Six years after his death, Prince’s music and legacy continues to inspire and impact people the world over. Recently, four friends and devout Prince fans have embarked on a journey to perform random acts of kindness while on a trip to Minnesota to visit Paisley Park and other Prince sites, including those in Henderson.
Marcia (pronounced Mar-cee-ah) Davis, Trina McGee, Cleta Ayres and Leisa Boykin formed 4SOP (Four Shades of Purple) in April 2021 after visiting the George Floyd memorial.
“Humanity, civility and compassion must rule. Hate cannot win. We must have love for one another in order to survive. Standing there, decked out in Prince gear we asked ourselves, ‘What would Prince think? What would Prince want us to do? ” the group wrote of their mission of Spreading Purple Love.
Although the four are friends, they come from different parts of the country. Davis and McGee both live in North Carolina and worked for the Department of Social Services in different counties. They would make trips to Paisley Park together, and on one of those excursions, about six years ago, met Boykin on First Avenue. A couple of years later, Boykin introduced Ayres to the group; both Boykin and Ayres live in Denver, Colorado.
The group’s name, 4SOP, resulted from the fact that while all four love Prince’s music, they all love different albums and time periods.
For Boykin, it is the 4U album, Davis loves Musicology, Ayres enjoys Controversy, and McGee really fell in love with Purple Rain.
They can also all point to ways Prince’s music or message made a meaningful impact on their life. Boykin is an only child born to inter-racial parents, with a black father and white mother and raised in the South. Growing up, she felt “not black enough to be black and not white enough to be white.”
“Prince showed me we are human, he showed me I didn’t have to be put into a label,” Boykin said.
McGee was just 9 years old when the song “Controversy” drew her in, especially the lyrics, “Am I black or white, am I straight or gay?” She said people would always ask her if she was mixed, if her mother was white? In fact, her mom is Native American and her dad is Panamanian, but why did it matter?
“Prince is just a part of my life and I love what he stands for: to love one another and try to lift people up and not tear them down, help where you can,” McGee wrote.
Ayres, at 66 years old, is the mom of the group, and said Prince’s music has impacted her through the various stages of her life, from happiness and sadness to love, birth, death, marriage, divorce, and life’s accomplishments and pitfalls.
Davis was born in Trinidad and was raised around music as her mother was a singer. Her family listened to a wide variety of music, like the Jackson Five, Tom Jones, The Eagles and Carlos Santana. Although she never had the opportunity to see Prince in concert, she does remember seeing Purple Rain in theaters. Although she went by herself, she left with friends made in the theater.
The four kicked off their mission to spread happiness when they came to Minnesota last week. The Purple Family recently lost a loving soul when “Pancakes” artist Daniel Lacey of Elko New Market lost his battle with glioblastoma in February at the age of 61.
Lacey began painting Prince after the artist’s death, and would go to Paisley Park to attend the momentos fans left on Paisley’s fence. He frequently gave away paintings of Prince, while others were sold on his Etsy store.
Lacey was actually working on a painting for Davis at the time of his death. He wanted to finish it for her and actually brought it with him to the hospital to work on.
“It’s the most beautiful thing to me,” Davis said. “It really is, just to know it meant so much to him to do this painting for me. I love it. ”
During their trip to Minnesota, the four ladies of 4SOP raffled off four pictures of Prince – two were of the Prince mural in Henderson and the other two were autographed pictures of Henderson’s bronze Prince statue – to raise money for the Lacey family. They also made and distributed Love Bags to people, and were able to assist a woman who was upset due to an error with her ticket at Paisley Park.
“This whole experience was priceless, and that is living in the Purple Rain for me,” Boykin said. “You are not worried about today or tomorrow, you are living in the moment.”
The four stopped in many downtown businesses on their trip, enjoyed viewing the Prince corner inside Heart of Henderson, and journeyed down to the Minnesota River bridge area featured in “Purple Rain.” By the time they left, it was with a love for Henderson and its people.
“Henderson is beautiful, the people are sweet,” Davis said, adding that she would encourage Prince fans to make Heart of Henderson their first stop and speak with Joel King. “If you are a Prince fan, you have to visit Henderson.”