Prince Draws Thousands to Baltimore Concert

May 12, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a correspondent in Baltimore

Prince's "Rally 4 Peace" concert, Baltimore, May 10
Prince's "Rally 4 Peace" concert, Baltimore, May 10. Photos: Special to

Prince's "Rally 4 Peace" concert, Baltimore, May 10

Sunday, May 10—Thousands came to Prince's "Rally 4 Peace" concert at a downtown arena where he debuted his song "Baltimore," which references the police murders of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray and has a refrain that goes "If there ain't no justice then there ain't no peace." The song features Eryn Allen Kane, and special guests at the Baltimore concert included rapper Doug E. Fresh and singers Estelle and Miguel. The song, which Prince dropped for free download on SoundCloud on Saturday, and the concert are another sign of the huge impact that the Baltimore uprising is having on broad sections of society.

Prince told the audience, "I am your servant tonight, Baltimore. We are your house band." Along with the new "Baltimore" piece, Prince played many fan favorites, like "1999," "Little Red Corvette," "When Doves Cry," and others. He declared "No curfew" several times—a pointed reference to the 10 p.m. curfew enforced by thousands of National Guard troops and law enforcement from Baltimore and other agencies that had been imposed after people rose up on April 27 in a cry for justice. After "Purple Rain," Prince said, "The system is broken. It's going to take young people to fix it. We need new ideas, new life."

Toward the end, after the band left the stage, the audience chanted "No curfew!" Prince returned with what Rolling Stone magazine called a "thrilling cover" of Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough"—which has a chorus with the repeated lines "Keep On With The Force Don't Stop. Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough."

Many at the concert were hardcore Prince fans who mainly came to hear and see him, others came as a way of making a statement in support of justice for Freddie Gray. Everyone there was aware that Prince was addressing in his way the fight for justice for Freddie Gray. There was a mix of Black and white people, from college age to those from the '60s generation and older, and many from Baltimore suburbs and farther away. Gray was a prominent color of clothing—Prince had requested people to wear gray "as a symbolic message of our shared humanity and love for one another."

A white college student, a big Prince fan who said he traveled six hours from Pennsylvania to come, said he was "disgusted" with the police killing of Freddie Gray, and that "finally, people are taking a stand against the marginalized, and who are obviously being targeted by the police because of their race." What did he think of Prince doing this concert? "It's incredible. Prince is such a high-profile cultural icon that for him to take a stand is an amazing thing." A '60s generation white man said, "Right now, what I want is for the police murder to stop, like it says there"—he pointed to the Stolen Lives poster, which was being passed out by the hundreds to concert-goers. A Black man who had a family member killed by police said, "It takes someone like Prince to stand up, stand up for people's rights, equal rights for people. It's something that this city and this country needs, because this has been going on for centuries."

The Revolution Club and other revolutionaries wearing "Revolution—Nothing Less!" t-shirts were an energetic presence outside the arena—calling out to the crowds of people with the chant "Indict, convict, send the killer cops to jail! The whole damn system is guilty as hell!" and connecting people with the way to put an end to murder by police and other horrors of the system, through an actual revolution. They got out "Revolution—Nothing Less!" t-shirts, Revolution newspapers, and many Stolen Lives posters for people to take into the concert. A carload of people on the way to the concert stopped to get some of the t-shirts—they had come from Ferguson and were involved in the fight for justice for Michael Brown there.

The situation in Baltimore is that six cops involved in murdering Freddie Gray have been charged with crimes, but that is far from those killer police actually being convicted and sent to jail.

And there are even higher stakes here for the oppressed and those who hate oppression, and for the revolutionaries leading the fight against that oppression. As we wrote in Revolution, “High stakes in mobilizing people to fight through and win this battle... and far higher stakes in bringing to people the word that there IS a solution to this, that revolution is possible, and that emancipation from this madness can be achieved, and in organizing people to carry forward that revolution. Will this opening be seized to bring forward the work that Bob Avakian has done on this very question, and the leadership that he has provided? Will those who ARE stepping forward to this be organized in a way that can lead to an ACTUAL revolution? Will this be done in a way that enables people to go up against all the repression that will be brought down on them as they do so? And, in that context, will the struggle for justice be fought through in such a way that it is NOT derailed, but instead strikes real blows against the ability of the powers to keep on hammering down on people, and at the same time leads people further toward revolution and emancipation?”



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