Look, I’m no Nancy Drew or Encyclopedia Brown or even a low paid investigative reporter in real life, but if I had to make a guess as to the identity of the person who anonymously donated $34 million last summer to make the Bay Area an even more beautiful place, I would say that he was born Prince Rogers Nelson and he left us way too soon.
In July 2015, reps for the San Francisco Foundation, a community foundation dedicated to improving racial and economic equity across the Bay Area, announced that they had received an anonymous donation of $34 million. TSFF announced that the donation would be used to help Oakland to create 731 new jobs and 2,502 new affordable housing units.
The money was projected to serve an estimated 62,570 people in the city through fueling partnerships with Oakland Unified School District, Alameda County Public Health Department, the Oakland Mayor’s office and Oakland organizations like Black Girls Code East Oakland Youth Development Center, Hack the Hood, Hidden Genius Project, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Oakland Public Education Fund, Restore Oakland, Youth UpRising and #YesWeCode. The latter initiative, which has a mission to bring tech training to 100,000 people from low-opportunity backgrounds, was singled out as a cause that Prince supported, which surely would have been against the Jehovah’s Witness’ wishes.
“He 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,” said CNN political commentator and Prince friend Van Jones on-air the weekend following his untimely passing. “The music was one way he tried to help the world. But he was helping every day of his life. There are people who have solar panels on their houses right now in Oakland, California that they don’t know Prince paid for them.” Jones also said that Prince quietly helped him to create Dream Corp’s #YesWeCode and Green For All initiatives.
TSFF’s press release said that the anonymous donor is from the East Bay, but that could be just to throw us off the scent as he was known to work through people like Jones. Obsessive scouring of Setlist.FM revealed that he was not busy on tour when the donation was made, though there’s a feeling that his heart and capacity for philanthropy continued no matter where he was in the world. While we’ll never really know for sure who made that extraordinary gift possible, we do know that Prince adored the Bay Area, the land that brought him Carlos Santana, Sheila E. and Steph Curry.