Though many would say Prince changed the world through his music, the artist also took a hands-on approach to changing the world beyond music.
The global superstar was the inspiration behind YesWeCode, an Oakland nonprofit, which works to help young people from minority backgrounds enter the tech world.
The idea for the program came from a conversation between Prince and his friend Van Jones, who heads Rebuild the Dream charity, following the 2012 shooting of teenager Travoyn 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. Let’s teach the black kids how to be like Mark Zuckerberg.'” Jones told CNN.
The program is aiming to teach 100,000 low-income non-white teenagers how to write code, and was launched at the 20th Anniversary Essence Festival in New Orleans in 2014—which Prince headlined on the condition that YesWeCode was included in the event. The organization now has 15 technology companies working with youth to help prepare them for Silicon Valley Jobs.
Currently, the nonprofit’s website has a page dedicated to thanking Prince. “When you think about how great he was as a musician, just please understand that’s a part of the greatness,” says Jones in a statement.
Since Prince’s death, Jones, a former White House advisor on green jobs, also revealed that Prince helped fund environmental group Green for All, another nonprofit founded by Jones, which aims to bring solar panels to Oakland.
“[Prince] did not want it to be known publicly, but I’m going to say it because the world needs to know that it wasn’t just the music,” Jones told CNN. “The music was one way he tried to help the world. But he was helping every day of his life.”
Jones said that Prince’s faith as a Jehovah’s Witness meant he didn’t speak publicly about his charity, but that he was constantly giving anonymously and making calls behind the scenes to try and get support for causes that needed help. “I guarantee you, anybody struggling, anywhere in the world, he was sending checks, he was making phone calls,” he added.