It’s been a week of celebration in Gary for what would have been Michael Jackson’s 54th birthday. Fans from near and far have descended on MJ’s boyhood hometown.
Just a couple of years ago, former Gary Mayor Rudy Clay announced plans for a $300 million museum and performing arts center to honor Jackson’s legacy and memory.
But two years after that announcement before media lights and cameras, the plan is dead. Chelsea L. Whittington, spokeswoman for current Gary Mayor Karen Freeman Wilson, says without a funding plan, the museum cannot be built.
“That is no longer in play. No one has reached out to her in that regard,” Whittington told WBEZ on Friday. “The Mayor has stated that until someone approaches her with the funding dollars and a plan, this project will not be pursued.”
The news that a muesum will not be built came as bad news to a dozen fans gathered outside Jackson’s boyhood home at 2300 Jackson Street in Gary on Friday.
“A muesum could be the biggest inspiration because if that child could do that and that child’s family could do that, any child can do it,” said Tina Hall of Ohio.
Katina Chowning of Indianapolis says although she loves visiting Gary to see where Michael Jackson grew up, there's not much else to do.
"You can't even buy a real T-shirt from the Michael Jackson Estate," Chowning said. "They need to have something. You can't even really spend your money."
Events so far have included a candlelight vigil outside Michael’s childhood home on Wednesday, his birthday. Jackson's mother, Katherine and his three surviving children, earlier attended a game of the Gary Southshore Railcats where his eldest daughter Paris threw out the first pitch.
A Friday night dinner will honor Katherine Jackson. Festivities wrap up tomorrow with a concert of Michael Jackson’s music performed at West Side High School in Gary on Saturday night.
Michael Jackson died at the age of 50 in June 2009.