A Gary, Indiana Elementary School Honors Michael Jackson
BY LISA DENEAL, POST-TRIBUNE CORRESPONDENT
How much is Michael Jackson loved in his hometown? Students and teachers at Gary’s Beveridge Elementary School produced a “Michael Jackson Review” concert that was one big sing-along for those attending.
The two-hour concert was, indeed, a tribute to the late King of Pop, complete with video footage and students singing renditions of some of Jackson’s biggest hits as part of the Jackson 5, The Jacksons and as a solo artist.
Teacher Aquanita Yancy and paraprofessional Rhonda Turner created the script for the show last fall. Turner also designed costumes for performances to songs like “Butterflies” and “Remember the Time.” Other teachers helped with choreography. Students worked on-stage and behind the scenes. Yancy said the idea to do a show honoring Jackson and his family developed in September. “We were all saddened by Michael’s death, and felt we should do something to honor him because he and his family are from Gary,” she said. The students later decided to do the show instead of a Black History Month program.
The production examined the stages of Jackson’s life, starting with two students portraying parents Katherine and Joe Jackson talking about how their children were destined for stardom. Other segments honored the youngest Jackson, Janet, and the rest of the siblings. The students, grades two through six, performed to the family song “2300 Jackson Street,” which is the address of the family’s Gary home. Other performances included “Thriller,” “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” and Jackson 5 hits “I’ll Be There,” “ABC,” “Maybe Tomorrow” and more. Throughout certain songs, children in the audience sang the lyrics word for word. Ben Clement, who oversees the Gary film and TV office, said the interaction and the show were impressive.
“This is great, and it shows that Michael’s legacy will be institutionalized in the Gary schools,” he said. “I mean, they may as well prepare to give Michael a national holiday.” Principal Stephanie Billups said the show was a wonderful surprise. “This is my first time seeing the show in its entirety,” she said. “I am just now finding out they sneaked and did rehearsals on their lunch hours and put all of this together. They would not let me see or read anything.”