It is common that when Black artists ascend to superstar status, many in the general public forget they are Black. This is most certainly not 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.
“He 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.
“And 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.
“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,” 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.
“He 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 created.’ ”
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.
“It’s 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 tonight.”
Prince 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 Freddie Gray?”
Prince 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 well.
“We 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 Mike Zuckerberg’ ” Jones said.
Further, Prince’s charity has supported organizations and causes ranging from #BlackLivesMatter to public radio, to Harlem Children’s Zone.
It 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 disputes.
Further, 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.
Source: Atlanta Black Star