When King of Pop Michael Jackson Was Officially Crowned King of a Small African Nation

Michael Jackson sits with orphaned and abandoned Ivory Coast children he invited to the Intercontinental Hotel in Abidjan on February 16, 1992.
Michael Jackson sits with orphaned and abandoned Ivory Coast children he invited to the Intercontinental Hotel in Abidjan on February 16, 1992.
ISSOUF SANOGO, AFP/Getty Images

As Michael Jackson's private plane landed in Abidjan, a populous city in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), thousands of people were waiting near the tarmac, hoping to meet the superstar. But Jackson's visit that day, February 13, 1992, got off to a rocky start.

Rather than greet the crowd of government officials, journalists, and fans, Jackson held his nose as he stepped off the plane and reportedly sprinted toward a waiting limo. Although his team later claimed that the gesture was a nervous twitch, fans were disappointed that Jackson seemed to snub them. Even worse, police used batons and tear gas to attack a crowd of fans who were waiting for Jackson outside his hotel. Already-heightened tensions between police and student protestors in Abidjan may have contributed to the violence, but some media reports blamed the presence of the musician and his larger-than-life image.

Despite these setbacks, Jackson had always felt a deep connection to Africa. In a May 1992 interview with Ebony magazine, he explained how he fell in love with the continent on a trip to Senegal with the Jackson Five when he was a teenager: "Drums and sounds filled the air with rhythm. I was going crazy … This is it. This is where I come from. The origin."

Among the many stops on this February 1992 trip, Jackson's itinerary included meeting with Tanzania's president to talk about saving African elephants, receiving a medal from the president of Gabon, and visiting orphanages, hospitals, and churches. But for the biggest honor, Jackson traveled to Krindjabo, a village in the southeastern corner of Ivory Coast. There, the King of Pop became Michael Jackson Amalaman Anoh, an actual king.

In Krindjabo, the Agni people have lived in the Kingdom of Sanwi, an African region, since the mid-18th century. Based on mystic readings and possible DNA tests, a tribal chief asserted that Jackson was a descendent of Sanwi royalty and, accordingly, invited him to be crowned king-in-waiting (akin to a prince in the West).

According to NPR's Africa correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, Jackson's coronation was full of joy, dancing, and the frenetic sounds of traditional Agni drumming. Jackson put on a colorful, traditional toga-style cloth and sat on a golden stool under a sacred tree. Agni chiefs and elders took turns crowning him and chanting, and villagers drummed and topless women danced to celebrate Jackson's coronation as Chief of the Agni and King of the Sanwi.

 

After he was crowned, Jackson gave his thanks in French and English, then he signed documents to make his coronation official.

But Jackson's ties to the Kingdom of Sanwi didn't end there. As Sanwi beliefs dictate, when Jackson was crowned he became the spiritual son of King Nana Amon Ndoufou IV, a Sanwi leader who participated in Jackson's coronation. In 1995, Jackson invited Ndoufou to his home in Los Angeles, and for four days, Jackson and his then-wife Lisa Marie Presley hosted Ndoufou. On his trip, Ndoufou also met attorney Johnnie Cochran, and Jackson took him to Universal Studios.

Young child in Krindjabo, Ivory Coast, wearing a hat memorializing Michael Jackson following his death.
A young child wears a hat memorializing Michael Jackson, which reads "Sanwi African region will not forget you," on August 1, 2009 in Krindjabo, an Ivory Coast village where Jackson was crowned king in 1992.
KAMBOU SIA, AFP/Getty Images

Jackson's unexpected death in 2009 spurred the Sanwi Kingdom to hold a two-day royal funeral for their king. Dancers, Jackson lookalikes, and more than 1000 villagers gathered to mourn. Tribe members asked Jackson's family for his body, hoping they could give him a royal burial, but Jackson was ultimately interred in Southern California. Sanwi chiefs eventually found a successor for Jackson's crown—minister and politician Jesse Jackson.

Asked how it felt to be a real king—a title perhaps even harder to obtain than his still-relevant King of Pop honorific—Jackson remained humble. "I never try to think hard about it because I don't want it to go to my head," he told Ebony. "But, it's a great honor."

Netflix's Stranger Things Season 3 Video Is Full of Easter Eggs You Might Have Missed

Joe Keery, Maya Hawke, Priah Ferguson, and Gaten Matarazzo in Stranger Things.
Joe Keery, Maya Hawke, Priah Ferguson, and Gaten Matarazzo in Stranger Things.
Netflix

Stranger Things's third season was full of many surprising twists and turns, not to mention some awkward teen romances. While the gruesome Mind Flayer and the evil Russians were no doubt terrifying, the show kept its sweet touch of nostalgia due mainly to the fact that the Hawkins gang is now smack-dab in the middle of the 1980s.

It doesn’t take a keen eye to see many of the series's '80s references, particularly in the latest season. With scenes taking place at the new mall, references from the decade—including Hot Dog on a Stick, Sam Goody, and Back to the Future—are all part of the setting. However, creators Ross and Matt Duffer wanted to pay true homage to the decade, and thus left Easter eggs throughout the season that you likely missed.

Luckily for us, as BGR reports, Netflix has just released a video explaining the hidden references (with the New Coke debate, Mrs. Wheeler’s erotica novel, and Hopper’s Tom Selleck-inspired Hawaiian shirt among some of our favorites).

Check out the full video above and see what you missed!

[h/t BGR]

10 Out of This World Facts About Area 51

Nevada's Groom Lake Road, near Area 51.
Nevada's Groom Lake Road, near Area 51.
Robert Heinst/iStock via Getty Images

Though it's officially a a flight testing facility, the Nevada-based Area 51 has been associated with alien sightings and secret government studies for decades, and accounts of extraterrestrial sightings have sparked public imagination and conspiracy theories worldwide. Here are a few facts you might not already know about Area 51.

1. Area 51's existence wasn't officially acknowledged by the U.S. government until 2013.

Although it was chosen as a site to test aircraft in 1955, the government did not acknowledge that Area 51 even existed until 2013. According to CNN, maps and other documents created by the CIA were released thanks to Jeffrey T. Richelson, a senior fellow at the National Security Archives, who was granted access to the documents under the Freedom of Information Act. Unfortunately, the papers made no mention of little green men running around the facility.

2. We still don't really know why it's called Area 51.

Out of all the things we don't know about Area 51, Encyclopedia Britannica says that the one for-certain uncertainty about the zone is its name. Like everything else involving the site, the theories are out there: A video published by Business Insider suggests the name stems from the location's proximity to nuclear test sites that were divided into numerically-designated areas.

3. Area 51 is still expanding.

Area 51 has been growing, something which true believers may attribute to the need for more UFO parking spaces. Business Insider points out that satellite imagery of Area 51 displays significant construction within the area between 1984 and 2016, including new runways and hangars. BI posits that this could mean the B-21 Raider stealth bomber is being tested at the site—"or this is what they want us to believe."

4. The Moon landings were supposedly faked at Area 51.

One of the bigger conspiracy theories out there not only questions the authenticity of the 1969 moon landing, but claims it was staged at Area 51. Bill Kaysing—author of We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle—believes NASA officials filmed the fake landing within the base, brainwashed the astronauts, and used lunar meteorites picked up in Antarctica as a stand-in for moon rocks.

5. The first UFO "sightings" in Area 51 were easily explained.

Unidentified Flying Object UFO
ktsimage/istock via getty images plus

In its early years, Area 51 was used to test U-2 planes—which flew at altitudes higher than 60,000 feet—in an area far from civilians and spies. During these tests, pilots flying commercial aircraft at 10,000 to 20,000 feet would detect the planes far above them, completely in the dark about the government’s project. Hence sightings of unidentified objects were reported when in reality it was a military plane ... unless that’s what they want you to think.

6. Area 51 employees might travel to work via plane.

Those who work at Area 51 appear to have a pretty sweet commuter transportation program. According to USA Today, employees board unmarked aircraft at the McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas which ferries them to and from an undisclosed location. Referred to as “Janet” due to its call sign—which some say stands for “Just Another Non-Existent Terminal”—the exact destination of the Boeing 737-600s is officially unknown, though some speculate that the planes go to Area 51 and other top-secret locations. A former posting for an open flight attendant position stated applicants “must be level-headed and clear thinking while handling unusual incidents and situations,” but didn't mention any encounters of the third kind.

7. Former Area 51 employees who were sworn to secrecy are opening up about their work there.

Some former employees who were once sworn to secrecy about what happened at Area 51 are now free to share their stories. One Area 51 veteran, James Noce, recalled handling various mishaps that were accidentally exposed to the public eye—for example, the crash of a secret aircraft that was witnessed by a police officer and a vacationing family. The family had taken photos; Noce confiscated the film from their camera and told the family and the deputy not to mention the crash to anyone.

Noce recounted how there was no official documentation stating he worked at Area 51, and that his salary was paid in cash. He also confirmed that he never saw any alien activity at the site.

8. Area 51 employees once took the facility to court over hazardous working conditions.

In the 1990s, Jonathan Turley—a lawyer and professor at George Washington University—was approached by workers from Area 51 who claimed exposure to the site’s hazardous materials and waste was making them sick. In an article for the Los Angeles Times, Turley wrote that the workers "described how the government had placed discarded equipment and hazardous waste in open trenches the length of football fields, then doused them with jet fuel and set them on fire. The highly toxic smoke blowing through the desert base was known as 'London fog' by workers. Many came down with classic skin and respiratory illnesses associated with exposure to burning hazardous waste. A chief aim of the lawsuits was to discover exactly what the workers had been exposed to so they could get appropriate medical care."

According to Turley, "we prevailed in demonstrating that the government had acted in violation of federal law. However, the government refused to declassify information about what it had burned in the trenches, which meant that workers (and their doctors) still didn’t know what they had been exposed to. The government also refused to acknowledge the name of the base. The burning at Area 51 was in all likelihood a federal crime. But the government escaped responsibility by hiding behind secrecy[.]"

9. The best place for UFO-spotting near Area 51 is supposedly by a mailbox.

According to one person who claims to have worked in Area 51 and to have seen alien technology there (whose "claims about his education and employment could not be verified," according to How Stuff Works, which raises doubts about his credibility), there's one spot in particular where he would bring people to see scheduled UFO flights: The Black Mailbox, an unassuming pair of mailboxes which is apparently a hotspot for alien action (they're located about 12 miles from Area 51). It was originally a single black box for owner Steve Medlin's mail, but as people who wanted to believe began to tamper with and destroy that mail (and pop in letters to aliens), Medlin was forced to put another mailbox labeled “Alien” beneath it to appease visitors and to preserve his own post.

10. It's impossible to sneak into Area 51 without being spotted—and use of deadly force is authorized if anyone tries to evade security.

Given the intense nature of its secrecy, it comes as no surprise that Area 51 is heavily guarded. Pilots who purposefully fly into the restricted air zone can face court-martial, dishonorable discharge, and a stint in the can. The land is patrolled by “cammo dudes,” men wearing camouflage that have been seen driving around the area keeping an eye out for pesky civilians looking to break into the area. But truth-seekers, beware: Signs placed outside the area warn that Area 51 security is authorized to use deadly force on anyone looking to sneak onto the property.

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