Van Jones

Co-Founder, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
February 22, 2008 1:03:05 PM PST
Van Jones is working to combine solutions to America's two biggest problems: social inequality and environmental destruction.

HUMAN RIGHTS CHAMPION: In 1996, Van and Diana Frappier co-founded the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, which is now headquartered in Oakland, California. Named for an unsung civil rights heroine, the Center promotes positive alternatives to violence and incarceration.

In 2003, the Center's "Books Not Bars" campaign helped block the construction of a costly and controversial "Super-Jail For Youth" near Oakland. Since that victory, Books Not Bars has helped reduce California's overall youth prison population by more than 30 percent.

In the aftermath of 2005's Hurricane Katrina, Van helped to found, an online advocacy organization. With more than 100,000 members, Color Of Change is now the nation's biggest e-advocacy organization tackling Black issues.

AWARDS & HONORS: As an advocate for the toughest urban constituencies and causes, Van has won many honors. These include the 1998 Reebok International Human Rights Award, the international Ashoka Fellowship, selection as a World Economic Forum "Young Global Leader," and the Rockefeller Foundation "Next Generation Leadership" Fellowship.

EMERGING GREEN LEADER: Over the past five years, Van has also emerged as a national environmental leader. In recent years, he has served on the boards of the National Apollo Alliance, Social Venture Network, Rainforest Action Network, Bioneers and Julia Butterfly Hill's "Circle of Life" organization.

In 2005, Van produced the "Social Equity Track" for the United Nations' World Environment Day celebration. UNWED 2005 drew dozens of mayors from around the world to San Francisco, where they developed policies promoting the concept of "Green Cities."

"GREEN JOBS, NOT JAILS": Van's dual roles have given him a unique perspective on the country's problems and its potential solutions. Under the slogan "green jobs, not jails," Van Jones today is calling for green economic development in urban America.

Van's visionary efforts are already meeting with practical success.

PRACTICAL SUCCESSES: In June 2007, the City of Oakland adopted a proposal from the Ella Baker Center and the Oakland Apollo Alliance to create a "Green Jobs Corps." The Corps will train youth for eco-friendly "green-collar jobs."

Now the Center is working with the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) to create the country's first-ever Green Enterprise Zone, to attract environmentally sound industry to Oakland.

NATIONAL LEADERSHIP: At the national level, Van and the Ella Baker Center worked in 2007 with U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), U.S. Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA), U.S. Rep. John Tierney (D-MASS) to pass the Green Jobs Act of 2007. That path-breaking, historic legislation will provide $120 million in funding to train 35,000 people a year in "green-collar jobs."

Van is also a founder of a new national coalition that is promoting the idea of a national "Clean Energy Jobs Corps." This multi-billion-dollar federal initiative would put hundreds of thousands of people to work rewiring and retrofitting the energy infrastructure of the United States. Like the Peace Corps for John F. Kennedy or Americorps for Bill Clinton, the Clean Energy Jobs Corps is designed to be a signature initiative for the next U.S. president.

"GREEN FOR ALL": In the summer of 2007, Van helped launch two new initiatives. He is a founding board member of One Sky, a national coalition working to avert catastrophic climate change. And he is also the founding president of Green For All, a national campaign for green-collar jobs and opportunities.

A 1993 Yale Law graduate, Van is also a husband and father. Van is proud to champion some of the most hopeful solutions to America's toughest challenges.

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