Michael Jackson’s Secret Agreement With A Kingpin

michael jackson
Via Flickr
Adé Hennis
May 10, 2024

Who were the “us” that Michael Jackson was singing about?? Not just Black people in America, but Black people all over the world, like Brazil, a country with a long and rich Black history.

Forty percent of Africans brought to the Americas during the transatlantic slave trade ended up in Brazil. That’s one reason Michael Jackson and Spike Lee wanted to spotlight the country’s Afro-Brazilian population.

Jackson shot one version of “They Don’t Care About Us” in 1996, in the city of  Salvador, one of the largest slave ports in the Americas and now the epicenter of Afro-Brazilian culture. Then Jackson went to the town of Dona Marta to show the shantytowns, or favelas. In the 1920s, Afro-Brazilians built the first favelas to escape racism and police harassment.

Jackson’s song conveyed a message of international Black unity. However, behind the scenes, the Brazilian government refused him protection. A drug kingpin escorted him safely through the cities for free.

“They Don’t Care About Us” was much more than music. It was an example of Black unity that proves that the only ones who truly care about us MUST be us. We are responsible for each other.

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