Prince's Legacy Won't Just Live On In Music, But In His Charitable Acts

"He pushed us all to do more."

Many will remember Prince as a singularly powerful performer who changed countless lives through his music, but few know how many more lives he changed through his charitable acts.


Besides having an undeniable stage presence, he had a philanthropic one as well. 

In a video interview with CNN, Van Jones — a political commentator for the network and friend of Prince — revealed the unknown yet extensive legacy of charitable work the artist left behind. 

As a Jehovah's Witness, Prince "was not allowed to speak publicly about any of his good acts," nor did he want to. 

"I guarantee you, anybody struggling anywhere in the world, he [Prince] was sending checks and making phone calls, but he did not want it known publicly," Jones said. "But I'm gonna say it because the world needs to know that it wasn't just the music."

“The music was just one way he tried to help the world, but he was helping every day of his life.”

Prince was so adamant that his contributions be kept anonymous he even set tour dates in certain areas as a "cover" to "go into cities to help organizations and help leaders." While Jones was the public face of Green for All, an environmental organization, he explained the pop icon's integral role behind the scenes. "There are people who have solar panels right now on their houses in Oakland, Calif., that don't know Prince paid for them," he said.

After the Trayvon Martin verdict, Prince came up with the vision for #YesWeCode — an initiative to combat negative stereotypes of young people of color by equipping them with technology skills.

At the 20th anniversary Essence Festival in 2014, Jones recalled the conversation:

 "[Prince] said, 'You know, every time people see a young Black man wearing a hoodie, they think, he's a thug. But if they see a young White guy wearing a hoodie they think, 'Oh, that might be Mark Zuckerberg. That might be a dot-com billionaire.'

I said, 'Well, yeah, Prince, that's true, but that's because of racism.' 

And he said, 'No, it's because we have not produced enough Black Mark Zuckerbergs. That's on us … to deal with what we're not doing to get our young people prepared to be a part of this new information economy.' " 

Prince proved as good as his word. That night, #YesWeCode launched with a youth-focused hackathon. (He also happened to headline that night to an audience of 500,000.)

Prince at the #YesWeCode Launch during the 20th Anniversary Essence Music Festival, on July 4th, 2014. 

Today, the national initiative helps 100,000 low-opportunity women and men achieve success in tech sector careers. "He really believed that young people could change the world," Jones told CNN.

Silicon Valley giants such as Google, Facebook, and Comcast are counted among its major partners, as well as celebrities and political leaders. 

None of it would have been possible without Prince and the organization is grateful. After his death, the #YesWeCode website added a page titled simply "Thank You, Prince." 

Besides providing clean energy and improving young people's lives, Prince was also an advocate for civil rights causes.

"I remember when we were raising the issue of justice around the Trayvon Martin killing," Al Sharpton told People. "Prince called me and sent some funds that I gave to the family for him and never wanted recognition for it." 

Even when Prince used his star power for charity, like putting on a "Rally4Peace" concert to honor Freddie Gray's memory in Baltimore, he always stayed humble. "He was one that did not want to make a lot about his humanitarian and activist involvement," Sharpton added. "But he was very much involved in what was going on in the country. He was very much involved in human rights."

Prince at the Rally4Peace in 2015. 

Prince restated that commitment to human rights when he supported the Black Lives Matter movement at the 2015 Grammy Awards

While presenting the Album of the Year award, he said, "Albums still matter — like books and Black lives — albums still matter, tonight and always."

"[He was] not just a great musician, [but] a great human being at every conceivable level. He's a humanitarian first and foremost," Jones concluded. "He pushed all of us to do more." 

And we all still can do more. #YesWeCode and Green for All, both Dream Corps organizations, have many opportunities for supporters to donate and get involved.


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