What Does 'Leaving Neverland' Mean For Jax’s Michael Jackson Music Scholarship Fund?

Mar 22, 2019

HBO released the documentary Leaving Neverland in early March detailing child sex abuse allegations against Michael Jackson. 

Since then, radio stations have pulled his music, an episode of The Simpsons starring the late singer has been removed from circulation and sales of his music have plummeted, but a city-run music scholarship funded by the so-called “King of Pop” remains untouched.

Related: Michael Jackson: A Quarter-Century Of Sexual Abuse Allegations

When Michael Jackson performed at the old Gator Bowl, now the site of TIAA Bank Field, in July of 1984 as part of his Victory Tour, he donated $100,000 to Jacksonville so the city could set up a trust fund for music scholarships. Since then, money from that fund has been used to grant more than 50 scholarships to Duval County students.

Cyriac Adjevi was one of four college freshmen who benefitted from the scholarship last year.

Related: Jacksonville College Students Benefit From Michael Jackson’s Music Scholarship Fund

Adjevi told WJCT he comes from a large musical family. He has two brothers and a sister. It was his sister who started singing first.

Adjevi recalled she joined a children’s choir when he was in second grade.

“In that children’s choir they had snacks,” he said. “I wanted some candy, so the choir director said I had to sing in order to get some candy. So I thought, ‘OK. It’s a win win.’ So I went in choir and I sang, and there was just something natural. It felt natural.”

Adjevi said when he started singing for his parents they immediately knew he had talent.

“I never really imagined it [music] to be such a big deal for my life,” he said. “When it comes to music, I don’t see myself doing anything other than that.”

Now he’s studying Music Education at Jacksonville University. Once he graduates, Adjevi plans to go to Florida State University for a Master’s in Music Therapy. He hopes to one day be a choir director at a high school in Jacksonville or another big city.

Adjevi said getting the Michael Jackson music scholarship was a big surprise. He never applied for it and was never even told he should.

“I was just told, straight up, that I got the Michael Jackson scholarship,” he said.

And, Adjevi said, if it weren’t for this scholarship he might not have been able to afford college.

“I wouldn’t have been going to school if it weren’t for this scholarship,” he said. “Money was obviously tight at that time, but thanks to this scholarship, now I’m actually in school and I’m finishing my second semester of college.”

Adjevi said he’s been aware of sexual abuse allegations against Michael Jackson for as long as he can remember. And while he believes Jackson’s accusers when they describe what they claim happened to them as boys, Adjevi said he’s still able to separate that from the music.

“The things that he’s done, it may be messed up,” he said. “But the message that he’s trying to give out on his music, it doesn’t change the fact that it could still inspire people, to this day.”

Adjevi said Jackson may very well have done some terrible things, but he also did some great things that shouldn’t be negated or ignored, including this scholarship which is allowing Adjevi to pursue his own dreams.

A spokesperson for Jacksonville’s Kids Hope alliance said administrators have no plans to discuss or make changes to the Michael Jackson music scholarship, and any changes would have to be approved by the City Council.

When asked if he thought the city should make any changes to the scholarship, Adjevi replied, “absolutely not.”

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.