April 28, 2016 

By Amen Oyiboke

Staff Writer  


Prince. The world knew him as a cutting edge and vivid artist who when most people thought of his extensive career, they thought of his songs like “Purple Rain,” “Little Red Corvette,” “Diamonds and Pearls,” “Adore,” and countless other hits. 


But, the world never knew about Prince’s secret humanitarian side. In the days after his death, I found myself loving Prince even more than before because of his selflessness and fulfilling his purpose in areas not music related. In an exclusive CNN interview, close friend of the music icon Van Jones said the world should know more about Prince than just his music.


“[Prince] was a Jehovah’s Witness, so he was not allowed to speak publicly about any of his good acts, but I’m going to say it because the world needs to know that it wasn't just the music,” said Van Jones in an interview with Don Lemon. “The music was one way he tried to help the world. But he was helping every day of his life. There are people who have solar panels on their houses right now in Oakland, California, that they don't know Prince paid for them.”


Jones went on to mention private efforts created by Prince like the #YesWeCode to help teach 100,000 urban youth the ability to work and learn with 15 companies about tech and prepare them for potential jobs in Silicon Valley. Prince told Jones that he started the coding organization because of Trayvon Martin. “Prince said, ‘A black kid wearing a hoodie might be seen as a thug, a white kid wearing a hoodie might be seen as a Silicon Valley genius…. Let’s teach the Black kids to be like Mike Zuckerberg’,” said Jones.


He also used Jones as the public face for his work with Green For All to make green living accessible for those who could not afford that transition to go off the grid.


In efforts to help underserved communities, Jones also state that Prince used benefit concerts in Chicago and Baltimore as covers to work with the city’s community organizations that needed help financially.


“Those concerts that he was doing were a cover for him to be able to go into cities and help organizations and help leaders and touch people…When you make it to his level,” he said. “I don’t need any more attention, but I can’t be in this world and see this much pain and suffering and not do something. Don’t give me the credit, don’t give me the glory.’ But he pushed all of us to do more, and I want him to be known for that, too.”


Activism was deep for Prince. He was very vocal about his status on Black Lives Matter and the philosophies of historian Dr. John Henrik Clarke. Black preservation and self-awareness was one of his biggest topics discussed when it came to race relations and economic stance. He donated to #BlackLivesMatter, efforts of public radio and to the Harlem Children’s Zone.


Right after the death of Freddie Gray, Prince held a concert in Baltimore where Gray’s parents and Baltimore chief prosecutor Marilyn Mosby joined him on stage.  During that concert he performed his song “Baltimore,” which mentions the slayings of young Black men Michael Brown and Freddie Gray. Bustle.com noted that Prince’s activism when back for decades. He supported Elevate Hope Foundation, an organization that uses music and the arts to help abused children heal. In the late 90s, Prince had a tour called “Love 4 One Another” for kids in need and in 2011 he donated $1.5 million to New York-area charities.


But, his activism and mentoring didn’t just stop there. He helped several fellow colleagues in the entertainment industry. According to The New York Times, he donated money to help Spike Lee successfully complete his “Malcolm X” film. Jones also stated that Prince had a concern about Lauryn Hill’s kids when she was in trouble. “[He] had found out that Lauryn [Hill] had gotten in some trouble and the first thing he wanted to know was, ‘where are her kids and what can we do to help.’ This is just how he was. I guarantee you, anybody struggling, anywhere in the world, he was sending checks, he was making phone calls,” said Jones. 


Prince also made it known about his stance on artists owning their work. He spoke out about the struggles artists faced in not being able to own the work they produced and often had the word “slave” written on his cheek to reflect his own record contract disputes.


Through his death, the revealing of Prince’s charitable and activism ways had truly said a lot about his character. His selflessness shows the greater side of a person of his caliber and the importance there is in self-preservation through investing in the lives of others.  We all could learn from the life of Prince by taking note that recognition of charitable acts shouldn’t be the cause for us to invest in others, but to have a genuine spirit to be a solution to a problem in the world.

Category: Arts & Culture