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Fort Greene Goes Purple: Prince Fans Remember Legend at Spike Lee’s Block Party

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The hundreds of people who gathered outside of the 40 Acres and a Mule headquarters in Fort Greene on Thursday night didn’t plan on doing so a couple of hours earlier. Your schedule changes and the world stops when someone like Prince passes away. When the news broke, nine-to-fivers were coming back from lunch, only to spend the next hour fighting back tears. The Purple One’s death immediately made everyday goings-on mundane. So, for many, Spike Lee’s impromptu dance party was worth more than an “I may swing by. I’ll see what I can do.”

The 40 Acres block party was part of a day of New York tributes that included a memorial at the Apollo and ?uestlove’s set at Brooklyn Bowl. Fort Greene marked the transition from a day of mourning to a night of celebration. Everybody has their own experiences with Prince; he soundtracked everything from sexual self-realization to a distant childhood. He was a shared experience, too. The night ended with a singalong to “Purple Rain,” a moment of musical transcendence that’s universally felt in 2016. Lee captured that in the Instagram post you see above.

Lee’s viewpoint showed how towering of an icon Prince was. Speaking to the individuals in that photo showed the multitudes he represented. Read what those fans had to say below.

Fredara Hadley, 36, Professor

CREDIT: Author

Where were you when you heard about Prince’s death and how did you react?
In the worst place possible. I was in a Cleveland airport surrounded by business people trying to go through the TSA guy and the guy was asking me for my license. But the breaking news alert came across my phone while I was trying to get my boarding pass, and he kept trying to talk to me but it wasn’t processing. Then finally I was like, “Prince died!” I yelled at the guy and he’s like, “Yo, I need your license.” It’s like, “Do you understand?” All I can think was, “I just need to get on this plane back to New York, so I can get on the M60 bus and go to the Apollo.” I just needed to be around people who felt the same way about Prince.

What’s your favorite Prince song?
I’ll tell you my Prince theme song. My theme song is “Baby I’m a Star,” because that’s how I feel about my life. But my favorite Prince song is “The Beautiful Ones.” I heard it today and spontaneously combusted into tears. It’s just a really powerful song. I felt the same way when I heard “Human Nature” after Michael Jackson died.

What’s Prince’s legacy to you?
I can’t believe I’m going to quote Justin Timberlake on this, but he said that this artist is once in forever. Prince really was once in forever. I just taught about him in class this week, and the lecture wasn’t even about Prince. He’s one of the best guitarists the world has seen. He’s a helluva songwriter and a helluva producer. If you ever want to talk about pure musical genius, I feel like all of that is Prince. And he’s still black as hell and regular as hell, and I love that about him.

When he did the Super Bowl performance in Miami a few years back, he wanted our band [Florida A&M University] to perform Purple Rain with him at the halftime show. He could’ve picked any band, but he picked an HBCU band that maybe a lot of people haven’t heard of. It doesn’t get anymore political or black than that. So for people to say that [being pro-black] wasn’t a really a thing for him, I call bulls**t on that.

Aaron Benoit, 34, Teacher

CREDIT: Author

Where were you when you heard about Prince’s death and how did you react?
I was out to lunch and then I got this text message and searched for that TMZ article. And then I had a lot of feelings about it. It felt like after David Bowie, that this was too soon. There’s nobody else like him. A lot of other artists have done some of their best work trying to be like him: Beck’s Midnite Vultures or André 3000’s The Love Below.

What’s your favorite Prince song?
“Purple Rain.” Back in college, riding around to that song, it just holds a special place in my heart.

What’s Prince’s legacy to you?
There’s a lot of people who’re willing to explorative about music and who they are.

Hasani Douglas, 22, Student

CREDIT: Author

Where were you when you heard about Prince’s death and how did you react?
I was in school. I was on Facebook and a friend was like, “Yo, RIP to Prince.” I was like, “Nah, Prince didn’t die.” So, I had to look on Google and check it out for myself. I saw that Prince really did pass.

What’s your favorite Prince song?
The one where he’s talking about the beret and the Corvette. [Ed. Note: “Raspberry Beret” and/or “Little Red Corvette”]

What’s Prince’s legacy to you?
He’s done a lot of different things. He goes beyond the music. I know I was reading how there was this program helping girls learn how to code, and he was sponsoring that. His legacy goes deeper than music.

Chaédria LaBouvier, 30, Writer

CREDIT: Author

Where were you when you heard about Prince’s death and how did you react?
I was at the nail salon and I couldn’t believe it. Someone who I was supposed to be meeting was like, “Prince died,” and then I went onto TMZ. I was so distraught. I told my nail technician and she was like, “What?” I was devastated. I grew up in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, so he’s the soundtrack of that period for me with Michael and Whitney. It’s just been a tough year for icons.

What’s your favorite Prince song?
I remember traveling across Europe for the fist time and I had in my CD player “Thieves in the Temple”… I know it’s not popular but I love that one.

What’s Prince’s legacy to you?
As a black woman, I take his legacy to be that you’re not defined by what people think you can be. He was so many things that people didn’t think that black people were. He was non-gender conforming in a way. He blurred the lines of masculinity and femininity. He was so “weird,” but in that, he was so totally black. And I just think that radicalism of individuality is the biggest takeaway for me.

Meredith Dank, 38, Criminologist

CREDIT: Author

Where were you when you heard about Prince’s death and how did you react?
I was working from home. I stream my radio station from Seattle.  They announced there was a body at Paisley Park, so I checked and refreshed the news every five seconds. I was by myself, which is really depressing, so I texted, like, 20 people so they could be depressed like me.

What’s your favorite Prince song?
We just had a Prince dance party at the bar we just came from, so there’s “I Would Die 4 U.” There’s “Little Red Corvette.” The classics.

What’s Prince’s legacy to you?
He was still performing until the end and you can’t say that for a lot of icons. So I think he was really prolific and super-talented. He wrote a lot of songs that people don’t realize that he wrote, like “Manic Monday.” He crossed over race and gender fluidity. That’s the biggest legacy.

Glen Ettienne, 47, Hairstylist

CREDIT: Author

Where were you when you heard about Prince’s death and how did you react?
I was at work, and I was so shocked because I didn’t know anything about him being ill. So it really caught me off guard. I always considered myself to be a big Prince fan. I’ve been to two of his shows. His first show was so amazing that I haven’t paid to see another person perform. When I went to the second show, it was just f**king amazing again.

What’s your favorite Prince song?
It changes, but tonight it’s “Purple Rain” — because at a concert, he’d stretch that thing out to 15 minutes just rocking it out.

What’s Prince’s legacy to you?
He played all his instruments. I guess he’s just a straight-up genius. I don’t know what else you can say.

Shunteisha Patterson, 34, Chef

CREDIT: Credit

Where were you when you heard about Prince’s death and how did you react?
I couldn’t believe it, because Chyna died, too. And [Doris Roberts] died earlier this week.

What’s your favorite Prince song?
“When Doves Cry.” Because maybe I’m just like my mother — she’s never satisfied. And maybe I’m just like my father — too bold.

What’s Prince’s legacy to you?
His prettiness. Everybody thought he was pretty. Even the guys — they couldn’t look him in his eyes because they would’ve turned.

Zaire Baptiste, 38, Freelance TV/Film Producer

CREDIT: Author

Where were you when you heard about Prince’s death and how did you react?
I think I was in the car driving, and when I heard it, I didn’t believe it at first. Hearing it stung me — I feel like we’re losing all the people that we need. I don’t think we have anybody to replace him.

What’s your favorite Prince song?
“Let’s Go Crazy.” I just came from a show tonight and I did a Prince tribute. So I played everything from “Purple Rain” to “When Doves Cry” to “1999.” Those are timeless songs right there.

What’s Prince’s legacy to you?
I think Prince’s legacy is two-fold as an artist and a businessman. Prince showed people that record companies aren’t necessary, how to be a business yourself, and how to be an artist. I think that’s a huge key. He’s the blueprint for not only musicians but people of color. People who’ve been disenfranchised can take control of the things they create.

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