Prince Was More Than an Artist, He Was an Advocate for Kids

Prince, we've been reminded in the days after his death, was much more than a pop provocateur. Prince was a devoted friend and mentor who, perhaps inspired by the trials of his own childhood, devoted a considerable amount of time and resources to helping kids. Turns out he wasn't just a great artist, he was a great guy, too.


Take Prince's reaction to the murder of Trayvon Martin, a boy who happened to be wearing a hoodie, shot and killed on the way home from buying Skittles. After hearing about his death, Prince was talking with his friend, activist and former staffer to President Obama, Van Jones.

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"I think he made the observation," Jones said in an interview with Time, "that when African-American young people wear hoodies people think they're thugs, but when white kids wear hoodies you assume that they're going to be dot-com billionaires." A reference, of course, to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's uniform of choice.

So together the men started Yes We Code, an organization that aims to give 100,000 kids the skills they need to get good jobs writing code when they grow up. Prince agreed to headline the 20th annual Essence Festival in New Orleans in 2014 if Essence would agree to promote the Yes We Code initiative and the $10 million they wanted to raise for scholarships.

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Not exactly what you might expect from the guy who dreamed up "Darling Nikki," but as we're really starting to realize from looking back on Prince's life, there were many sides and layers to this very public figure.

He was involved in other educational initiatives and programs that did awesome things for kids, but that story gives you an idea of the guy behind the charitable giving. He also wanted to do something tangible to make kids' lives better. And he did.

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After Freddie Gray was killed by police and the city of Baltimore reeled from racial unrest, Prince went to the city and gave a concert he called the "Rally 4 Peace" to raise money for Baltimore's justice fund and the city's YouthWorks program that finds summer jobs for young Baltimore kids. Prince himself donated $30,000, enough to create 20 jobs for the program. When the city needed a little lift, Prince stepped in and did what he could to make a difference. He also wrote a song called "Baltimore" that served as a beautiful tribute to the city. 

Prince will always be remembered as the shirtless, motorcycle-riding master musician that changed the way the world saw masculinity and sexuality and the power of raw, emotional expression. That side of Prince we'll never forget. But there was more to Prince than that. The side that touched hearts quietly, behind the scenes. And it's those tender remembrances of Prince that makes losing the artist all the more painful.

"My heart aches over the loss of one of the most brilliant and iconic artists of my generation," Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told the Baltimore Sun after hearing about Prince's death. "Prince's efforts to help our city after last spring's events were so meaningful to so many."

Like I said, not just a great artist, a really great guy, too. Prince will be missed.


Image via Kervin Mazur/Getty Images

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