My final statement on Prince. (I swear)
This is very personal. I am only speaking for me and my experience.
Identity can be summed up in a single sentence, “What am I am supposed to be?”
And the answer to that question, “What am I supposed to be?” comes from our parents, and even the culture surrounding us.
Just because they offer you an answer, that doesn’t mean that answer is correct.
But regardless, there is always a tremendous amount of pressure to meet with that identity expectation or risk being rejected.
I was an adult before I realized that not everyone black felt the pressure I felt growing up.
I liken it to gravity.
We are only aware of the force of gravity when we are fighting against it.
You only feel the pressure that I felt, if, for whatever reason, you aren’t meeting the expectation.
I have always had close friends that were from all different races.
And there were always people within my circle (whether I wanted them to be or not) that disapproved of having ANY friendships with people that weren’t black.
I have always been attracted to girls I went to school with that were of all shades, colors, ethnicities, races etc.
And there were always people within my circle who disapproved of that as well.
My musical tastes have always extended beyond R&B, soul, funk, reggae.
And there were always people within my circle that disapproved of me listening to anything that wasn’t being played on WJLB or WJZZ.
I have always felt pressure to “talk” a certain way. If I didn’t, and I got ridiculed for “talking white”, there were always those in my life who had little interest in consoling me afterwards.
So you could say that all of my life I have felt the effects of gravity.
The reason Prince was so special to me was not just because of his music, but because I assumed that he felt the pull of gravity like I did, but he didn’t show it.
In fact, when I was first introduced to Prince he was already sitting in a rocket that had reached escape velocity.
He floated around weightless. Moving as he saw fit. In any direction he wanted.
Prince wasn’t trying to escape being black.
And neither was I.
Prince had seemingly transcended the limitations of what strictly meeting those expectations would allow you to be and to experience in life.
And that is all I ever wanted for myself.
So the reason Prince was so special to me was because Prince showed me that it is perfectly OK to be authentic.
Because I LOVE the Beatles doesn’t mean that I can’t also love The Gap Band.
I could listen to Devo, Thomas Dolby and Kraftwerk and Parliment Funkadelic.
I can be married to a white woman and still be passionate about Black history and speaking out against systemic injustices that affect the black community.
There was no rule that said that I had to choose ONE or the other.
Regardless of what anyone said.
Prince showed me that if I conformed to someone else’s expectations of who I’m supposed to be, then I would have no one to blame for the consequences of doing so, because he was living proof that there was another choice.
Prince’s gift to me wasn’t just his music but what he taught me.
His greatest gift was showing me not to let anyone tell me how to be me.