In front of the Minnesota state capitol building in St. Paul stands a statue of Christopher Columbus that some Minnesota residents believe should be removed. Nationwide calls for the removal of Confederate statues and monuments have prompted residents of cities across America to debate whether Christopher Columbus statues should also be taken down due to concerns over Columbus’s treatment of native inhabitants he encountered when his ships landed in the Caribbean in the late 15th century.
One group of activists, led by Minnesota community organizer Wintana Melekin, has begun circulating a petition to replace the statue of Christopher Columbus thjat was placed in front of the Minnesota state capitol building in 1931, with a statue of Prince Rogers Nelson, the deceased rocker known to the world simply as Prince.
According to Watch the Yard, Melekin believes that a statue of Prince, one of the most famous and revered Minnesotans of all time, would be more representative of the values that people in her state hold dear than a statue of Columbus, a man who never even set foot in Minnesota.
“I spend a lot of time at our State Capitol,” Melekin said. “It’s a space that already does not feel inviting or inclusive to communities of color. So to see Columbus every day in front of the building does not make it feel more welcoming. So I put the petition together because I wanted to see someone, Prince, at the capitol because he represents a part of Minnesota that we are all proud of.”
Melekin went on to explain that the statue of Christopher Columbus is a symbol of white supremacy and that Minnesota can set an example for the rest of the nation by replacing the Columbus statue with a statue of Prince.
“The replacement of Columbus is about the deep history of white supremacy and colonialism in the United States and the need for Minnesota to lead the country in this moment,” Melekin said. “Plus we all know Prince is a genius and who wouldn’t pick him over Columbus anyway.”
The petition, which, as of this writing, has 2,569 of the requested 3,000 signatures needed before it will be passed along to Governor Mark Dayton and the Minnesota State Legislature, declares why its creators and signers feel it is important.
“Prince represents Minnesota values and Columbus does not,” the petition says.
People from outside Minnesota may not realize how important Prince is to that state. Born in Minneapolis in 1958, Prince got his start playing in clubs around Minneapolis, and unlike many stars who rise to worldwide fame, he never forgot his roots and maintained a home in Minnesota until his death in April of 2016. According to the Star Tribune, fans flocked to Minneapolis on the one year anniversary of Prince’s death in April of this year, where murals and tributes could be seen all around the city.
While there may be some resistance to the idea of a statue of Prince in front of the Minnesota state capitol building, fans of Prince in Minnesota and beyond will not soon forget the music legend who gave us songs like “Purple Rain,” “When Doves Cry,” and “1999.” With an official statue in his honor or not, the mark Prince has left on Minnesota is certain to endure.
[Featured Image by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images]