JACKSONVILLE, Alabama – When it comes to music, one should automatically be accustomed to the four-syllable term: Michael Jackson. Philanthropically, no one has been more deserving than the undisputable King of Pop, whose legendary singles have left an eternal impact on pop music and whose donations have showcased his dedication to the betterment of people’s lives.
The “Thriller” megastar first attained national recognition as a philanthropist by the release of the 1984 collaborative recording, “We Are the World.”
The 7.3 million-seller featured an array of musicians that collectively branded themselves the United Support of Artists (USA) for Africa. Proceeds collected from the chart-topping hit estimated at $60 million, where all funds were donated in alleviation of hunger crises in the developing world.
Although the artistic pact would soon subside, representatives for the now defunct USA for Africa launched and supported several spin-off projects to surge further awareness of accompanying world crises. Among the designated projects included the 1986 campaign Hands across America, which managed to raise over $30 million and feature a benefit concert headlined by Michael Jackson.
Later in 1984, Jackson reportedly donated a share of his proceeds from another musical project, specifically his touring venues from fellow Jackson brothers’ “Victory Tour.” Michael “the Gloved One” reportedly donated his proceeds (estimated at more than $5 million according to People magazine) to organizations like Camp Good Times, the T.J. Martell Foundation and United Negro College Fund (UNCF).
UNCF would go on to receive over 97 sponsored-scholarship funds and a separate $1.1 million donation from “the Gloved One” throughout the mid- to late-1980s. Among the scholarship funds included the esteemed Michael Jackson Scholarship, which caters to selected candidates majoring in performing arts or communications.
The remaining aforementioned recipients, T.J. Martell Foundation and Camp Good Times, would donate their services to leukemia research and juvenile cancer sufferers, respectively. The latter would also become a heavy recipient of proceeds garnered from Jackson’s humanitarian anthem “Man in the Mirror,” which exposed the extreme poverty horrors occurring in international regions.
In 1992, the “Beat It” musician collaborated with soda Pepsi-Co to launch the decade-lasting charitable foundation Heal the World, which worked to aid disadvantaged children and AIDS sufferers across the globe.
One of Heal the World Foundation’s notable attainments is the $100 million in proceeds from Jackson’s “Dangerous World Tour” being donated to Heal the World among other respective organizations dedicated in healing those suffering from diabetes and AIDS. Another major accomplishment yielded by the foundation included the $1.25 million launched offspring project Heal L.A., which serviced inner-city Los Angeles youths with prevention programs specializing in vaccinations, mentorship and drug prevention.
The sincere work Michael Jackson put into become a step closer in his goal of bettering all disadvantaged lives earned him several accolades and recognitions.
In 1984, during the wake of global success with “Thriller, Jackson was awarded the Presidential Public Safety Communication Award by former United States President Reagan, for allowing use of his crossover smash “Beat It” in campaigns combating teen drinking and driving.
In 1990, the “HIStory” phenomenon was granted a Boy Scout Award in his name titled “Michael Jackson Good Scout Humanitarian Award” for his stride to integrate lower-income children into the Boy Scouting program.
Two years later, Jackson was awarded the Medal of Honor and the “King of Sani” title in western African villages for his role in visiting countless hospitals and orphanages filled with disabled children.
Among further accolades, the “Billie Jean” entertainer was bestowed with the “Points of Light Ambassador” award by former United States President Bush, in honor of Jackson assisting disabled children at his Neverland home.
In 1993 and 1995, Jackson was recognized for his charitable establishment Heal the World Foundation by the Soul Train Awards and Vh1, as celebration of his humanitarian activities.
But perhaps the most honorable achievement came in 2000 when Michael Jackson was credited as the world record holder for “Most Charities Supported by a Pop Star,” by the Guinness Book of World Records.
With the honors rolling in, Michael Jackson went back to the recording booth in 2001 to assemble another charitable anthem; a project known as “What More Can I Give,” in memory of those killed in the 9/11 attacks.
Though the release went physically unavailable by conflict of business terms, the early 2000s cut managed to produce a benefit concert that reeled in musical performances from Jackson himself alongside fellow entertainers such as Mariah Carey, *NSYNC, Mya, Train, Pink, Diddy and Rod Stewart, among others. Proceeds from the performances would go on to support organizations like the American Red Cross Liberty Relief Fund and the Salvation Army Relief Fund to apprehend individuals planning terrorist attacks.
Among other recordings, the redefining pop juggernaut readied “From the Bottom of My Heart (I Have This Dream)” as a potential aid single to Hurricane Katrina victims. Due to unknown reasons, the record, which was slated to be due out in 2006 with vocal assistance from the likes of Ciara, Babyface and a tentative Missy Elliott, never saw the light of day.
As the years passed, there was no prediction of what Jackson’s next generous contribution would be, when in June 25, 2009, the reigning pop icon died of complications related to cardiac arrest.
Following news of the star’s devastating death, honorable recognition would immediately flourish into the donative department with several awards and different organizations being commemorated in both his name and memory.
Most recently, on May 19, 2015, the Michael Jackson Scholarship Fund was revamped by UNCF to support those majoring in social sciences and performing arts with a $5,000 financial award.
Whether he was voicing awareness for world hunger and environmental preservation in timeless tunes like “Man in the Mirror” and “Earth Song,” or combating street violence and racism with the ear-catching numbers “Beat It” and “They Don’t Care about Us,” the unduplicated Michael Jackson managed to make global audiences aware of social issues through recordings, visuals, dances and most undoubtedly his philanthropic actions.
A trendsetting figure who held the world’s very attention in the palm of his hand, the unmatched King of Pop’s dream for a better place will hopefully inspire forthcoming generations of admirers to take on the moonwalking journey he first started and planned to finish in “healing the world.”
– Jeff Varner
Sources: SunSentinel, NYTimes, MTV, People, Eurweb, Billboard, MTV, LATimes, Jet Mag, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, LATimes, NYTimes, CNN, LATimes, Baltimore Sun, People, Deseret News, LATimes
Photo: Michael Jackson.ru