How Prince Helped The Bronx & His Little Remembered Concert at Lehman

#YesWeCode event in Melrose at The Old Bronx Borough Courthouse last September/Image via LiquidTalent
#YesWeCode event in Melrose at The Old Bronx Borough Courthouse last September/Image via LiquidTalent

While the world mourns the loss of an epic entertainer and an artist who knew no bounds, what many never knew was his philanthropic side in helping uplift the most disadvantaged from poverty.

Back in September, #YesWeCode came to The Bronx at The Old Bronx Borough Courthouse in Melrose with their belief, “… that one solution lies in connecting tech and social justice leaders to spearhead revolutionary tech programs whose benefits extend to the most disadvantaged of society.”

Through that vision, #YesWeCode helps to train 100,000 youths, primarily of color, and equip them with the necessary skills to help uplift them from poverty.

What we didn’t know, until this past Friday after Prince had passed, was that he was the one funding this innovative program but didn’t want it to be known.

CNNMoney reports:

According to data culled by Richard Kerby at Venrock, 2% of partners at venture capital firms are black. That affects the kinds of entrepreneurs who get funding. “I don’t look like Zuck,” Matt Joseph, a black entrepreneur who spoke out about the issue, tweeted in March.

For black women, things are particularly bleak. A recent report found that black female founders made up just .2% of all venture capital deals from 2012 to 2014.
For all the grim statistics, there are also success stories.

Take Mamadou Diallo, a 17-year-old young man from Harlem who was recently offered a full ride to Stanford.

Diallo was introduced to coding at age 14 through a weekend coding course. He took it because it promised a free laptop — but it exposed him to a world he’d never seen before.

It’s kids like Diallo that Prince wanted to help. Prince used his widespread appeal to promote YesWeCode and other initiatives. He headlined the ESSENCE Festival in 2014, where YesWeCode was launched with a youth-focused hackathon.

But Jones said Prince didn’t boast about the work he did. He helped support Rebuild the Dream and donated to other organizations like Eau Claire Promise Zone in South Carolina, which helps prepare community kids for college.

“He really believed that young people could change the world,” said Jones, who is a CNN commentator.

Prince was a teen when his career got started, one of the reasons why he was so passionate about helping the younger generation find success

“He believed in the Black Lives Matter kids so much — and he had a dream for them,” Jones said. “He said, ‘I hope that they become an economic force. I hope that they use their genius to start businesses.'”

And unknown to us, Prince was helping out our children in a very powerful and meaningful way.

Prince/Image Credit Unknown
Prince/Image Credit Unknown

But it wasn’t the first time to musical genius touched The Bronx.

On March 20, 1985, Prince held a concert at Lehman College for 2,000 deaf, blind, and handicapped kids. Who even bothers to tap into this segment of our population?

The New York Times wrote in New York Day By Day; A Princely Performance:

”I felt the vibrations,” said 20-year-

old Christopher Buckland, looking very happy indeed, as his teacher interpreted rock lyrics in sign language.

Two thousand deaf, blind and handicapped children were treated yesterday to a surprise performance by Prince at Lehman College’s Center for the Performing Arts, at Bedford Park Boulevard West and Paul Avenue in the Bronx.

The enthusiastic audience came from public schools, private institutions and United Cerebral Palsy centers around the city.

Prince’s New York spokesman, Alan Leeds, said of the free, unpublicized concert: ”He happens to get gratification out of playing for people who might not ever be able to attend a rock concert. It’s not a flag-waving affair.”

Prince was a larger than life entertainer loved by millions who felt a deep connection to his music and joie de vivre but now fans have something else to celebrate in this man and perhaps take a page from the book and pay it forward.

“Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince;
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”—William Shakespeare’s, Hamlet

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Ed García Conde

Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.