“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to get through this thing called life…” galvanized Generation X.
I was sitting in a meeting when I heard the news that Prince had died. The people in my meeting were surprised at my reaction. They’re all non-white and most grew up in the deeply divided South. The values that were instilled in me are vastly different than the struggles many of the meeting participants endured growing up in the south. Today’s highly polarized and divided political environment has torn open those old wounds which has hurt us, not helped us.
When I got out of the meeting, I had a conversation with the woman in the cube next to me. She’s black and also grew up in the south. From her perspective, it was unfathomable that a white chick could be so saddened by the passing of a black entertainer like Prince. I ended the conversation with a simple statement, “You need to understand, I’m from the northern Midwest and grew up in the same region as Prince. We didn’t have separate bathrooms, ever. For us, Prince’s death is like the death of our neighbor. Prince welcomed all demographics into his world. Granted, we have some idiots and we ignore them and push them out of our way. That’s who we are. ”
I also advised her that we’ve all traveled to Minneapolis and know the stories about his shows at Paisley Park. Many were in attendance. Also, we’ve seen his impromptu concerts at his favorite club. Some passed on the opportunity, others did not. If we weren’t there, we know someone who was.
Prince was an original for most. For those of us from the region, he was just like our neighbors in many ways. Thursday ended and the media started to discover, and report, the facts about us Northern Mid-westerners and Prince’s impact on all of us.
The next day, I re-started the conversation with my cube neighbor. She was amazed at how many white people in the office had been to one of his concerts. In fact, nearly all of us had been in attendance at one point in time or another – male and female. In her words, “I was surprised at his impact here at the company. You, Sam, nearly everyone had been to a Prince concert.”
I quietly stated:
“You have to remember, Prince is our generation, Generation X. When he came onto the scene, we were all tired of the drama from the 70’s and our generation ignored the divisive politics the boomers put us through and pulled together. Democrats, Republicans, white, black, Latino, Asian – all of us were tired and, as a generation, we found common ground.
Prince also came from a region where segregation was not present – ever. It’s my region and I get it. So did Prince. Prince knew we were craving unity and he brought us together through a new sound. We ignored the idiots and came together. No other artist before Prince, or after, has been able to do this.”
She simply said, “You’re right. We did do that.”
“That’s what frustrates me about today’s political environment. We’ve allowed narratives to get in the way of what we stood for back then. We can’t continue to let this happen. We need to ignore the politicians and get them off the wedge issues. We get back to doing what we did best, moving forward as people. Not demographics.
I’ll never get the segregation that you endured as a small child. In my area, if you asked for directions to the bathroom we simply pointed to one door and said, ‘There it is’. There were not two bathrooms based on the color of your skin or religion.
Just one bathroom.
If you had to pee, pee and there’s the door.
Just one door.
That outpouring of all people in that that you see in Minneapolis right now? It’s who we are. That’s why Prince chose to live in his home state and not LA or NYC. For the most part, we don’t accept the political hang ups driven by inflammatory narratives. When crap pops up, as a community, we come together and push back on stupidity.
It’s who we are.
I’ll get off my soap box now.”
She replied, “No, you can get on that soap box anytime you want.”
When I got off work, I thought about that opening lyric and how it impacts the tone of today. Dearly beloved, we need to re-gather together to get through the rest of this thing called life.
Rest in peace, Prince. And thank you for gathering us together…