Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sometimes It Snows In April . . .A Goodbye to Prince

Prince . . . where to begin when his life is so abruptly over? I have never been a huge Prince fan and never had the chance to see him perform live. Following his tragic death on Thursday, Prince stories, memories, and music are unavoidable. Prince songs are playing everywhere. I've not heard this much Prince music since I was in high school and my younger brother Tim , who was obsessed with Prince, played his albums constantly. Tim remains a Prince fan and maybe someday he will let me share his incredible stories and Prince encounters from the many concerts and events he attended at Paisley Park.

Here in Minnesota Prince is not just a music icon and legendary musician. He is part of the community and was known for giving back to Minnesota, surprise concerts, and being spotted around town. Meetings at work sometimes started with people sharing stories from a weekend Pajama Party at Paisley Park. That's why the all night dance party in Minneapolis at First Avenue (the club where Prince's movie Purple Rain was filmed) began the night we learned of his death and continued on for the next three days. A sort of community wake that was full of his music and tributes to Prince captured perfectly in a moment with thousands outside of First Avenue singing along to Purple Rain.

Prince's star on the First Avenue wall. Photo MPR
It seems like part of what makes Minneapolis iconic is gone. We lost the genius of Prince far too early. Reports of what remains in his musical vault are astonishing if accounts are true. Unreleased albums, videos, unfinished songs, recordings. Prince's influence on music will live on. 

Today a cold, heavy rain falls on the spring flowers. It might as well be snow in April.

For all you ever wanted to know about Prince's music and his influence on Minnesota and the world visit The Current.

If you have a few minutes take a look at their photo montage, Around the World in a Day: 64 Photos Documenting the 24-hours Following Princes' Death.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Adventures Outside of Suburbia

Would you feel comfortable in these situations?
  • Working the welcome table at a Somali community event attended by toddlers, elders, and every age in between.
  • Mingling around an award ceremony with local literary luminaries.
  • Interviewing people about their experiences with a prayer experiment.
This weekend gave me the opportunity to break away from the safe confines of my normal routine and venture out into the unknown and into situations that may have made me a bit uncomfortable. Circumstances that might make you uncomfortable too. Three very different weekend episodes all drew on the power and support of community and, quite unexpectedly, books.

Spending part of Friday at a community center in Minneapolis, pushed me against the boundary of my own comfort zone. Plenty of frightening and even controversial stories have been written about the Minneapolis Somali community. However, Friday's experience was most positive. A couple of hundred people showed up at an event sponsored by my work, the Minnesota Humanities Center. I was fortune to greet most guests at the door to our family event. Along with free food and entertainment, everyone received a free book—a bilingual Somali folktale.

Saturday evening was the Minnesota Book Awards. Although I do have this blog, I'm not one to hang around in literary circles or attend poetry readings. With instructions to meet up with some local authors and make new connections, I delved in. What seemed slightly daunting turned into a lovely evening celebrating Minnesota writers and readers who are united over a common love of books. 

Saturday evening quickly morphed into a Sunday morning interview session at my church about prayer, faith, and community, circling around that one classic text, the Bible. Some may find this experience the most uncomfortable situation. Prayer is not easy to talk about, but the experience pushed me into a spiritual, limitless place where conversation flowed easily.

Leaving the comfort zone is a good thing. By saying yes to a full weekend of sometimes difficult and uncertain circumstances, I did learn more about myself and about the vibrant communities that surround me—Somali, literary, and faith. Even though I found myself in different places and conversations, all revolved around themes which give me comfort: community, sharing, and books.