Yet another complication in the wake of Prince’s sudden death: No one seems certain which charities to support in his honor.
Like nearly everything else in his life, Minneapolis’s rock icon was private about his philanthropy. He often made his donations anonymously, from the $30,000 he reportedly donated to his Chanhassen neighborhood elementary school for musical instruments to the hundreds of thousands he put into #YesWeCode, an organization to help land low-income children in the high-tech world.
As noble as his incognito giving was, it leaves his family, peers and especially his fans without a clear idea of how to honor him, whether it’s money raised off upcoming music tributes, a formal foundation in his name or simply private donations.
CNN commentator Van Jones, a friend of the singer’s, said Prince followed Jehovah’s Witness tenet by keeping quiet on his charity work. “The music was one way he tried to help the world,” Jones said on CNN, “but he was helping every day of his life.”
Here are some of the causes Jones singled out with firsthand knowledge of Prince’s endorsement, and other causes we know he supported in recent years.
#YesWeCode: While he railed against the internet’s impact on the music business, Prince apparently recognized its relevance in the modern economy and the racial disparities in the tech community. This is an arm of Jones’ own Rebuild the Dream organization, launched in response to the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida. “A black kid wearing a hoodie might be seen as a thug,” Jones recalled Prince saying. “A white kid wearing a hoodie might be seen as a Silicon Valley genius. Let’s teach the black kids how to be like Mark Zuckerberg.” (YesWeCode.org)
Green for All: The Purple One was apparently very green, according to Jones, who helped start this Oakland, Calif.-based organization out of George W. Bush’s Green Jobs Act in 2007 with a large initial donation by Prince. “There are people who have solar panels on their houses now in Oakland that don’t know Prince paid for [them],” Jones said. Recent efforts include its #PollutersPay campaign in Flint, Mich., and a nationwide Green the Church campaign. (GreenForAll.org)
In a Perfect World: A charity founded by Prince’s second ex-wife, Manuela Testolini, it has built 19 schools in poor countries such as Mali, Haiti and Nepal. Testolini issued a statement that called her ex a “fierce philanthropist,” and reportedly told him before his death a school would soon be named after him in a location not yet determined. (IAPW.org)
Harlem’s Children Zone: Prince wrote a $1 million check after a string of New York concerts in 2011 to this education organization, which is widely recognized for its innovations in inner-city education programs since the 1990s. (HCZ.org)
Black Lives Matter: Whether or not you believe this organization qualifies as a charity, there’s no question Prince shared its beliefs and supported its efforts, as evidenced by his Rally 4 Peace concert in Baltimore in response to the Freddie Gray case and his mention of BLM at the Grammys in 2015. BLM organizers showed their appreciation to him with a special tribute on their site. (Prince.BlackLivesMatter.com)
Any music education program: When he did speak to journalists, Prince often slipped in a plug for music education. He told USA Today in 1991, “Nobody’s learning how to make music, how to read and write it, and how to play. I worry that we’re raising a whole generation that’s going to turn out nothing but samples and rehashes.” A 2013 tribute concert in his name at Carnegie Hall benefitted such groups as Little Kids Rock (LittleKidsRock.org). Other popular programs he would likely have approved of include the Save the Music Foundation (VH1SavetheMusic.org) and Grammy in the Schools (GrammyintheSchools.com).
Somewhere close to home: Stories have popped up since his death of Prince supporting schools and community organizations all over the Twin Cities, but the ones in the neighborhoods where he grew up seem most fitting. Sabathani Community Center in south Minneapolis offers support and programs for children and seniors in the former Bryant Junior High School building in south Minneapolis, which Prince attended (Sabathani.org). The Minneapolis College Preparatory School is a charter school in north Minneapolis just around the corner from his main childhood home at 1244 Russell Av. N. (MinneapolisPrep.com).
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658