The Unifying Power of Purple

 Photo by Nicole Roof

Photo by Nicole Roof

Every state loves their hometown heroes, but this sentiment rings especially true here in Minnesota. From athletes to writers to musicians—everyone adores a public figure with Minnesota beginnings. If you are from here, you know that that love is especially fierce for the icon, Prince. No matter the extent to which you like his music, I believe all Minnesotans are born with a degree of pride and admiration for the legend. As news of his death spread on Thursday, the impact was felt around the world, but hit particularly hard here on his home turf of Minneapolis. 

The city received a quiet, steady rain all morning, which was only fitting as the news of Prince’s passing spread. The artist’s signature color purple seemed to be everywhere you looked, vibrantly standing out from the bleak gray backdrop. As the day went on and the shock and mourning transitioned into celebrations of his legacy, a rainbow broke over Paisley Park and the sun came out strong. Later, as I walked down Hennepin Avenue, the sky was a deep indigo that perfectly complemented the purple lights and the sea of people outside of First Ave. Granted I am a Minnesotan and can find a way to turn any conversation into one about weather, but the day’s patterns were too perfect to not read as a sign. For probably the first time in my life, I was grateful for Mother Nature’s unpredictability.

The weather continued to stay dry and pleasant into the night as a crowd large enough to stop traffic on at least three streets gradually assembled. From my point of view, I was looking down one of First Ave’s wall of stars towards the Target Center at the small stage The Current had set up outside the concert venue, and peeking out from the other side of the intersection I saw the Grain Belt beer logo at the bottom of a billboard. As I swayed along with thousands of strangers all belting “Purple Rain” I couldn’t help but think, “Could I be any more Minnesotan?” It would have been impossible to tally the state clichés that were taking place in that moment. At the same time, it was one of the most genuine atmospheres I have ever experienced. There were people from all different backgrounds joining as a single audience to celebrate an artistic legend. A toddler wearing head to toe purple ruffles and costume diamonds and pearls slept as her mother pushed her through the crowd singing every word to “When Doves Cry.” When the sidewalk became difficult to navigate a man in a full suit offered assistance, and together they could have been a postcard that read “Minnesota Nice.” It was unreal to see overwhelming kindness and support throughout the crowd during a time that was incredibly emotional for so many. In that moment I swear I could feel my MN roots grow stronger.

Had you asked me a year or two ago where I imagined myself in the future, I probably would have said “anywhere but here.” Minnesota suited me perfectly fine but had no strong ties keeping me here. Since I’ve lived and gone to school in Minneapolis, I’ve come to realize just how lucky I am to have lived my life here. Even beyond recent events, this community has proved that no matter the circumstance, they know just how to band together when everyone needs it most. Prince was iconic, inspiring, and beyond talented. His legacy will always be remembered, sustained, and cherished here at home.

- Nicole Roof