“We Are The World” USA for Africa / We Are the Drum
On this date in 1985 "We Are The World" USA for Africa
won Song of the Year at the 28th Annual Grammy Awards.
We are the world, We are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let’s start giving
There’s a choice we’re making
We’re saving our own lives
It’s true we’ll make a better day
Just you and me
"We Are the Drum, We Are the World"
Erin Richards of the Journal Sentinel
Choreographer Frank Gatson Jr. Gatson, now based in Los Angeles, but returned to Milwaukee to celebrate Michael Jackson, said he
agreed to direct a high school production to honor Jackson and to mentor young
people who have dreams of making it in show business.
"We Are the Drum, We Are the World," is a two-part
student and community music and dance review that celebrates black
history and the legacy of the late Michael Jackson. The show opens to
the public Friday at the North Multiplex, 1011 W. Center St., and runs
He’s also determined to put a feather back in the cap of his alma mater
with a flashy show that will get people back into the building.
"I’m not going to be like everyone else who shies away from North,"
Gatson said. "Maybe they’re all scared to come down here. But if they’d
asked me to do this show anywhere else, I wouldn’t have done it."
Gatson kept strong ties with Jackson after getting a big break as a
dancer in Jackson’s "Smooth Criminal" music video in 1986. He also kept
ties with Arlene Skwierawski, his former theater teacher at North.
Skwierawski retired from MPS in 1994 and is president of CAPITA
Productions, a multicultural community theater company.
After Jackson died last year, Skwierawski asked Gatson to come back and
create a Jackson tribute that would dovetail with her company’s annual
black history music and dance review. Gatson, who won recent accolades
for choreographing the video for Beyoncé’s "Single Ladies (Put a Ring
on It)," has danced in about 10 music videos and directed about 130
others for artists such as Usher, Mary J. Blige, Destiny’s Child and
Cast from 12 city schools
For the production at North, he cast students from about 12 schools in the city, as well as adults from the community.
Not one to do anything small, Gatson, 51, leaned on his connections and
his personal checkbook to boost the production level of the show at
He ordered professional sound, light and staging equipment from
Chicago. He flew in crew members and a professional dancer, all of whom
agreed to work free of charge for a few weeks. He persuaded Beyoncé to
lend him 20 robot uniforms worn by her backup dancers at her most
recent Grammy Awards performance.
In all, Gatson estimates the show’s production costs at $100,000 – not
including everyone’s donated time. Gatson put up $25,000 of his own
cash for the show, and Beyoncé donated $10,000.
"It feels so good to give back," Gatson said. "The only bad part is I’m spending all my money."
Gatson is less involved with the first half of the production, which
uses a drum as a metaphor for the spirit of black people and traces
from the slavery era to the civil rights movement through dance numbers
and brief narratives.
The second half is hallmark Gatson. Song-and-dance numbers begin with
Jackson 5 impersonators and progress to Jackson as an adult, played by
the only professional performer in the show, Chris (stage name
"Kriyss") Grant from West Palm Beach, Fla.
Hand-picked by Jackson for the late artist’s planned "This Is It" tour,
Grant’s lean body bears an uncanny resemblance to Jackson’s, and the
21-year-old has perfected every hat tip, shoulder cock, foot slide and
crotch grab, from "You Rock My World" to "Thriller."
"I danced to Michael Jackson when I was 2 and I had a dream," Grant
said. "We’re trying to show the kids here that if you dream and work
hard, you can make it."
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