Nowhere does that feel more true than in the city he both loved and helped to put on the map, Minneapolis.
In many ways it feels like Prince foretold that these days would come.
“If there ain’t no justice, then there ain’t no peace,” Prince sang.
Five years later, I can’t help but reflect on what the man and the artist might have made of what’s been happening in his hometown. I imagine how heartbroken he would have been, how he probably would have taken to the streets to protest and the great art that may have come from his pain.
Minneapolis became synonymous with Prince, perhaps, against the odds.
He recounted some of his earliest encounters with racism when he was among the students bused from North Minneapolis to a predominately White elementary school in the late 1960s.
“I went to school with the rich kids who didn’t like having me there,” he recalled in his 2019 posthumous memoir, “The Beautiful Ones.” When student called him the N-word, Prince threw a punch. “I felt I had to,” he wrote.
Fame and massive success found him anyway with his debut, self-produced album “For You,” that he released in 1978 at the age of 19.
He would go on to become the architect of the “Minneapolis Sound,” which gifted the world with groups and artists including The Time, Sheila E. and super producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
His Paisley Park complex became not only his home, but a sacred space and now a tourist attraction. His longtime hairstylist and friend Kim Berry talked to me in shortly after his death in 2016 about how much Prince loved his city.
“There are homeless people walking around Minneapolis right now wearing coats from Prince and they don’t even know it,” Berry said at the time of the work the singer did through his Love 4 One Another Foundation
Prince was more public about his work for racial equality.
“Albums still matter,” he said. “Like books and Black lives, albums still matter.”
In keeping with his spiritual beliefs, Prince chose to keep his philanthropy quiet so as not to seek glory for himself.
Prince also sent money to the family of Trayvon Martin after the teen’s death sparked demonstrations and traveled to Baltimore for a concert to bring attention to Freddie Gray’s death.
The music video for his single “Baltimore” ends with a quote from Prince.
“The system is broken,” the quote reads. “It’s going to take the young people to fix it this time. We need new ideas, new life…”
None of us ever imagined that Prince wouldn’t be around to see young people trying to do just that.