Dancing with Spike Lee at His Prince Tribute Party
On Thursday night, 1,000 New Yorkers gathered in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, to mourn the passing of the inimitable superstar musician and the sexiest MF to ever rock a lace jumpsuit.
All photographs by Nathan Bajar.
The ways of mourning Prince, the inimitable superstar musician and sexiest MF to ever rock an assless yellow lace jumpsuit, are many. Just hours after his untimely passing at 57, the internet was flooded with initial shock and dismay, moving remembrances and tributes, hilariously left-field anecdotes, archival videos (his 1983 performance with James Brown and Michael Jackson is particularly spellbinding), and marathons of all kinds, from a block of MTV music videos to a nine-hour playlist on Minnesota Public Radio. Barack Obama even issued an official statement: "Nobody's spirit was stronger, bolder, or more creative."
In Brooklyn, Spike Lee thought the most fitting way to grieve would be to throw "Prince We Love You Shockadelica Joint," a block party in celebration of the Purple One's life and music. Over 1,000 New Yorkers, myself included, converged on his Fort Greene office, where the proceedings were documented by a horde of photographers, reporters, and cameramen.
"We're gonna show the world how much Brooklyn loves Prince," Lee called out at one point, not that that was in dispute. I even caught two police officers—a black woman and a white man—nodding along to the Morris Day and the Time's infectious, Prince-penned "Jungle Love."
Elba Rosado, a 53-year-old social worker, danced in a silver-studded purple jacket, reminiscent of Prince's iconic look in Purple Rain. "I sacrificed my purple jacket for him," she said, pointing to her 23-year-old-son, Jordan Galan, a chef. Galan had wanted to be Prince last Halloween, but was having difficulty finding suitable outerwear in stores. So Rosado decided to help out by loaning her jacket and sewing on the studs herself.
"Music in general brings my family together," Galan said. "But me and my mom, especially on Prince. We'll debate back and forth about [his] wardrobe, which looked better." His love of Prince was so well-known among his friends that "today, when everybody heard what happened, they were messaging me, as if I lost a relative."
It wasn't just Prince's singular music and unforgettable fashion that inspired fans, but also his smoldering charisma and sexual magnetism, the fierce way he made music about topics others wouldn't dare, realized in a manner that was as playful and funky as it was transgressive and uncompromising. And he could be quite political, too. Topics such as empowerment and equality weren't only made incredibly listenable and telegenic, but fun. Back when I used to DJ, Prince was always my not-so-secret weapon whenever the dance floor emptied or people got glum. Songs like "Do It All Night" or "I Wanna Be Your Lover" or "D.M.S.R." (or any number of his songs) never failed to get the party back on track.
"He's so many layers and levels of human sexuality," said Natia Simon, 37, an actress and New York government employee, who had donned bright purple lipstick for the occasion. "I used to say, 'All my babies are gonna be because of Prince.' You play 'Darling Nikki,' you play 'Scandalous,' you play 'Adore'? I mean, you getting in the drawers."
Just then, the opening chords of "Purple Rain" came on.
"It's crying time," remarked Simon, as she and nearly everyone around her began to sway along to the tune.
There was something moving about witnessing so many different ages and genders, ethnicities and orientations, all gathered 2 get through this thing called life. During the falsetto outro of "Purple Rain," the DJ stopped the music, and many held up their lit phones (as suggested by Lee) and carried the rest of the song a capella.
As they did, Mike Brown, 42, one of the orange-shirted volunteers from Peacekeepers Community Patrol, implored audience members to carry the sense of shared community into their daily lives. "Tomorrow, say hi to your neighbors! Say hi to the people at your subway stop!"
"It's a sad occasion, of course, but it's a good thing," he later told me. "Good music is universal. Music brings people together, it brings life, it consoles people."
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Scroll down for more photos from the tribute party.