at me in total shock. Her phone began to ring. A relative of hers was calling to share the same sad news I had received from Colette. Sherree then called several friends and family member to confirm the report. Some said they’d heard he’d been rushed to the hospital and was in critical condition. Others claimed that he had passed. Still in disbelief, I turned on my radio to hear the same news of Michael Jackson’s untimely and unfortunate death.
My mother, Sodonia Luckie, arrived in New York City with her three children Cecil Jr., Robert, and L’Tanya in 1954. Years before, they’d lived on March Field Air Force Base in Riverside, California with her husband Cecil, an Air Force sergeant. In 1950, Sodonia’s husband was assigned to a base in French Morocco where she and her children would live for several years. After moving there, Sodonia’s husband became increasingly abusive to her and developed a reputation as a womanizer. Sodonia made many attempts to flee. In the summer of 1954, Sodonia planned her final attempt at escaping. She had become more familiar with his schedule and decided to wait late in the evening. He’d begun getting late-night assignments on the base and would spend the remainder of the evening womanizing on the streets of Casablanca. On the night of her planned escape she had Cecil Jr., Robert, and L’Tanya get fully dressed as if they were going out.
“You want us to wear our outside clothes to bed, Ma?” Cecil Jr. asked.
“Yes, Cecil. I want you, Robert, and L’tanya to put on your clothes tonight and get under the covers,” she whispered. All three children lay under the covers fully dressed, with shoes on their feet. Sodonia wore her clothes under a nightgown she’d often wear to bed.
Her husband left the house at midnight. Shortly after he departed, she got her children out of bed. She grabbed the Samsonite suitcase, which she had packed the night before, from under their bed. She and her children went to the base and met with a senior officer. “My husband has been abusive to me. Me and my children are leaving!”
During the spring of 1970, Colette and her friends were hanging out on our front stoop. Her closest friends were Roxanne, Lori, Pat, and Porscha. Like colette, all four of her friends were about ten years old and extremely bright. They were some of the top students at Ps 107. As they sat on the stoop with nothing to do, her friend Pat said, “I’m so bored. I wish we could listen to some music.”
“Colette, can you run upstairs and get your radio?” Roxanne asked.
Colette opened the screen door, ran up the ten stairs that led to her bedroom, and got her transistor radio off the top of her dresser. It was a white transistor radio shaped like—and about the size of—a softball. It had two aluminum dials to control the volume and tuning. On the other side of the ball-shaped radio was an open window that contained the dial information. It was also equipped with a small chain for easy carrying. She ran downstairs to rejoin her friends.
She turned on the transistor radio with one of the dials and raised the volume. She used the other dial to tune into the station. The static could be unbearable at times, so she repositioned herself on the stoop for better reception. She searched for WWRL and WBLS, two popular radio stations that regularly played the top hits in soul, urban contemporary, and R&B music.
By 1972, Colette’s love for Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 hadn’t abated. It was just as strong as it was during the spring of 1970, when Colette and her friends heard “I Want You Back” on the radio while hanging out on our front stoop. Colette’s room had become more of a shrine to Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5. Her walls, ceiling, and closet doors were inundated with posters and images she’d accumulated over the years. There was rarely bare space on her bedroom walls. Her dresser top and lamp stands were cluttered with Jackson 5 album covers. The mirror on her dresser had become covered in cut-out pictures of Michael Jackson to the point where she could barely see her reflection. Her collection of albums would continue to grow with the release of Michael Jackson’s solo album Got to Be There. This album contained what would become some of Colette’s favorites like “Got to Be There,” “Rockin’ Robin,” and “I Wanna Be Where You Are.”