Prince is gone, but his legacy continues to grow in the hearts of his fellow Minnesotans.
That was the message repeated time and again Saturday in south Minneapolis, where a sea of purple-clad fans congregated to celebrate the man, his music and his contributions to the black community.
The sprawling block party, hosted by the Sabathani Community Center, highlighted a second weekend of heartfelt tributes to Minnesota’s megastar, who died April 21 at his home at Paisley Park in Chanhassen at age 57.
Everyone had a Prince story to share. About the time his performance at the old Met Stadium in Bloomington changed their life. The time they spotted him casually riding a bike downtown. Or the time his lyrics taught them how to speak to a girl.
“He was of us and we are of him,” Mayor Betsy Hodges told the crowd.
The Sabathani site had special resonance because it once housed Bryant Junior High, where Prince went to middle school.
People of all ages and races cheered as they watched singers, dancers and speakers. Among those performing were Ray Seville and the Sounds of Blackness, along with lively drum corps and hip-hop artists, many of them children.
Lois Taylor, 59, of Minneapolis, bopped to the rhythm while wearing a purple jumpsuit. She described a special connection with Prince, whom she knew before he found fame.
Back in the 1970s, Taylor’s younger sister attended Central High School with Prince, and the young people would hang out together after class. He was well into his music by junior year, playing multiple instruments.
And in his free time, she said, Prince enjoyed roller-skating around Lake Calhoun — in tiny track shorts.
“That’s how I remember him — rags to riches,” said Taylor. “He was just such a humble person. I don’t think his ego got in the way. That says a lot about his character.”
Authorities have said Prince was alone when he died in an elevator at Paisley Park, and that neither foul play nor suicide is suspected. Sources have told the Star Tribune that investigators are examining the role opioids may have played in his death.
Prince’s body was cremated last week, and a private memorial service was held at Paisley Park.
‘He chose to stay here’
Vendors selling Prince memorabilia lined the block, along with food trucks and artists. Robert Coleman worked simultaneously on three paintings of Prince as gawkers admired his art.
Gretta Webber, 16, stopped to talk with Coleman about their mutual love for the musician, who she said made her feel proud to live in Minnesota.
“You always felt a special unity with him,” she said. “He chose to stay here when he didn’t have to.”
A surprise appearance by Flavor Flav, former frontman for Public Enemy, fired up the crowd. The rapper, toting his signature clock necklace, took a few minutes to reflect on Prince’s legacy before performing one song.
“Death is a part of life that we have no control over,” Flav said. “God needed an extra angel.”
Hundreds of fans swayed when the DJ played “Purple Rain,” some growing emotional. Others expressed regret that they’d missed the opportunity to see Prince live.
But all agreed he was the real deal — a man people respected and whom they were proud to call their own.
“He was loved in Minnesota — from all races of people, all walks of life,” Taylor said. “And we can see that today.”
Liz Sawyer • 612-673-4648