It looks like that high-torqueing Purple Rain Hurricane we call 2016 was a category 10, where the loss of lives, liberty and land was felt everywhere. The demons of death and destruction worked overtime this time around: the bombing of Aleppo, Brexit, the Trump election, the Ghost Ship fire, the Florida gay club massacre, the Istanbul ambassador shooting, Standing Rock, the rise of white supremacy and the unnerving amount of beloved celebrity deaths. The list goes on as does the pain of loss and final passage. And while death is a very dirty word, its appearance gifts us the opportunity to reflect on lessons learned, lives honored, and futures unclaimed. In the midst of all these 2016 departures and intergalactic interference, the passing of Prince, Fidel and Ali as a group was especially profound to me, representing the movement of time, the physics of struggle, and the power of singular voices. While these men may seem very different, from different worlds and with different missions, their impact and interconnected contribution to the politics of resistance is not. Under the surface we see they were all revolutionaries, all artists, and all wanted a better world. Like Ali, the other two were fighters, like Prince, the other two were theatrical and poetic, and like Fidel, the other two were fiercely political and determined. Each of these individuals taught us some very important lessons in the journey of life and social progress and what it means to stand up to big systems and overpowering hurricane forces.
Muhammad Ali, The Greatest, taught us that we could be pretty, poetic, prophetic and a political weapon all at the same time. His rare confidence, in a time of segregation and blatant American racism, inspired not only black folks but the whole global village. His Islamic conversion, his name change, his draft resistance, his return to being a champion more than once, and his courageous battle with nature – Parkinson’s-, instruct us all to dig deeper, love harder, study longer, fight smarter and be beautifully powerful. Ali’s influence is immeasurable as is the scope of his impact on the world of sports, politics and human goodwill.
Fidel Castro, The Revolutionary, was a real rebel with a real cause who stood up to the greatest country in the history of human civilization. He brought forth high literacy rates and low infant mortality rates to Cuba, sent freedom fighter troops to Angola, and supported the ANC and Mandela before it was popular to boycott South Africa, all while surviving a harsh American embargo and the Soviet Union meltdown. In his spiffy adidas sweat suit, months before his death Señor Castro was teaching, preaching, and passionate to the last breath, challenging the world to stand up against global imperialism and to champion ideas over materialism, education over money, and self-determination over big business subjugation. Fidel showed us that revolution and change are hard, and that conscious active politics as a lifestyle takes the courage of a prize fighter and the vision of an artist.
Prince Rogers Nelson, The Artist, showed us the revolutionary power of music, fashion and performance. His synergy of the masculine and feminine, the soft wetness of psycho-sexual expression and the audacity to be provocative, shaped a generation of young people on the lessons of sex, love and God. From the bikini briefs of the Dirty Mind days to the final Afro with 3RDEYEGIRL, 40 years of his music mesmerized us with everything from love ballads to pop anthems. But his most powerful and revolutionary message to us was to own our masters, own our voice and own our path, and to not be a slave to goliath-like systems that put profits over creativity, business over love and corporate genericism over the artist’s voice. His music and activism is magically singular and will be modeled for decades to come.
As we move into 2017, we are at a crossroads with Trump and Putin as superpower presidents. Along with the alignment of world oligarchies and widespread terror activism, we may be on the brink of a calamity of unspeakably and unthinkably irreversible scale. With this in mind we must not sit silently and watch the unfolding of a global Purple Rain Hurricane. We must speak up and be prepared to vote against our personal interests for the higher concerns of the group as Ali did. We must be prepared to organize and support the mental revolution that is required to sustain real change as Fidel did, and we must never lose sight of our political, creative and compassionate voice as Prince taught us. While we have lost these three major spirits of resistance and vision in 2016, I hope that we can learn from their incredible lessons as we are called by their examples to fight for justice, protect our voices and save the future of our planet.