The Loss of Prince: The Loss of a Social Activist and a Part of Us

Print Share on LinkedIn More
Prince

By pennerhttp://flickr.com/photos/penner/2450784866, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4271027

April 21, 2016; CBS News

“Does anybody hear us pray?/For Michael Brown or Freddie Gray/Peace is more than the absence of war/Are we gonna see another bloody day?”

—“Baltimore,” Prince

Yesterday, Prince was found dead at his home. Coincidentally, this week also marks the one-year anniversary of Freddie Gray’s death. As we mourn the death of Prince, it is worth remembering not just his phenomenal musicianship, but also his social conscience, which was often focused on the lives of young people of color.

His music video for “Baltimore” features #BlackLivesMatter protesters across the country chanting “If there ain’t no justice, then there ain’t no peace!” and Michael Brown’s mom smiling at his “Rally 4 Peace” benefit concert in Baltimore. The proceeds of that were dedicated to local youth-based charities and concertgoers described that event as “just what Baltimore needed to heal.”

As CBS news reports, Prince’s social conscience and advocacy for peace was always there, His 1981 “Ronnie, Talk to Russia” entreated President Reagan, “Ronnie, talk to Russia before it’s too late/Before they blow up the world.” In 2010, he addressed income inequality in “Ol’ Skool Company,” singing,

Everybody’s talkin’ about hard times

Like it just started yesterday.

People I know they’ve been strugglin’

At least it seems the way.

Fat cats on Wall Street

They got a bailout

While somebody else got to wait.

700 billion but my old neighborhood—

ain’t nothing changed but the date.

In 2011, he donated $1 million to the Harlem Children’s Zone.

Let’s then remember these words as we see Prince out of this world. “The system is broken. It’s going to take young people to fix it this time. We need new ideas, new life.”—Ruth McCambridge