Close friend reveals extent of Prince's philanthropy over the years


We know Prince as a music legend and a beguiling, funny and principled entertainer, but little is known of Prince the philanthropist.

Stories about the Purple One's generosity are starting to emerge in the days following his death, with his close friend Van Jones lifting the curtain on his humanitarian endeavors in an interview with CNN (which you can watch below).

As a practicing Jehovah's Witness, Jones says, Prince was "not allowed to speak publicly about any of his good acts," but Jones felt that now was the time people knew more about his charitable giving over the years.

Chief among the projects he helped fund is #YesWeCode, an initiative led by Jones aiming to teach 100,000 low-income, urban youths learn how to code to help them get jobs in the tech world.

Jones says 15 major technology companies now work with "kids in the 'hood" to help them break into Silicon Valley through the project.

According to the L.A. Times, Jones said the inspiration for the idea came following the Trayvon Martin verdict, with Prince saying to Jones: "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."

After Jones suggested this was down to racism, Prince instead said: "No, it's because we have not produced enough black Mark Zuckerbergs. That's on us. 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 also contributed to another of Jones' projects, environmental initiative Green For All, with Jones telling CNN: "There are people right now in Oakland, California who have solar panels on their house that don't know they were paid for by Prince."

Jones told USA Today it was in Oakland 10 years ago when he first was contacted by Prince, receiving an anonymous check for $50,000 to help get his human rights nonprofit organization off the ground.

He didn't cash it for fear it had come from the Mob, but he was contacted by a lawyer who told him to "cut the check," adding: "I cannot tell you who this money is coming from but his favorite color is purple."

CBS has been writing this week about the role Prince played in social activism as well, donating $1 million to the Harlem Children's Zone in 2011 that seeks to end "the cycle of intergenerational poverty" in the New York borough.

He also held a benefit concert in Baltimore for the family of Freddie Grey, writing a tribute anthem "Baltimore" in his honor and to represent the wider Black Lives Matter movement.

Next Up