Friday, November 11, 2011

We Can't Take It...Wev'e Already Had Enough!

Across the world Michael Jackson is loved not for his music but for his humanity.  This extraordinary gift from God had so much more to do on this earth as his philanthropic mission, envisioned from childhood,  had not yet come to fruition.  A brilliant light in our world forever snuffed out by the calloused actions of another. We cannot stand idly by and watch the media once again tear at him like a pack of wolves, nor allow his killer to have “his say” without fear of perjury.

WE URGE ALL BLOGGERS –  Use this information to set up a post on your site.

We request ALL the MJGlobal family members particpate in this endeavor.

In support of the MJGlobal family of advocates that have been clearly demonstrating our moral indignation for such a calamity as allowing a convicted felon to profit form the very victim he killed ‘s call to Turn off our TV  has stood behind us against the media giant NBC/COMCAST/MSNBC.

WE, stand together UNITED in this cause and are promoting that TV sets be turned off during the broadcast tonight, we invite fans from Australia to Europe, from Africa to the Americas and Asia, to come on Twitter tonight and voice our disdain at this most unconscionable betrayal.

Time Zones:
NEW YORK: 11/11/11 9PM – 11PM
LOS ANGELES: 11/11/11 6PM-8PM
LONDON: 11/12/11 2AM-4AM
PARIS: 11/12/11 3AM-5AM
MOSCOW: 11/12/11 6AM-8AM
JOHANNESBURG : 11/12/11 4AM – 6AM
SYDNEY: 11/12/11 1PM-3PM
JAKARTA: 11/12/11 9AM-11AM
BEIJING: 11/12/11 10AM-12PM
HONG KONG: 11/12/11 10AM-12PM

We will trend: TURN TV OFF

No hashtag.
Only use the TT once in a tweet

You can add the following individuals to your tweets:
@SavannahGuthrie – the “reporter” interviewing the convicted killer                                    
@todayshow  Documentary will be shown
@mgraboff – President of MSNBC & NBC
@NBC – TV Station that has been airing excerpts and promoting the documentary
@MSNBC: TV Station that will broadcast the full documentary tonight

NOTE: We consider Michael as a brother, a beloved family member and will not contribute to the corporate bottom line greed of NBC and it’s affliates.  Nor will be any part of lining the pockets of Michael’s murderer, Conrad Murray or his debtors.

We urge you not to contribute to their viewing numbers or give MSNBC the viewership and ratings they desire. If you must watch the Murray documentary it is readily available on YouTube.

From MJJJustice and the MJGlobal Family united for Michael!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Pay Michael Forward: A Call to Action

Joe Vogel's highly anticipated November 1, international release of Man in the Music: The Life and Creative Work of Michael Jackson, will be supported by the launch of Pay Michael Forward—a site dedicated solely to supporting Man in the Music and Joe Vogel, an exciting 'launch-of-Man-in-the-Music' contest, endorsed by Joe Vogel.

It’s Time! After many months of anticipation, Joe Vogel’s long-awaited release of Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson has arrived. For those of us who know and those who remember, Michael told us that when we wanted to be near him we could find his love and his soul in the music. Joe’s work will now inform the reader about the meticulous creative process of an artistic genius as he crafts his special magic. Michael’s storied perfectionism and humanity become a tapestry of love, woven throughout his musical history, and slowly revealed inside Joe’s elegant prose. Cultural, personal and organizational forces that weighed on the artist during his life are clearly defined, and the reader is invited to re-examine the lyrical, visual and vocal interpretations expressed by a man struggling sometimes to make sense of his world, of our world. 

In an effort to expand and share Joe’s work with a larger audience, we are thrilled to highlight the announcement of a new website dedicated to supporting Joe in his celebration of Michael’s life and work. Pay Michael Forward was imagined and now comes to life as a pathway for this to happen. A handful of passionate team members have constructed an avenue for all of us to use our imaginations and special skills to make this endeavor a success. The primary focus is, of course, on Joe and Man in the Music, offering an opportunity for many to contribute stories, videos and thoughts, as we move Michael’s story forward.
The site will include prizes, dialogue, reviews, and an opportunity to interact with Joe and discuss his labor of love. Interviews, articles, promotions and quotes from Joe are included and highlighted. The idea is simple….to move Michael further into public consciousness with a new understanding of his genius, and the remarkable contributions he has made and continues to make toward world peace, social justice, human dignity, and care for children all over the world through the common language of music.

I envision a school-aged child or a college student searching for a research topic, or a mom browsing a library while her children are in school all reaching for Man in the Music.  Attracted by the beautiful cover and the familiar name, she will experience the weight of its importance and its tactile beauty as she reads Joe’s introduction. Perhaps the child will love the images contained within and carry it home for a parent to read. And the college student will find a cozy corner and revisit the joy and excitement of a favorite song, as he is awakened to the creative process alive in the heart and soul of a marvelous artist;

Just as we have united in the pursuit of justice, perhaps we can now do the same in an effort to Pay Michael Forward. It is time now for hardbound testaments to truth, for film that attests to a unique human treasure, and for words and memories spoken by those who knew and loved him. Legacy, reputation and recognition of Michael’s global cultural significance must be protected with the truth, and this is one vehicle where we can help to make that happen. Joe dedicated his time and talent, and now his baby is born. Let’s join him in this effort and raise Michael up to his deserved place in history. 

In association with Pay Michael Forward, Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait, MJ-777, Dot to Dot: Keeping Michael's Legacy Alive, Voices Education Project and Inner Michael, we are delighted to bring you news of the amazing contest to celebrate and accelerate the worldwide launch of Joe Vogel's definivite new book, Man in the Music.

The Pay Michael Forward team are asking fans to participate in a surge-buy campaign between the crucial period of Nov 1- Nov 13, in order to propel Man in the Music into the bestseller lists at Barnes & Noble and Amazon. This, in turn, will help to drive it into the New York Times best sellers list. Fans are further incentivized to help get Joe out there by talking about Michael Jackson, sending a message to publishers that the truth CAN sell, and spreading the truth about who Michael was and his incredible gift to us.

Pay Michael Forward: Voices Education Project: and Inner Michael: are the only three sites where fans can enter a worldwide contest endorsed by Joe Vogel that is designed to encourage and show appreciation to fans who buy more than one Man in the Music copies.

Contest Details:

Order two or more books and enter by filling out the contest form on a page, at Inner Michael or at Voices. Using the link on the form will open another window where you may order books through the Voices Education Project link at Amazon and contributes a 5% commission to “Voices” who hosts the amazing “Words and Violence” curriculum dedicated to Michael Jackson and Lady Diana Spencer. PMF (Pay Michael Forward) encourages you to use that link as a win/win for everyone.

Order two or more books and become eligible for prizes:

Everyone who enters the contest will receive an invitation to a fireside chat via telephone and internet hosted by Rev. B at Inner Michael and featuring Joe Vogel and a surprise special guest. The date of the fireside chat is to be determined.

Winners will be determined by the number of books purchased; the grand prize winner will be determined by a drawing; and additional prizes will be awarded to those with the most creative ideas for how to promote the book Man in the Music and/or Pay Michael Forward, the website as judged by the PMF staff.

The First Place Winner will receive an additional signed copy of Man in the Music, a signed hardbound copy of Joe Vogel’s Earth Song and a giant poster “Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned from Michael Jackson” by Amy Grace. And of course—an invitation to the fireside chat.

Second Place Winner will receive a signed copy of Earth Song, a small poster “Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned from Michael Jackson” by Amy Grace. And of course—an invitation to the fireside chat.

Third Place Winner will receive a signed copy of Earth Song and a T-shirt designed by Amy Grace. And of course—an invitation to the fireside chat.

The Grand Prize winner will be determined by a drawing by Joe Vogel at a to-be-determined date filmed and presented on YouTube. The winner will receive the Ultimate Collection of Music by Michael Jackson, signed copies of Man in the Music and Earth Song. And of course—an invitation to the fireside chat.
Additional Prizes (signed copies of Joe’s book Earth Song) will be awarded to contestants who send in the most creative ideas of how to promote Joe Vogel’s books and the website Pay Michael Forward. Or, those who have already creatively promoted the books and website—tell us how you did it. The additional prize winners are judged and chosen by the PMF staff.

The PMF team would really like those who enter the competition or even those who have already bought their MIM copies and do not intend or cannot buy more; to visit PMF to hear about the creative ways which the team has created for how people can 'pay Michael Forward.'
You can take pictures and load as twitpics or make videos of yourselves gifting MIM to curious friends or strangers with sensible questions, libraries, colleges, schools, church groups, reading groups, youth groups, hospital or hospice libraries, universities, doctors surgeries and dentists etc.
Fans are also invited to upload all those important pictures into the comments section at PMF, with a brief explanation of how they found their advocacy experience at the site, in a specially designated page at PMF. You can also, from Nov 1 onwards send your twipics of ‘paying Michael forward' to the PayMichaelForward twitter account:!/PayMJForward

A Living Thing

Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become ~ C. S. Lewis

On our weekly, Sunday visit to my grandmother’s house many, many years ago, she called my parents and me to the table for lunch. Laid out upon the table was her usual fare of cold-cuts and salad, along with scrumptious hot scones, butter, jam, and whipped cream. Normally I would race to the table in anticipation of feasting on the hot treats, but that day I was immersed in a new book my mother had just bought me. It was full of colorful pictures and fantastical tales of knights, dragons, and castles. I was too young at the time to understand most of the words in the book, but the illustrations had certainly captured my attention and imagination. Food paled in comparison to the feast I held in my hands.

Reluctantly, I folded the page corner down to mark my place and put the book on the coffee table. Rising, I found my passage to the table blocked by the diminutive form of my grandmother.
“Never, ever show disrespect for a book again by creasing its pages. Don’t you understand that books are living things?” She chastised.

No, I didn’t. I was confused by her meaning and not able to understand or see in my child-like mind, the hidden metaphor in her words. Her tone of voice stung—her disapproval was something I had never incurred before—but it served its purpose well, for I did look upon my books from that day on with newfound eyes.
As I grew, I came to understand my grandmother’s words: I began to understand the expressions found within books, were a personal and emotive collection of thoughts and feelings belonging to another human being. And as I began to write myself—first as a diarist, and then as a short-story writer and hopeful poet—I found liberation through my own expressionistic prose that had ultimately been inspired by others, and through my personal experiences in life.

Along with my understanding and feeling of liberation, I made a discovery that would have a major affect on my style of writing: Books are a powerful vehicle that can create change. When words, pictures and art are gathered together to create a story, poem and narrative—or to give sensory pleasure to the eyes—they have the ability to transform the reader. They have the ability to transport us to another place, a place outside of ourselves and our everyday lives. Books have the power to reach down into in our hearts and open our minds to new and different possibilities. They enable us to escape, they inspire, and they alter our perspective and viewpoint. And, for myself, they give me that ah-hah, spine-tingling moment of realization when I discover a connection to the author or artist and the source of all universally inspired works…the divine.

My first, real experience with this connection occurred while reading Dancing the Dream, written by Michael Jackson. First published in 1992, the book was not rated as being a commercial success by hardcore critic’s, and received both mixed and negative reviews. But to the open mind—one that is not afraid to explore outside the confines of self-imposed and societal rigidity and constrictive programming—it is a window into the heart and soul of a man often maligned and certainly misunderstood. Inspirational and passionate, the book offers a glimpse into his humanity and beyond to his connection with the universe and creation.

"So, what does a star do after it quits shining?’ I ask myself. ‘Maybe it dies.’
‘Oh, no,’ a voice in head says. ‘A star can never die. It just turns into a smile, and melts back into the cosmic music, the dance of life.’  I like that thought, the last one I have before my eyes close. With a smile, I melt back into the music myself.  Excerpt from “Dance of Life,” from the book Dancing the Dream, Michael Jackson, 1992.

Sublime revelations aside, Michael was able to forge a path with the quality and expressions contained in his words, enabling the reader to journey to that place where his inspiration was born. His prose is not only eloquent, but also life-changing, bringing awareness to our often, disjointed approach to how we view life, and our true desire to find the same link to the spirit that he had found. Michael breathed life into the pages of his book by penning words that reached deep into our subconscious, and once we had met with him on the same level from which he wrote, it was impossible to let go—we were captured there in the same place and time owned solely by him; touched irrevocably by this rare insight into the man in the music.

It is clear that Michael himself found this same connection not only to authors, but to artists, renowned and unknown, and their work. He had a vast library filled with thousands of books and he read voraciously, absorbing each word and image until they became enmeshed in both the spiritual and intellectual parts of him. Howard Bloom describes this best in his poignant narrative, written one year after Michael died.

When the art director arrived, she bore the portfolios of five artists, portfolios she stacked at one end of the pool table’s green felt playing surface.  These were not just the black vinyl portfolios most commercial artists use to display their work.  Every one of these was a custom-made presentation case made of hand-tooled leather or rich cherry wood.  And every one was from a legendary artist, an artist at the very top of his field.

We were all bunched together on the opposite side of the pool table from the art director.  Michael was in the center.  I stood next to him on his left.  And the brothers were crowded around us on either side.  The CBS art director slid the first of the portfolios toward Michael.  He opened the first page, slowly … just enough to see perhaps an inch of the image. As he took in the artwork his knees began to buckle, his elbows bent, and all he could say was “Oooohhh.” A soft, orgasmic “Oooohhh.” In that one syllable and in his body language, you could feel what he was seeing.

Do you know the poem by William Blake--

To see a World in a grain of sand,
And a Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour  . . .

The intense ambition of that poem, the intense desire for wonder, was alive in Michael. More alive than anything of the sort I’d ever seen.  Michael saw the infinite in an inch.  As Michael opened the page further, inch by inch, his knees and elbows bent even more and his ”Oooohhhs,” his sounds of aesthetic orgasm, grew even more intense. Standing elbow to elbow and shoulder to shoulder with him, you could feel him discovering things in the brush and ink strokes that even the artist never saw. By the time he’d opened the full page his body and voice expressed an ecstasy. An aesthetic epiphany. I’d never encountered anything like it. Michael felt the beauty of the page with every cell of his being.

To me, an author or artist's ability to produce a feeling of connectivity within the reader is very profound, and likens to my personal opinion of a collective conscious existing, on some level, among human beings: If we share a common response to what we read or see, then our thoughts and emotions are more interwoven than what may first appear. I found this to be true upon reading Joe Vogel’s book, Man in the Music. Not only did I find a connection to Joe through his words, but again, to Michael himself, and upon sharing my feelings with others who have also read his book, I similarly found their response to be almost identical to mine.

Man in the Music is a moving and articulate embrace of the music, and the man within it, Michael Jackson. It takes us inside Michael’s creative works and gives us another rare insight into his mind and soul. To say that Joe found his own personal connection to the artist and his music, to me, is an understatement, because it is clear in every chapter—Joe has forged his own path for us to reach that same level on which he met Michael, through artistic expression and truthful interpretation. In a sense, the book is a journey undertaken by the author, in order to provide us passage to a place only before, visited by him.

With his death, then, came a profound sense of loss and sadness about what might have been. Yet, as Jackson presciently put it just two years earlier (quoting one of his own artistic heroes, Michelangelo): ‘I know the creator will go, but his work survives. That is why to escape death; I attempt to bind my soul to my work.’ It was perhaps the most revealing comment he ever made about what he hoped for his legacy.

In creating this book, I traveled deep inside that soul-filled work. With each return visit, new and exciting discoveries unfolded.

It is my hope that Man in the Music will inspire a similar experience for others, serving as a gateway into the creative world of one of the most unique artists of the past century. Excerpt from the Preface of Man in the Music.

Indeed, Joe has created a gateway—he has opened the door to inspiration through well-defined expression, bringing us to that same perception of Michael and his artistry that Joe himself gained in the writing of his book.

A book is the landscape and heartbeat of its author; a canvas on which to paint the color of their minds, and a melody of words forever immortalized on paper, bound, and laid lovingly in a place of importance by its reader. This is what makes a book a living entity. This is what draws us to hold a book in our hands and to hold it close to our hearts—to inhale the aroma of ink and paper—because we feel the life-force contained within its covers. It is why we linger in bookstores and libraries—in the hushed silence, we listen to the heartbeats emanating from shelves. And, it is why we delight in feelings of anticipation when we turn that first page—we are eager to meet, connect, and be lead on another journey inside an author’s mind, heart, and beyond. Books are indeed, gifts to be treasured.

I have never marked my place in a book again by folding its corner down, since the day my grandmother scolded me. She gave me a handmade, crocheted bookmark which I used for many years, until finally it started to unravel. I replaced it with a beaded bookmark so that it would last longer, and delegated my grandmother’s one to its own place of importance in my collection of beloved keepsakes. Among those keepsakes are books I have collected throughout the years, ones that have inspired and touched me, and created positive change in my life. They line my bookcase—Michael’s are there, and Man in the Music will soon take its rightful place amongst them—standing testaments to the lives of those who penned them. Every day, I run my hand along their spines feeling the energy and warmth flowing from them, and I thank the authors for sharing such precious gifts with me, for allowing me insight and passage into their innermost selves.

Written for Pay Michael Forward:

© Valmai Owens, 2011. All Rights Reserved.
No reproduction without permission from author.

This article appears in the publication Dot to Dot: Keeping Michael’s Legacy Alive, and its content is the property of the authors and the Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait. Articles and exclusive interviews are copyrighted; therefore there should be no republication without permission. You may email with any requests for republication. If permission is given, credit must be given to the author, Dot to Dot: Keeping Michael's Legacy Alive and the Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait.

A Call to Action

I’ve always felt an affinity with the moon and the stars; I feel as if there is a fine, invisible thread that connects me to them and to the vastness of space. Perhaps it is because, in part, I feel recognition within my spirit of the unseen forces of the Creator and creation. Up there in the sky, in reality, is where we began and how we came to be; the Universe is our celestial Mother and Father, God, and Goddess. And don’t we all gaze up in wonder? Don’t we all feel inspired by the sight, yet at the same time, feel inconsequential compared to the beauty and power combined which collided in a mystic and fiery dance of existence?

I have been watching the moon wax and wane in the last month, and I realized how the moon’s cycle compares to Michael’s life at times. Michael, at his fullest and brightest, shone with an intense light that enveloped all who came near him—it was a light pulsing with energy—but, there always seemed to be a darkness lurking in the background ready to eclipse his light with negativity. And when it encroached, when it surrounded him with its malicious intent, his light flickered and dimmed much to the delight of those who had cast him into that darkness.

Now we have the Conrad Murray trial being played out in a Los Angeles courtroom, and once more Michael’s life is surrounded in controversy and speculation. I have no idea at this time what the verdict will be—whether it will be one to celebrate or one to mourn. But, I do know this much—it appears that two trials are being carried out. On one hand, Conrad Murray stands charged with Involuntary Manslaughter, on the other hand, Michael Jackson stands charged of being human, with flaws, weaknesses, and idiosyncrasies. Can you hear them? Can you hear the voices of the past that still resound today, propounding his imperfections, as if in justification of their deliberate and well-structured campaign that was set in motion years ago, to portray Michael’s life and humanity as a carnival freak show?

Noticeably, the media seems to be largely ignoring certain important and vital facts that have come from the testimony so far, most noticeably being—no Demerol, metabolites, or narcotics were found in Michael’s system.  This obvious omission from media reports, to me, indicates one of two things, 1) The media is suffering from an extreme case of guilt (or perhaps eating crow) after years of perpetuating the misguided theory that Michael was a hard-core drug addict, which only intensified in their reports after his death in 2009, or, 2)  after years of making careers for themselves and raking in large amounts of revenue for their negative, intrusive, accusatory, and vilified reporting on Michael’s personal life, the resounding truth echoing from the courtroom is a threat to their livelihood and ratings.

Rather than see Michael as human, rather than show compassion and understanding, they prefer to continue surrounding his name and life in a cloud of innuendo and negativity. Truth doesn’t sell nearly as well as sensationalism, and for an industry that has largely built itself upon a foundation of dehumanization—Michael Jackson being one of their biggest targets and most prominent victims—setting the record straight is not an option. There simply is too much to lose on their part. A leopard can’t change its spots.

But, while “Jacko”, “Jackson Trial”, and “Jackson Drug Death Trial” remain headliners, while not reporting all the facts pertinent to the expert testimony is prevalent—while Michael’s words ring out from the audio tape recorded by Murray and while the image of his body that is stamped on our collective conscious is undervalued by the media, nothing can overshadow or diminish Michael’s humanity as it has been exposed to the world; a humanity laid bare; a humanity that belies the years of unjustified persecution, allegations, and degradation of this man at the hands of extortionists, the media, and public alike. It is there for the world to see and hear, and it will never disappear no matter how hard people try to ignore or hide it, because as with the moon and its cycle, Michael’s life and name will once more shine full and bright long after this trial has ended, through us, and through those who are committed to his legacy. This is what we need to build upon and build up—as supporters and fans, we have always known the beauty and innocence of Michael’s soul—because in reality, for this trial to be the last thing Michael is remembered for, would be the truest injustice of all.

So, it falls to us again—and will continue to do so, until Michael is fully vindicated and recognized for who he was—to project upon the media and public screen an image of Michael both truthful and positive, and embrace and live the love that was at the center of his being.  This is not only vital to the recognition and continuation of Michael’s legacy, but to our own as well, because both are inextricably entwined through mutual respect and that powerful, life-changing emotion called, love.


© Valmai Owens, 2011. All Rights Reserved.
No reproduction without permission from author.

This article appears in the publication Dot to Dot: Keeping Michael’s Legacy Alive, and its content is the property of the authors and the Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait. Articles and exclusive interviews are copyrighted; therefore there should be no republication without permission. You may email with any requests for republication. If permission is given, credit must be given to the author, Dot to Dot: Keeping Michael's Legacy Alive and the Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait.

Commentary on the Conrad Murray Trial By Matt Semino

Conrad Murray Trial: Jane Velez-Mitchell, Matt Semino, Marcia Clark Talk Closing Arguments (11-3-11)


  Interview with IN SESSION'S Christi Paul on Strength of the Prosecution's Case (11/3/11)
Video One


Video Two 


Video Three


Video Four



 Conrad Murray Trial: Dr. Paul White Cross-Examination Discussed by Christi Paul and Matt Semino (11/1/11)


 IN SESSION with Christ Paul (10/24/11)


IN SESSION: Parts 1 (10/20/11)


IN SESSION: Part 2 (10/20/11)


IN SESSION: Part 3 (10/20/11)


IN SESSION: Part 4 (10/20/11)


Conrad Murray Trial: HLN's Jane Velez-Mitchell Interviews Attorney Matt Semino (10-19-11)


IN SESSION: Part 1 (10/17/11)


IN SESSION: Part 2 (10/17/11)


IN SESSION: Part 3 (10/17/11)


IN SESSION Interview with Christi Paul (10-6-11)


  Conrad Murray and the Voices That Ring True

“He’s the greatest entertainer in the world.  I’m taking that money, a million children, children’s hospital, the biggest in the world, Michael Jackson’s Children’s Hospital…”

This last sentence taken from the haunting audio recording of Michael Jackson under the influence of “unknown agents” is a key element of the involuntary manslaughter case that the state of California is currently building against Dr. Conrad Murray. Hearing this voice cracked the door open for the jury into the private state of mind of the deceased and exposed the intimate knowledge that the accused had of his celebrity patient. The recording also presented a window of truth to the global humanitarian that Michael Jackson truly was. Would a man with these grand hopes and dreams actually risk taking his own life for a few hours of sleep?  
It was shocking, disheartening, and enraging for many to hear Jackson in such an eerie state of sedation. The slurred pattern of speech contrasted so sharply with his known vocal genius. Could that have even really been him? A tidal wave of emotion swept through the courtroom as Jackson's voice echoed in the hallowed halls of justice. Who was the person responsible for putting Michael Jackson into this dangerous state? Why did Conrad Murray covertly record this personal telephone conversation? What was the real power dynamic in this lethal physician and patient relationship? Why did everything go so horribly wrong on June 25, 2009?

The audio recording was a dramatic, yet effective focal point of deputy district attorney David Walgren’s opening statement. Coupled with frantic 911 calls, voicemail recordings and cell phone records, collectively, the voices that emanated from Michael Jackson's home have begun to paint a very disturbing picture of the defendant and timeline of events. They reveal the ill-fated decisions of a man who acted repeatedly with a consciousness of guilt as he abandoned his patient in a desperate attempt to cover up his negligent acts. Although painful to listen to, it was Jackson's voice that was the first bold brushstroke needed for the messy portrait that is now taking shape right before our eyes.

With each new hour of testimony, it is becoming clearer that a once strong man was gradually rendered powerless in the hands of a greedy, unethical, and highly unprepared enabler. The prosecution's evidence and witnesses have successfully started to demonstrate that Dr. Conrad Murray repeatedly acted with gross negligence through multiple and extreme deviations from the proper standards of medical care.

As the audio recording so vividly reveals, Murray had knowledge of Jackson’s career motivations, as well as his mental and physical states, in the months prior to his death. Even while heavily sedated, Jackson revealed his underlying rationale for pursuing what may have been the most grueling professional endeavor of his life. Michael Jackson’s words indicated that he wanted to make history for the sole purpose of helping children.

Even with this knowledge, Conrad Murray continued to deceptively stockpile and feed his patient excessive and ultimately deadly amounts of sedatives and propofol. As a medical professional, did Murray truly believe giving Michael Jackson all of these drugs would help him be "the greatest entertainer in the world"? It is highly unlikely. Did he really think that Michael Jackson would ever be able to create the children's hospital of his dreams if he continually plied him with debilitating substances? Probably not. Or, was he just acting like an employee aiming to please his employer, in order to keep a steady $150,000 per month paycheck rolling into his bank account? Definitely, yes.

The defense’s far-fetched theory that Jackson self-administered a highly lethal combination of sedatives and propofol behind Dr. Murray's back is also undercut by the audio recording. Depicted as seemingly forward thinking, it is clear that Michael Jackson had too many goals he wanted to accomplish and too much that he wanted to give back to the world. Why would he then risk taking his life into his own hands?  Could he have even killed himself in the manner that the defense described in their opening statement?  Ultimately, this case may boil down to a battle of the experts who will debate whether the “perfect storm” theory of Michael Jackson's instantaneous death really holds any merit. It already looks weak on its face.

Through a close examination of Jackson’s cultural legacy, it is clear that he always strove to serve a humanitarian purpose through his work. He gave millions of dollars to charity throughout his life. Therefore, it is not a stretch to believe that all he wanted to do was accomplish that objective again, but now on the largest scale possible. As his voice reveals, the intentions were grand, yet also singular in their focus. Jackson likely believed that the “This Is It” concert series would help him travel to the furthest possible point on the road of his lifelong humanitarian dream. He trusted Dr. Conrad Murray, as his personal physician, to help him arrive at his destination safely. As the evidence presented so far in the trial indicates, Murray failed miserably in that task.

Whatever the verdict in this case will be, perhaps the world will eventually notice how much potential good was cut short by this avoidable tragedy. Michael Jackson's voice and all the other voices of this dramatic tale are starting to ring true. They are telling the story of a doctor intoxicated by celebrity and lured by money, who all but abandoned acceptable standards of medical practice and professional ethics to serve his personal needs. As prosecutor David Walgren argued, it was the “acts and omissions” of Dr. Conrad Murray that led Michael Jackson, his only patient, to a “premature death at age 50”.  As the morbid image of a lifeless Jackson laying on a hospital gurney and labeled "Homicide", spread virally around the world, it became burned into the public's consciousness and will never be forgotten.  Understandably sickening to many, the dreary image also serves as an extremely powerful symbol and stark reminder that in Michael Jackson's valiant attempt to save the lives of others, this wounded messenger unnecessarily lost his own bright future. Finally, the voices of justice are saying that this should have never happened to such a man.
IN SESSION's Interview with Attorney Matt Semino on the Dr. Conrad Murray Trial (9-27-11)


Defending the Victim in the Conrady Murray Trial

Should Michael Jackson be blamed for his own death? Jury selection is underway and opening statements are set to commence in the Dr. Conrad Murray involuntary manslaughter trial. International headlines are shouting, “Michael Jackson drank propofol moments before he died!” These questionable pronouncements allude to the defense theory that Murray’s legal team is expected to soon present in a Los Angeles courtroom. Symptoms of a “blame the victim” syndrome are already showing. 

While sensational, it should be of no surprise that Murray’s lawyers may argue that Michael Jackson took his own life by either injecting himself with propofol or ingesting it. Story-making is surely nothing new when it comes to the King of Pop. Turning the tables on the voiceless is also now in vogue with high-profile criminal defendants. It worked for Casey Anthony, why shouldn’t it also work for Conrad Murray?  While “blaming the victim” may be a tempting and ultimately effective defense strategy, it is morally suspect when based in fabrication and driven by unsubstantiated factual claims. 

Although attorneys are charged with representing their client’s best interests in court, ethical boundaries can be crossed in their dogged pursuit of that goal. As seen before, a clever defense lawyer can twist scraps of evidence, public perception, and ingrained social stereotypes about a victim and the alleged crime into a convoluted narrative that lacks any element of truth. This unscrupulous practice can become the legal weapon of choice when the only objective is to place just a shred of reasonable doubt in the mind of one impressionable juror. It is a weapon that can be lethal if taken too far, denigrating the victim with each cut and ultimately corroding justice to its bone. 

The Casey Anthony saga is just one recent, glaring example of where such defense tactics went overboard in the courtroom. Anthony’s legal team introduced an outlandish explanation of the victim’s cause of death and leveled severe accusations at family members during their opening statement. All of their distorted claims eventually went uncorroborated during the trial. In the process, the victim’s memory was soiled and witnesses’ reputations were destroyed under the guise of an impassioned client defense.  The judicial process is only cheapened when such machinations run unchecked in a court of law. The Conrad Murray trial also risks running amok if precaution is ignored. 

While millions of trial observers thought Anthony’s defense theory was pure fantasy, it stuck in the minds of the jurors who ultimately acquitted her. As Casey Anthony enjoys her freedom, Caylee Marie Anthony will never able to tell us whether she actually climbed up that ladder into the pool and drowned. Her cause of death remains a mystery. Similarly, Michael Jackson will also never be able to tell us how he departed from this earth. When it is only the words of the accused against the silence of the deceased, who is there to defend the victim from false accusation and innuendo?

While it may become easy for some to forget, Dr. Conrad Murray is currently the individual on trial, not Michael Jackson. Use of the same Machiavellian strategies that were employed to defend Casey Anthony will need to be corralled and monitored vigilantly by judge, jury, and the viewing public, as the Murray case proceeds. The disastrous obfuscation of truth that occurred in Orlando only a few months ago can be prevented from repeating itself in Judge Michael Pastor’s courtroom.

Unfortunately, Murray’s legal team seems to have already taken more than a few pages from Jose Baez’s playbook. In several pretrial hearings, it became evident that Murray’s attorneys had intently studied the dynamics of the Anthony trial and the procedural factors that would ensure a favorable outcome for their client. They referenced the global media attention that the Anthony proceedings garnered and the potentially harmful influence of commentary from legal pundits as a way to rationalize sequestering jurors and preventing the trial from being televised. Judge Pastor made the intelligent decision to deny these requests, which would have placed unreasonable restrictions on the freedom of the public, press, and jury.  Complete transparency is one positive step toward preserving the rights of the victim during this trial.  

If Conrad Murray’s legal team is planning to use a “blame the victim” defense strategy, their opening statement and witness questioning will likely conflate negative perceptions and stereotypes of Michael Jackson into a twisted theory of death. Attempts were already made by Murray’s attorneys to drag Jackson’s financial affairs, physical and mental health, as well as past legal battles into the vortex of controversy. Witnesses were expected to testify for the defense on these salacious and highly irrelevant topics.  Judge Pastor wisely ruled to exclude many of these witnesses, arguing that their testimony lacked sufficient probative value in addressing the primary legal questions of the case. A thorough examination of Dr. Conrad Murray’s medical practices, ethical choices, and standard of care is what really needs to take center stage in a court of law at this time. Michael Jackson’s past has no legitimate place in this present trial. 
Asserting the appropriate element of judicial control through the pretrial phase, Judge Pastor has made a strong effort to prevent the impending court proceedings from devolving into a tawdry examination of Michael Jackson through unnecessary character assassination. He has attempted to act fairly toward both sides while also standing firmly to protect the victim. Pastor will continue to play a pivotal role in the coming weeks by ensuring that the prosecution and the defense act within the boundaries of professional ethics and follow proper trial procedure. It is also imperative that he clearly impress upon the jury their important role, responsibility, and obligation in seeking the truth even through all of the smoke and mirrors. 

Ultimately, it will be up to members of the jury to keep all that is stated at trial by the prosecution and particularly the defense, in its proper perspective. Inflated proclamations are just hot air if not grounded in provable facts. Jurors shouldn’t be distracted by such hyperbole. They must think critically and logically about whether the hard evidence that is presented in court actually comports with the claims made by the lawyers in their opening statements and witness questioning. It is only then that justice can be properly served without the victim ever being victimized again. 

© Valmai Owens, 2011. All Rights Reserved.
No reproduction without permission from author.

This article appears in the publication Dot to Dot: Keeping Michael’s Legacy Alive, and its content is the property of the authors and the Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait. Articles and exclusive interviews are copyrighted; therefore there should be no republication without permission. You may email with any requests for republication. If permission is given, credit must be given to the author, Dot to Dot: Keeping Michael's Legacy Alive and the Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait.

Interview with Gregory Smith, founder of Believe Foundation: Changing Kid’s Lives Through Art and Music.

Not many people in the fan community know who Gregory Smith is. For myself, I was not aware of him until a few weeks ago when by accident I happened upon his facebook page, Believe Foundation:!/believefoundationusa?sk=info 

There, I saw a picture of him taken with Michael Bearden which piqued my interest and curiosity. Having interviewed Michael in the past, and finding in him a true sense of honesty and integrity, I knew that anything he was involved in would be something I would have no question in supporting. As I read a description of the Believe Foundation and what it stood for, I knew I had stumbled upon something that to me was a direct extension of Michael Jackson’s humanitarian legacy and empathy for children. I contacted Michael Bearden immediately asking what, if anything, I could do to help; how could I support this foundation. In turn, Michael put me in contact with Gregory Smith, a man with vision, dedication and heart, and the founder of the Believe Foundation.

Greg’s story is not uncommon. Growing up in South Central Los Angeles amongst gangs and violence, he lived through and witnessed what occurs on the street, but his strong sense of family, faith and belief in the way music can heal and change the world, brought him to the place where he stands now, changing the lives of disadvantaged and inner-city kids for the better. And that is really at the heart of this foundation, changing kid’s lives through art and music.
Up until now, the Believe Foundation has been running afters-chool arts programs in South Los Angles, but is now looking to expand and create the Los Angeles School of Arts and Entertainment. This school will provide kids with the opportunity to discover their talents and self-worth, and give them hope for a better tomorrow.

It was my pleasure to interview Greg, who gives us insight into his vision that was inspired by growing-up in South Central Los Angeles, and how that created a heartfelt need to give back to the community and provide kids with hope for a brighter future. We are also honored and privileged to have been asked to act as e-Ambassadors for the Believe Foundation, and this is something Dot to Dot and the Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait are proud to lend ourselves too.

Interview transcribed by Kelly Gallagher

Valmai:  Greg, can you tell us something about yourself and your background?

Greg:  My name is Gregory Smith, born in South Central Los Angeles, back in the early days. Born and raised by a minister, I am a pastor’s son, or the son of a preacher man. My father has been a minister since I was a baby. I was pretty much raised in the church element—and the church, being a community based church, was small. I’ve always had a tight-knit family base, and I’ve always tried to go the right way. Sure, we all get distracted every once in a while as a child, but I was pretty much born and raised in a very strict household.

I learned how to play music by ear, and I was discovered at a young age to play professionally. At 12, I started touring with a major gospel choir. Reverend James Cleveland....I’ve played with him back in the day—I was really well-known as a gospel drummer. So, I have a very interesting musical and religious background—and I love sports!

Valmai:  Did you play a lot of sports growing up?

Greg:  Yes, yes! Growing up in the "hood", one of the ways we were taught to possibly get out of that environment was through either sports or music and, unfortunately, that’s all we had to attach ourselves to immediately and see some type of a reward—to get a record deal, get discovered as a musician, or at least hopefully get a scholarship in sports. That’s all that we were taught, and that’s all we were able to see on television—athletes and musicians.

Valmai:  Greg, growing up in South Central Los Angeles must have been difficult for you at times. Is it what you had to go through and what you witnessed, the inspiration behind creating the Believe Foundation?

Greg:  Yes, I would definitely contribute it to my growing up; wanting to do something better in the community and showing kids other options. The Believe Foundation has always been a part of what I was born to do, wholeheartedly.

My father being a minister—you know, they always wanted me to take over the church and preach that upbringing, but I was always considered the “black sheep” because I always had a lot of questions about the religious aspect of things. So I made a deal with my parents that if they just let me go the way I wanted to go—[I'd} let something like Believe Foundation be my ministry. So to this day, I still always [ask] my mom, “Hey Mom, are still praying for my ministry?” She gave it two thumbs up years ago.

Valmai:  Greg, what do you see as the Believe Foundation’s ultimate goal?

Greg:  The ultimate goal as we stand right now—first let me give you a little history of how it evolved into the Believe Foundation. A few years ago, I was doing events for kids in South Central Los Angeles—major talent shows and major dance competition shows—trying to create a safe environment for them to come and be a part of, and to help their self-esteem. What I didn’t know at the time was that what I was doing was something, there was a cause. I was just doing it because it was in my heart to do [it].

My job as being one of the largest promoters in Los Angeles when I was doing dance events—I would get 2,000 to 5,000 kids in large arenas—I just didn’t know that I was really doing something really good. The ultimate goal at that time was just to create an environment where I could interest the kids and give them other options. Then somebody approached me about doing a non-profit, because at that time I wasn’t really making any money, I was actually spending my money trying to make money to cover the costs. But at that time, I was just trying to create some type of environment for kids to come to a place where they could do anything they wanted revolving being around music or around dance or sports, because that’s my upbringing. Then I started teaching at local schools—after-school programs—so I started falling into the teacher's mode of Well hey, I can teach, too; so let me start helping these kids out in another way as far as their education. Then I met with people who decided to take it to the next level and create the atmosphere of a performing arts school.

Valmai:  Are there other schools like this in Los Angeles?

Greg:  Not in the immediate Seventh District—this is where we’re looking now: District 7. In the immediate parts of South Central, now and over the past few years, there’s been a major shakeup of charter schools in Los Angeles. They’ve shut down numerous schools because of administraton doing their own thing with test scores and cheating, and things like that. So there’s been a shakeup, and the performing arts schools that did exist are gone.
As it stands, in the immediate South Central Los Angeles area, there is really no school like what we’re trying to build.

Valmai:  When I was in Los Angeles this past June, I went to Gardner St Elementary School with other representatives of the Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait, and we spoke with the headmaster there. He said that in a lot of schools, not just in the innercity, but also in the surrounding areas, were suffering because the government is cutting back their funding on music and arts and other important programs.

Greg:  Right, you’re absolutely right! It’s amazing, because out of all the things that help kids, art and music have, through the test of time, been shown to help. It’s amazing that they’re cutting the curriculum in public and charter schools when tests have already shown that low-income, high school seniors with a long-term involvement in band or orchestra, are twice as likely to score as highly proficient in math (33 percent) as their non-music counterparts. Now that’s been proven, you know? 

There are so many kids who would go to school and get through math and English, if they knew they have another outlet, something they really loved to do which is music and art. I can testify to that because I was terrible in everything else, but when it came to music and sports I excelled. As I was told, “Hey, in order for you to play those things or to be involved in those things, you have to do well in school”.  And it just made sense to me.

Valmai:  Greg, you’re the Executive Director, President and Founder of the Believe Foundation. Michael Bearden and Sean Holt are also on the foundation’s board. Can you tell us how they came to be involved?

Greg:  Sure. About four years ago, when the events I was doing for all these kids were realized, I started reaching out—like, what else can I do with this whole thing? Actually, I was making noise in the community, and I was one of the top promoters doing large events and had access to a ton of kids. A friend of mine named Will Weaton, knew Sean, who is an excellent singer, musician and businessman. Sean met with me, and we both realized we had the same passion and wanted to help kids in the community. From there, we partnered.

For Sean, being well-rooted in Hollywood and in a different area of the city, his heart is where the kids are. He has also taught at USC and he has done some after-school programs for the African American kids in the community. Sean [although] being white, really has a heart for helping out the African American and Latino kids, because he grew up in Louisiana—in the boroughs of Louisiana—and he grew up where he knows the struggle. Sean has a beautiful heart for the kids, and he wanted to get connected again with the kids in the community. Sean always says to me, "G, let's change some kid's lives".

So Sean started to introduce me to people in his world. You know, it’s funny. Everybody knows somebody, but everybody has different worlds and circles. Sean saw me doing all these shows and he actually said, “Greg, why not do something? Let’s build a school, let’s do something really different—let‘s really change the world. These shows are great, but let’s really help these kids; let me help you change these kids’ lives”.

So, Sean really put me in the right direction to formulate the Believe Foundation, and ever since then, Sean has been bringing in people from his circle to help make this work, and that’s when he brought me to Michael Bearden.

Michael Bearden—it was funny. I had half-an-hour to go to [see] Michael Bearden and pitch the Believe Foundation to him in his trailer while they were on the set of the [George Lopez] "Lopez Tonight" [TV] show. Michael Bearden is very hard to pin down for half-an-hour, but he actually gave us two and a half hours because he was so moved by the pitch. He said, “Greg, before Michael [Jackson] passed, he said that I was going to do some great things in the world. There are many things coming. Michael Jackson didn’t exactly know what they were, but he kept mentioning in the spirit of using one's gifts to Michael Bearden"I feel you are going to do some great things in the world". And Michael Bearden felt this was aspect of his own humanitarian calling so he jumped on board.

It was really amazing how it all worked out once I actually let my guard down and let Sean help me. Such a blessing, such a blessing.

Valmai:  It’s amazing how all these connections have been made, but if you look back over it, it doesn’t appear to be a coincidence. More like something or someone else was directing you all to come together.

Greg:  Right, right, exactly! A lot of it just has to do with just believing in yourself, just step out of the way and let your faith take over, per se. Sometimes we block it by putting up these walls that we can get over. We just have to step back and let things happen.

Valmai:  Right. Now Charles Reagan has just recently signed on with you. Can you tell us a little something about him and what his role will be?

Greg:  Well, Charles just recently came onboard. Sean introduced me to him. Sean and Charles have a 20-year relationship, and Charles was just recently introduced to the Believe Foundation when we had a function: a small, private fund-raising “coming out” party for Believe Foundation LASAE, which is the school’s name and stands for Los Angeles School of Arts and Entertainment. Charles was at that event. Once he saw the players and had a chance to hear us speak and present the whole concept of the Los Angeles School of Arts and Entertainment, he almost tore down the place, like, “Hey guys I want to be involved, I do”.

It’s amazing! You just don’t know! These are people who are high echelon, you know? They’re on a different level. Charles has been on "The Simpson’s" for 25 years; he’s an Emmy award-winning artist—he's the only Emmy award-winning illustrator on "The Simpsons". A guy with that stature and kind of caliber—it’s just amazing to see that his heart is right here.

He wants to teach. So he would definitely be involved in developing our curriculum when it comes to the animation department. But having his name involved with our school, there will be kids trying to get in from around the world who are interested in art and cartoon work, just because his name is associated with it, and he’s going to come up with a curriculum. So he’s pretty much almost created his own position, and we’re going to find him an office at the Believe Foundation and at the school. He will definitely be involved with helping the kids and developing our curriculum, and also in actually hiring our teachers to help in the animation department.

Valmai:  At present, the foundation is running after-school arts programs and summer arts institutes, is that correct? Exactly what do these programs entail?

Greg:  Well, right now I do run an after-school program where I go into schools in the community—schools in South Central Los Angeles—and I teach performing arts. I teach different elements. Basically, there are charter schools right now that have budgets to allow after-school programming. Some of the charter schools don’t have music teachers, of course. They don’t have art teachers. So, I am a part a situation where I am the “music guy”. I will come into certain schools and help create a curriculum to help teach kids music production, via songwriting, musical arrangement, and learning-related software—just showing them how to write songs and [teaching some] production aspects. I usually teach 3 to 6 hours a day in different schools in Los Angeles, and I’ve been doing that for the past couple of years while we’ve developing Believe Foundation and formulating the whole concept, including the school.
Originally, Believe Foundation was an after-school program where I was trying to go into different schools, teach music, bring in celebrities and set up camps—like a work-shop. Then when I brought in Dr. Walker as my project lead—he said we need to take it to the next level and build a performing arts school of our own. Why go to these charter schools when you can build your own? That’s when we came up with the vision of building LASAE.

Valmai:  And how have the inner-city kids responded to these programs?

Greg:  Oh, they love it, they love it!  It’s funny, because teachers know that anything music or the arts-related can capture a kid. The kids African-American kids definitely have this inner art thing going on where they need to utilize it. Once we get the kids to open up and see what we’re doing, they welcome it with open arms. I mean, it’s unbelievable! Our classes are always full and kids are always asking questions. We also become mentors for the kids and we are available to them to answer their questions, to help them with work outside of music. They have a lot of questions and they are fascinated with music and art, so they've been very receptive. And, like I said, we all know the arts are so important to the schools, so we never have a problem with getting kids who are interested in art. 

Valmai:  The foundation is completing its formal charter petition for the Los Angeles School of Arts and Entertainment, which I believe the submission date is October 30. It is a public charter school that will open in the fall of 2012. Can you tell us more about this school and what curriculum it will offer? Is it going to include all forms of art and music, or just specific areas?

Greg:  Right now, we’re just starting to get more people on board who bring us more things. For instance, we just signed Charlie for animation—we didn't have that before. We have art teachers who are proficient in actual painting and sculpting. We want to be well-rounded in the school, and any type of art we are open-minded to, but we just have to go with what we have [now] and what was available to us at the time, which started the vision. At that time, everybody who was on the board had something to do with music.

We’re starting to get more interest. For instance, Charlie is a great example because we are not animators; we don’t do drawings, none of us do what Charlie does. We need more people. I was really focused on bringing in dancing, but right now I am looking for someone with a more stable name to attach to the dancing side. 

So, it’s going to be a well-rounded school. Anything dealing with the arts and entertainment is what we’re trying to offer. That’s the way we planned it, let’s put it out there, let’s build it, we believe in it and they will come and—here we go!

Valmai:  Could you tell us how much money you have raised so far and how much you think will be needed to actually see the school completed and up and running?

Greg:  We’ve raised $51,000 thus far. With the Los Angeles Unified School District, in order to get your application on file or “in line”, they require you to raise or have at least $250,000 in some form for your application to be accepted. So we’re trying to raise $250,000 so we can get our application in for 2011.

We’re stretching—our first fund-raiser raised $51,000. We just have to keep pushing, and if we can get to $200,000 we’ll be set. We think there are people out there who once they see something like this, will want to be involved. We just have to get to the right people who believe in the arts, believe in our vision and believe in what Michael Jackson stood for, too, because Michael Bearden is on board, and he said Michael would love this if he were alive.

Valmai:  Oh yes, he would! But, don’t you have to have the submission in by the end of this month?

Greg:  No. Actually, we were trying to get it submitted with a charter school for a new Proposition (Prop) 39. Prop 39 requires you to have it in by your first original target date, but they also require you to have the $250,000. We went back and forth, and we decided that Prop 39 wouldn’t be to our advantage because of the stipulation that they will place your performing arts school on a campus somewhere in South Central Los Angeles, and they pick the campus. So we decided we would be a little confined because of a location that we weren’t comfortable with.

The facilities didn’t have the state-of-the art auditorium or music room that we need. So now they’re giving us more time and we have until, I believe, December 1 before we have to have our application in.

Valmai:  Well, that gives you a little breathing room; not much, but a little bit of breathing room.

Greg:  Not much, right! But the other thing is that we’re also looking at other districts in Los Angeles. Like if you go on one corner of a street in Los Angeles, you can be in another small city that does not require the $250,000. So that’s what we’re looking at, and we have a little more time now.

Valmai:  Greg, are you relying solely on donations or are you hosting fund-raisers as well?

Greg:  Fund-raisers, yes, but donations is the way for us to go as non-profit. The good thing about Los Angeles is that corporations can make donations now, because the school board has allowed the schools to accept private donations from the corporations if the corporations can advertise on school grounds. For instance, Nike comes in; we can build a stadium and put Nike right on the floor.

Valmai:  Do you have any corporate sponsors at the moment?

Greg:  No, but you know what we need? We need that person on board who has the tenacity to go after the corporate sponsors, because like I said, at our first fund-raiser we were just trying to put the word out—here we are, help!  We wanted to get the soldiers on board. We’re looking for more soldiers. So there are people who might not have the money, but have the resources/access to people with the money or access to people who know how to get the money. Actually, we’d love to have somebody who has access or time to donate to the Believe Foundation, to help us raise that money. That’s what we really need.

Valmai:  So what about public support? Is the public aware of the foundation?

Greg:  That’s a great question, because that’s where we are right now. We have to take it to the next level and get the public support. So we need media exposure. What you’re doing for me are things that we need, and that’s why I really appreciate the time and opportunity, because we need to be out, more or less. You know it’s hard to get press unless, unfortunately—I am going to be honest with you, it’s hard to get press unless you’re doing something negative in Los Angeles.

Valmai:  Oh, I quite agree.

Greg:  It’s amazing! With all the good we’re trying to do, it’s hard to get press unless we’re out shooting somebody or, you know, stealing something. It’s like, really? We’re on a major campaign; we need a great PR person to be willing to donate time to us to help us get the press, get the word out.

There are a lot of things we need, but if people come onboard and see what we’ve done so far with what we have, it’s like, a no-brainer. And it’s for the good of the kids. We need other people who want to help out, like Charlie. We know they’re a lot of other people out there like PR firms who can help us get the publicity out.

I am going to launch a major talent show within the next couple of weeks, an "American Idol" style/Apollo [Theater] talent show, where kids will be performing in front of Michael Bearden and Sean Holt, and we’re trying to get Slash to be a judge. There are a lot of names we’re trying to bring in that Michael has access to. He can actually put these kids in front of them. I am not saying a record deal, but at least give them the exposure.

Valmai:  I am sure the media would be interested in something like that, if big celebrity names are attached to it?

Greg:  Yes, exactly. That’s why, for the last week, I’ve been going back and forth. We’re trying to strategize how to launch the talent. “Let’s launch a major, city-wide talent show. Let’s make it nation-wide, if they can get here, and do a major talent show that would probably get the media interested, besides the "American Idol‘s" local in the community.”

So you can go ahead and put it on record that the Believe Foundation will launch a major talent show.

Valmai:  The Believe Foundation is something that you’ve already said Michael [Jackson] would approve of, and no doubt if he were here, would offer his time and support to. Have you gained a lot of interest from his fans?

Greg:  You know what? Yes, we have, because when I launched the foundation, I went straight to Michael Bearden’s fan page, and facebook started blowing up! Then we lost the Pepsi campaign to raise money to try to win this $50,000 grant. We came in 165th out of 1,000. You had to be in the top 10, so we didn’t make it, but we had a lot of fan support voting for the Believe Foundation, due to Michael Bearden’s involvement. But, I haven’t directly tapped into the Michael Jackson fan base; I am not an expert at that. For instance, you’re big to me because you’re right in that alley I was trying to get to. I was trying to get to his fan base. Let me ask you this: How did you find out about us again?

Valmai:  It was quite by accident. I was looking at a friend’s facebook page and they had posted something about the Believe Foundation. There was a picture of you with Michael Bearden, so I clicked on the link and starting reading. I was so impressed with the work you are doing and your mission that I immediately emailed Michael [Bearden] and asked if I could help in anyway. That’s when he introduced me to you, and here we are.

Greg:  We need the Michael Jackson community to really stand behind this. Michael Bearden is very sensitive about it because he’s trying to protect Michael’s [Jackson] interests. He is so busy, I can’t really ask him to do that much as far as how to attach ourselves more to the Michael Jackson fan base. But I knew some way, somehow, someone would hear about us and take a liking to us and want to help us out. I really need that help.
Let me ask you this. How do we attach our track to Michael Jackson’s fans? Because we’re not using Michael Jackson’s name or anything.

Valmai:  What you're doing is continuing a part of his humanitarian legacy and vision, just as the fans are, by supporting the Michael Jackson’s Children Hospital. His name doesn’t have to be attached to it for the fans to support it, and even if it were attached, there is no exploitation on your part.

Greg:  Michael Bearden told me that helping children was something Michael [Jackson] loved to do—he loved the idea of Believe Foundation. I said, “Well Michael, can I put it out there in the press?” He was like, “Well, I don’t want to make it seem we’re using Michael”. I said, “We’re not. He told you that you’re going to do some great things, this is one aspect of what you need to be doing.”

It’s funny, because he’s told me so many stories of him and Michael just talking and envisioning things, but then he says to me he doesn’t want it to seem like we’re using Michael. But we’re not; we’re just carrying on the legacy.

Valmai:  That’s it exactly. There’s a big difference between using Michael’s [Jackson] name for profit, and carrying on his name and legacy by providing inner-city and underprivileged children with a chance to discover their talents and realize their potential.

Greg:  Exactly! The difference is exploiting. Michael Bearden gave us his blessing to put his name on this, not Michael Jackson’s, but it’s still part of his legacy.

Valmai:  Agreed!

Greg:  So we definitely would love to have Michael Jackson’s fans on board, and I really feel in my heart that they can help this thing pick up the momentum that it needs to get to the next level. It’s funny, everything happens for a reason. We went to see Michael Bearden and Michael Bearden saw this and the vision.

And, the other dream is for us to build schools in other cities, not only in Los Angeles, like Chicago or New York. Let’s keep it going, let’s make it happen—the Believe Foundation is known to build schools, that’s what we want to do.

Valmai:  Well, you have a goal. First of all you’ve got to imagine, then you’ve got to believe it and then you make it happen.

Greg:  That’s right, and that’s what I am doing, I am going for it! 

Valmai:  What can we, within the fan community, do to help the Believe Foundation attain its goals?

Greg:  Oh wow, there’s so much! We need donations, definitely. You can go to the foundation’s web page: We have a donation button you can click on the bottom, and it takes you to a secure PayPal account where you can put in any amount and donate. Donations are tax-deductible, we are 501C3. Just like with President Obama or a lot of the [political] candidates, you can’t operate without funding.

Unfortunately, we are in a situation where we need the funds to continue what I’ve created and started. I need the community support, donation-wise, and we need resources, like what you’re bringing to the table. We need exposure, we need press. We need our facebook page to blow up! You can find us on facebook at:!/believefoundationusa?sk=info  We need people to like us, and we need donations desperately!
Our goal is to reach the $250,000. Like I said, in just the first few months we were able to obtain $51,000, so we know we’re onto something. There are people who believe in this when they see it and they hear about it. So we need support and we need resources.

You know it’s funny—because, after doing all this and learning a lot of statistics, [you] basically [see] how important music and the arts are to kids, and it also helps keep kids out of trouble, we just need people to see that this is really, really important. Students immersed in a long-time arts-rich environment, outperform their arts-poor counterparts by 46% on standardized testing. That’s huge. And for them to take the arts out of the schools—it just does not make sense! 46% is amazing and proves that the arts is very critical.

So, I am going to go to my grave with this in my heart; I am actually getting a Believe tattoo on my shoulder. If I can get it past the wife, I am going to go get my Believe tattoo—I believe in this 100%; this is my calling. My Dad’s a preacher—and this is my ministry right here.

Valmai:  And it’s a wonderful ministry!

Greg:  Thank you!

Valmai:  I want to thank you very much for giving me your time, and talking about the Believe Foundation. We will do our utmost to help promote it, get the word out there and get the fans’ support for it.

Greg:  Please do, I really appreciate it. We have a vision for the Believe Foundation to build a school, The LASAE, and by getting your support, we’re on our way. I really appreciate the time for the interview, and the opportunity.

If you would like to offer your support to the Believe Foundation or make a donation, please visit their website and Facebook page.!/believefoundationusa?sk=info!/believefoundationusa?sk=info 

By Valmai Owens
© 2011. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission from author.

This interview appears in the publication Dot to Dot: Keeping Michael’s Legacy Alive, and its content is the property of the authors and the Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait. Articles and exclusive interviews are copyrighted; therefore there should be no republication without permission. You may email with any requests for republication. If permission is given, credit must be given to the author, Dot to Dot: Keeping Michael's Legacy Alive and the Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait.