How often is it said that we, as a family, only come together for funerals? We must celebrate each other when we are alive — this was the common theme at Sabathani Community Center’s block party celebration honoring Prince, Saturday, April 30.
At least a thousand were in attendance, divided between the family health fair and music stage. Prince attended Sabathani, formerly Bryant Junior High, in the mid-70s.
“We have come together today as a cathartic release as we mourn the loss of one of our own, Prince. Prince was mentored by this community” stated Seward Co-op Community Engagement Manager, LaDonna Redmond. “His childhood was spent in this area. It seemed only fitting to bring the community together.”
Redmond recalled that the rallying cry for the event celebrating Prince as a part of South Minneapolis was the result of a collaborative effort between herself and fellow community activist, and Sabathani Community Center Executive Director, Cindy Booker.
Redmond’s light bulb moment came about as she attended events celebrating the life of the late entertainer and saw that most were for adults. She wanted to have a celebration that brought families together and allowed children to display their talent. She stated, “I wanted to recognize his upbringing and his relationship with his community.”
Consequently, planners dedicated the first hour to children performers. Attendees were treated to Voice of Culture drums and African Dancers, Brooklyn Center Drum Corp, soloists, line dancers and Tamiko French Alumni dance performers from one of Prince’s former schools, North High, to name a few. Also among the performers was indie musical talent Lexee Crystal Harris who honored Prince with the song “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan.
Local KMOJ radio personalities, Q Bear and Anthony Richie both served as masters of ceremony. They were equally lively and entertaining, keeping the large crowd dancing and swaying to Prince classics like “Raspberry Beret” and “Little Red Corvette.” Rapper Flavor Flav was also in attendance, as were local favorites The Sounds of Blackness, and Prince’s sister Tyka Nelson.
Booker recounted that Prince grew up in this community, he was cultivated in this community, and he was loved by this community. “Prince, he was groomed by local artists and musical talent from South Minneapolis like Bobby Lyle, Sonny Thompson, Spike Carl and The Way Opportunities Unlimited and others,” said Booker.
For this reason, Sabathani Community Center features Prince in its displays for both sports (he played on the Bryant basketball team) and music accomplishments (among other trophy cabinets with accolades from local high-achieving residents who gave back to the community).
Sabathani has survived six different location changes over the years, coming to rest in its current location when Bryant Junior High closed its doors in 1978. Currently, Booker stated that Sabathani serves over 400 children, operating a food bank that provides nutritional food to feed families in need, and health services to lessen health disparities.
Keeping the local musical legacy alive was a common theme from speakers who knew Prince personally, like Bobby Jo Champion, senator from North Minneapolis. “Let’s put tools in place for our children so that his music legacy moves on through our children,” said Champion.
“This is a celebration of what we have been through as a community. We are here to share and support music in the community. We may have an icon among us.”
Patricia Ross welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
See more photos by Steve Floyd below: