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Peaceful protest through performance

“If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.”

Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” challenges listeners to make themselves better people in order to help change the world as a whole. Amidst protests, riots, and looting last Monday, Baltimore native Dimitri Reeves used his own artistic talents to spread some of Jackson’s most powerful messages.

Reeves was first spotted by CNN’s helicopters as he danced on top of a yellow delivery truck with Jackson’s “Will You Be There” playing in the background. Protesters near Reeves took a break from feeling pain and sadness after the funeral of Freddie Gray, in order to stop and watch Reeves’ performance.

“I just wanted to spread positivity,” said Reeves. “I thought about how everyone was burning stuff…I thought, let’s be positive.”

Racial tension and civil unrest have dominated American media for the past three years due to high-profile cases involving the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and now Freddie Gray. Although many community leaders joined together to protect, repair, and rebuild parts of the community during the Ferguson unrest, those positive efforts were over shadowed by traditional media’s portrayal of conflict and tension.

Protest

During Monday’s rioting in Baltimore, preachers walked hand-in-hand singing gospel music to calm crowds down. Elder community members told some of the angry youths to turn around and go home. Dimitri Reeves turned up the music and danced.

“I felt like Batman,” stated Reeves. “I had to make a difference.”

Reeves and his manager Vaughan Mason have been using this form of peaceful performance protesting since the Ferguson unrest in 2014. Travelling as far as Gary, Indiana; Reeves and Mason began targeting street corners in rough neighborhoods to spread positivity. When Mason saw how Reeves brought together members of impoverished communities and rival gangs, he convinced the recording artist to take a break from producing his own music to perform Michael Jackson tributes.

Reeves recounts performing to “Man in the Mirror” and “Beat It” directly in the middle Monday evening’s chaos in Baltimore.

“At one point, I looked to my left and saw a line of police. I looked to my right and saw a burning building…literally…a burning building. Then I looked straight ahead of me and saw a group of people running towards me. They were dancing and singing with me. The police actually moved back and gave us a little space to sing and dance.”

People who witnessed Reeves’ performances took pictures and videos that can now be found on social media. Reeves’ Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook have been flooded with positive reinforcement from fans.


Reeves feels both empowered and humbled by the positive attention his performances have received.

“I don’t know. I almost cried. I saw how people heard Michael Jackson’s ‘You Are Not Alone’ and ‘Man in the Mirror’ and started marching towards us. It was just so beautiful to watch. Dancing… having a good time…being moved by the music.”


At the end of our interview, Reeves wanted to leave me with one thing to share with the world:

“If I could tell the people one thing, it would be to think. Stop and think. When we’re mad, we all do or say certain things…but when we calm down, we say ‘…I shouldn’t have done that…’ Just stop and think.”

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