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Southeast Queens hoofs it at Michael Jackson tribute

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More than 50 Queens residents transformed the JHS 231 auditorium into a high-energy tribute to Michael Jackson Saturday, complete with dance performances from one-gloved children who heaped praise on the King of Pop, an abundance of Jackson 5 wigs and even a Tina Turner impersonator who had the crowd screaming on their feet.

“Michael revolutionized music,” said Ekow Eshun, 14, of Laurelton. “He was the greatest entertainer.”

Ekow, whose favorite Jackson songs are “Dirty Diana” and “Human Nature,” was one of many younger individuals who attended Saturday night’s tribute to the adored pop star who authorities said died June 25 at his Los Angeles home after he received lethal levels of the anesthesia propofol on top of two sedatives.

Saturday’s tribute in Springfield Gardens was sponsored by the office of City Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton).

“Michael was a trailblazer,” Sanders said. “His musical repertoire was such that if you found yourself feeling bad, you could find music to lift you up. If you were already up, you could find music to light you even higher.”

Sanders, who said he has “written some of my best poetry to Michael’s music,” wanted to host the free event so his constituents could remember Jackson on what would have been his 51st birthday. The three-hour party featured a live disc jockey, sing-along sessions and numerous dance performances from Jackson enthusiasts.

Jamaica resident Tanasia Lane, 9, said she had “so much fun” performing to the 1970 Jackson 5 hit “ABC.” Tanasia and her sister, 8-year-old Tamese Lane, carefully prepared for the evening, donning wigs to look like Jackson as a child and wearing white suit coats.

East Elmhurst resident Jahidah Diaab, a Tina Turner impersonator, got much of the crowd on their feet dancing when she came out early in the evening and sang and danced around the JHS 231 auditorium.

“Michael was one of the best dancers there has ever been and he is one of the greatest singers who has ever been around,” said Far Rockaway resident Mary Pierce-Lockhart before she joined the crowd cheering on “Tina Turner.”

Jamaica resident Briana Barbara, 12, and Elizabeth Greer, 11, performed to several Jackson tunes Saturday, including “Smooth Criminal.” The two, who recently formed their own band named Phresh Girlz, said they have long been inspired by the King of Pop.

“He put his soul and heart into the music,” Elizabeth said.

Although Jackson’s personal life came under scrutiny for his role as a parent and his relationships with young boys, he was revered by fans around the world. Jackson is credited with pioneering the pop music genre in the 1980s with such hits as “Billie Jean” and “Black and White.”

“Michael Jackson crossed generational barriers and racial barriers,” Sanders said. “His music is something that brings us all together.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.

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