Following the news of his death, Reverend Al Sharpton took to Twitter, remembering the “Purple Rain” singer for not only his music, but his philanthropy.
“An (sic) true musical genius, he was a sincere humanitarian,” Sharpton wrote. “He would call me to get money quietly to families of victims including Trayvon [Martin’s].
During an appearance on MSNBC, Sharpton elaborated on Prince’s philanthropic efforts, adding that he was very private about them and didn’t want to be identified as a donor.
“What many people didn’t know is that he would support many of our civil rights causes,” Sharpton said. “I remember when we were raising the issue of justice around the Trayvon Martin killing. Prince called me and sent some funds that I gave to the family for him and never wanted recognition for it.
“He went into Baltimore around the policing issue and did a concert to help the family. So, he was one that did not want to make a lot about his humanitarian and activist involvement, but he was very much involved in what was going on in the country. He was very much involved in Human rights.”
While Prince may have shied away from publicizing how much he donated to causes, he was vocal about his support, taking a moment at the Grammy Awards in 2015 to acknowledge that he backed Black Lives Matter.
“Albums still matter,” he said when presenting album of the year. “Like books and black lives, albums still matter – tonight and always.”
Prince also supported the cause when he performed at a charity concert in Brooklyn last October, put on by Jay Z’s music streaming service Tidal, which, according to Entertainment Weekly raised $1.5 million that was donated to Black Lives Matter and other social justice organizations in line with the BLM message.
“I would hope that even in the shock, we remember the depth and gravity of what he was,” Sharpton added. “Both as a musical innovator and icon, but also as somebody who used the resources he had to help causes that bettered the country and better the world.”
Aside from his interest in BLM, Prince was also invested in making skills in technology accessible to youth in low-income areas, as his friend Van Jones attests to in an interview with CNN‘s Jake Tapper.
Jones’ Rebuild the Dream charity launched the YesWeCode initiative with the intention of teaching 100,000 children in low-income areas how to write code, and Prince was an avid supporter.
“I don’t think people understand how much he cared,” Jones told CNN. “We started YesWeCode 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. Lets teach the black kids how to be Mark Zuckerberg. Out of that observation we made a whole organization.”
Adding that Prince’s Jehovah Witness faith banned him from speaking publicly about his concern for “poor people, for struggling people and for the African-American community,” he noted that it didn’t stop the music icon from making it a point to be charitable.
Jones also remembered Prince as a friend who was “there 1,000 percent” when he was needed, as well as someone who believed in the youth of today, since he got his own start so young. Jones recalled one story about Prince in which he told young people in Baltimore that the next time he visited the city, he wanted to stay in hotels and eat at restaurants created by them.
“He really believed that young people could change the world,” Jones added. “[He was] not just a great musician, [but] a great human being at every conceivable level. He’s a humanitarian first and foremost.
“Whether you know him or not, there are people right now who have solar panels on their houses in Oakland, California that Prince paid for and they don’t even know it. There are people who are in hospitals right now who get anonymous gifts. He never wanted anybody to know how much of a humanitarian he was. He’s a Jehovah’s Witness. They’re not supposed to speak about their good work. But, this is a guy who cared so much.”