is common that when Black artists ascend to superstar status, many in
the general public forget they are Black. This is most certainly the
case with Prince. For example, as if to downplay or even discount his
Blackness, Stacey Dash said
that Prince “was so innovative and you didn’t look at him as a Black
artist or… an artist of any color. He was just Prince.” To be sure,
Prince did have “crossover” appeal, and his music often defied genres
and neat, little categories. But this did not reflect an attempt by the
artist to run away from the Black community or change who he was.
Rather, Prince was firmly in the Black community, with support for
Black institutions and causes.
On CNN, Van Jones fought back tears describing what his departed friend did to help the community.
was there for us when we were down. When I left the White House, he was
the first person to call,” Jones said. “He said, ‘Let me tell you what
you do man. Go to Jerusalem, stay there for two weeks and pray. Then
when you come back, sit down and give me a blank piece of paper and you
write on it everything you want to do that you think will help the
community. I will help you do it, OK?’ So, I went from working with the
president to working with Prince,” Jones said.
every single thing that I said, I said we have to go to Chicago and do
something about violence. We did three concerts in Chicago…and every
community group he brought in, there were no vendors, only community
groups…We went to Baltimore, he went to New Orleans. There were so many
things he did,” Jones noted.
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,” Jones said.
Jones told CNN that Prince was a humanitarian first
and foremost, who cared about Black Lives Matter, and often talked
about Egyptian philosophy and historian Dr. John Henrik Clarke.
And he believed in Black self-determination. The Black
community, and Black young people, meant a great deal for him.
had a dream for them. He said, ‘I hope that they become an economic
force. I hope they use their genius to start businesses and to be
creative.’ And when he decided to go to Baltimore, he stood on that
stage and he said, ‘When I return to Baltimore, I want to go to a hotel
that you created. I want to go to a restaurant that you young people
In May 2015, Prince performed to a crowd of thousands in Baltimore’s Royal Farms Arena, his Rally 4 Peace Concert, as The Guardian reported.
gonna be OK, Baltimore,” the singer told the audience. “For those who
have lost loved ones, we are your servants. We are here for you
held the concert following the unrest surrounding the death of Freddie
Gray in police custody. The artist was joined on stage by Gray’s
parents and Baltimore chief prosecutor Marilyn Mosby, who indicted six
officers in Gray’s death. And Prince sang his song “Baltimore,” which
includes the lyrics: “Does anybody hear us pray? / For Michael Brown or
led a secret life as a philanthropist. Jones launched #YesWeCode, an
initiative to teach 100,000 underprivileged children to code and
prepare them for the tech sector. According to Jones, not only
did Prince help bankroll the project, but he came up with the idea as
started #YesWeCode because of Trayvon Martin,” Jones told CNN. “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 Mark Zuckerberg’ ” Jones said.
Prince’s charity has supported organizations and causes ranging from
#BlackLivesMatter to public radio, to Harlem Children’s Zone.
is only after his death that the public truly begins to understand the
full extent of Prince’s contributions to the community. As was reported
in Bustle, Prince’s
activism goes back decades, and extended far beyond the social justice
themes in some of his music. For example, he supported the Elevate Hope
Foundation, which uses music and the arts to support abused children.
In the late 90s, Prince went on a “Love 4 One Another” charity tour for
kids in need. And in 2011, he donated $1.5 million to New York-area
charities. Further, 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
Prince was one of a number of prominent Black celebrities who donated
money to Spike Lee to help him successfully complete his film “Malcolm
X,” according to The New York Times. Who would have known?
Well, now we know.