Prince’s legacy in social and black activism is not as well-known as his musical genius. He appeared last year on the 57th Grammy Awards show rockin’ an afro and making a statement about music and black lives.
By articulating his stance before announcing an award winner, he made everyone aware that he was not only a pop icon but also an aware black activist, per Billboard.
“Albums still matter. Like books and black lives, albums still matter. Tonight and always.”
“The Purple One” went about doing good in his quiet, unassuming manner and didn’t want anyone to know. He contacted Rev. Al Sharpton when Trayvon Martin was killed and sent money to his family. No one learned of this until after the artist’s death because he didn’t want anyone to know. Sharpton said there were many causes Prince graciously supported, noted MSNBC.
— Newsweek (@Newsweek) April 25, 2016
He was also concerned about the death of Baltimore’s Freddie Gray, who suffered a spinal cord injury and died while in police custody. Prince freely gave of his talents, holding three fundraising concerts in the city and writing a song that referenced Gray and Ferguson’s Michael Brown.
“Nobody got in nobody’s way
So I guess you could say it was a good day
At least a little better than the day in Baltimore
Does anybody hear us pray
For Michael Brown or Freddie Gray?
Peace is more than the absence of war
Absence of war”
“His Royal Highness’s” first experience as a black activist was when he took on Warner Bros. Records over it stopping him from having creative control over his music. His battle went on for years, and he refused to use the name Prince and changed it to an unpronounceable symbol.
He began scrawling the word “slave” on his face and explained that a slave was someone who had to do what someone else wanted him to do and couldn’t freely express himself. The media, not knowing what to call him, finally dubbed him as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.” Eventually, he was freed from his contract and resumed using his given name, Prince. But the battle he waged not only helped him but future artists of all ethnicities.
— sam hammond (@CptScarletSIG) April 22, 2016
Although Prince was a multi-millionaire and could have lived wherever he wanted, he chose to live in Chanhassen, Minnesota, close to his hometown of Minneapolis. Being a private person didn’t stop him from mingling with the locals, supporting their businesses and giving parties at his Paisley Park Studios with a $10 cover charge, which made it affordable.
Heather McElhatton, a Minneapolis local who worked on video shoots at Paisley Park in the 1980s said Prince could have chosen any location for a studio but chose to stay in Minneapolis, noted the Big Story AP.
“He could have put Paisley Park anywhere. He could have put it on the moon and musicians would have rocketed up to record with him. He never lost touch with who he was or his roots.”
“The Man Formerly Known As A Symbol” was also a vegan who advocated for animal rights. He once said there should be an animal rights activism day when all the slaughterhouses closed down. He also wrote a song entitled “Animal Kingdom,” which he donated to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). In 2006, he was awarded PETA’s sexiest vegetarian award, per the PETA Blog.
“No member of the animal kingdom nurses past maturity
No member of the animal kingdom ever did a thing to me
It’s why I don’t eat red meat or white fish
Don’t give me no blue cheese
We’re all members of the animal kingdom
Leave your brothers and sisters in the sea”
Many stories have surfaced since his death on what he did to help others. He did it without any fanfare, so few knew of his involvement.
[Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]