3:33 PM / Thursday December 1, 2022

29 Apr 2016

Remembering The Purple One

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April 29, 2016 Category: Entertainment Posted by:

ABOVE: Prince  (AP Photo/Liu Heung Shing;  AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill;  AP Photos)

SUN editor Monica Peters and Prince’s close friend Paula Williams Madison pay tribute to the star who helped the Jena 6 defendants and Black kids in Silicon Valley

By Monica Peters

Prince through the decades, my recollections as a fan

My colleague let out a panicking scream and yelled “Monica!” 

I asked, “What happened?”

She said “Prince died.”

I didn’t believe her. I thought it was an internet hoax.   But when I saw the report on TMZ and then confirmed with a friend from the Associated Press via phone, my heart sank.

My admiration for Prince was so profound that I even copied his handwriting style when writing poetry in grade school.

As a young fan, I was extremely upset when Vanity (the late Denise Matthews) and he was no longer a pair. No more Vanity, meant no more Vanity 6.  He replaced Vanity with his new love Apollonia.

I even fantasized that I would one day be Prince’s girlfriend-and he’d give me my own girl group “Monica 6.”

I looked nothing like what Prince typically dated.  But hey, a girl can dream.

Despite the vulgarity of some Prince songs back in the day, parents let their kids listen—a nod to his talent and ability to break down generational barriers.

When Purple Rain mania hit, Prince reached a new audience and his vulgarity didn’t sit well with everyone.  It was his Darling Nikki song that prompted a former US Vice President’s wife Tipper Gore to lead efforts that resulted in Parental Advisory stickers to be placed on album covers with mature content.

And yet, we still loved everything he sang about (sticker or no sticker) — the good, bad, spiritual and yes, the raunchy.

He was so talented that no one questioned his attire during his early days of wearing women’s lingerie and high heels.

Let’s face it; we all admired the fact that Prince was different. He was a breath of fresh air. There was no one like him.  He played 12 instruments.  His talent, style and swagger made him a bonafide star for the ages. 

Ask anyone to describe the genre of Prince’s music. The answers vary from rock, punk, soul, R&B or pop.

He carried four decades of music lovers and fans on his back with lyrics of love, loneliness, family problems, spirituality, sexuality and identity.

“I’m not your woman, I’m not your man, I have a side that you’ll never comprehend,” he sang in I Would Die for You.

As kids, we would sit around and decipher the meaning to his lyrics such as the ones in his hit song Lets Go Crazy.

“We’re all gonna die. When we do, what’s it all for?”

Prince didn’t give many interviews back then so you had to connect with him through his music, his medium of choice.

He began to open up more in the 90’s it seemed.

And, even then, he opened up with a purpose and mission. The artist Prince, became the symbol. He let the world know he was a slave to his label Warner Brothers and was in a fight to get ownership of the masters of his recordings.  He won that battle, opening the doors for future artists to own their masters.

Everything Prince said or did was strategic. The way he operated left a blueprint for people to learn.

Many artists don’t have the luxury of speaking to the press or public at their leisure and still keep their relevancy in tact.  In 2000, he even required that InStyle Magazine have a Black woman journalist interview him.  When you’re as talented as Prince, you can make those demands. You can do what you want.  Simply put, Prince was the s*&t and he leveraged his power.

That journalist, Erica Kennedy, became a best-selling author with her novel Bling. She shopped her clips to InStyle Magazine only to get rejected. Prince’s request for a Black woman journalist provided that opportunity for her to write for them. [Kennedy passed away in 2012 at 42.]

I saw Prince in concert in 2004 in Philadelphia. By then he was different and seemed to be more interactive with his fans, less guarded.

In 2014, he announced he would refrain from using profanity in his music.

Prince’s close friend Paula Williams Madison remembers him and legacy of giving

I reached out to Prince’s close friend, Paula Williams Madison, to get some personal insight into the artist. Madison, a retired NBC Executive and filmmaker, had exclusive inside access to Prince’s Inglewood Forum concert in 2011for an Africa Channel documentary ‘Prince Behind the Symbol’. He even brought Madison on stage to do the bump with him.

She has more fond memories of Prince, who she calls her brother.

Paula’s favorite Prince song is “Sexy MF’er”

“Prince swore off profanity so he never performed it in the many public and private events where I was present,” said Madison.

Beyond the music, Prince was a secret philanthropist.  Madison emphasizes what Prince’s legacy must be.

“His legacy must include the fact that Prince was indeed a Black man who wanted to help Black people, said Madison.

He asked me to arrange for him to anonymously donate to help the Jena 6 defendants — and he was very generous with his financial support in that case. He’d done this in countless cases and wanted no acknowledgement, nor credit.

He was a brother who knew that his fellow Black folks needed help. He insisted that the overwhelming majority of ticket prices for his 2011 21 Nights Tour at The LA Forum be only $25.

We spent countless hours discussing the ownership of the US’ airwaves and how Black folks are disadvantaged in ownership of media — all forms of media.

He was not only a musical genius but was a learned man who read voraciously and studied movies and TV. Just know that we lost a truly Down Brother,” said Madison.

Back in Philadelphia, I was an indirect benefactor of Prince’s genius which extended its reach to Silicon Valley. He wanted Black kids to learn how to code and was the inspiration behind Van Jones’s  #YesWeCode initiative.   The idea was born out of a 2012 conversation Prince and Jones had after the klling of Trayvon Martin.

In 2014, on behalf of a tech organization in Oakland, I handled public relations for the White House’s first ever YesWeCode’s My Brother’s Keeper hackathon in Philadelphia. The hackathon brought 85 youth from underserved communities nationwide to Philly for three days to build apps for social good and compete for prizes. The hackathon was covered by a local television station and MSNBC.  We didn’t know we were recording part of Prince’s legacy.

In the words of Prince: 

“A Black kid wearing a hoodie might be seen as a thug. A White kid wearing a hoodie might be seen as a Silicon Valley genius. Let’s teach the Black kids how to be like Mark Zuckerberg.”

Since Prince’s passing, numerous stories of his secret humanitarian efforts have surfaced.

Rest in power our Prince.   We love and adore you until the end of all time.

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