“In a democracy, you won’t always get to have your way. But you should always get to have your say.”
Van Jones grew up in Jackson, Tennessee, with the given name of Anthony Jones. His parents were educators and his grandfather led a Methodist church. After going away to college, merely up the road at University of Tennessee at Martin, Jones decided that Anthony was not a fitting name and opted for Van. After undergrad, he attended Yale for law school and quickly became an activist for environmental and human rights. He is well known for his advocacy for the Green Jobs Act, his position as the green jobs advisor to the White House, his political contributions to CNN, and his activism for social reform.
Jones has made an impact through the co-founding of various nonprofit organizations. Dream Corps is one such organization, with three offshoot initiatives: #YesWeCode, #cut50, and #GreenForAll. Computer programming is a valuable skill and #YesWeCode gives young people with limited opportunities resources to become successful in this profession. Steve Wozniak stated that “Diversity brings so much to the table- and by focusing outside of the usual and rewarding all sorts of people in tech- we can only make it better. #YesWeCode is doing exactly that.” The second initiative, #cut50, looks to cut the prison population in half and end mass incarceration. The final, #GreenForAll, focuses on creating a green economy that will also bring people out of poverty. He has also founded The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, which focuses on a reformation of our criminal justice system, and The Color of Change, which promotes racial fairness. His other projects include Rebuild the Dream, which focuses on fixing our nation’s economy, and Magic Labs Media, which produces crucial documentaries.
A respected writer, Jones has authored two bestselling books. The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems, published in 2008, is the ultimate book on green jobs. In response to this text, Leonardo DiCaprio asserted that Jones is “making sure that our planet and our people will not just survive but also thrive in a clean-energy economy.” It was praised by Nancy Pelosi, Al Gore, and Tavis Smiley. His second book, Rebuild the Dream, focuses on progressives and the future of our country. In this, he chronicles his journey to becoming the green jobs advisor to President Obama, and Carl Pope reflects that “Jones is an extraordinarily important leader.” His third book is hitting bookstores in October of 2017, entitled Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together. This book addresses our nation’s divide after President Trump’s election and the pressing need to join together as a country.
Dubbed one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” by TIME, Jones is known and respected for his impact through activism. Van Jones is a fighter, diligently working for the environmental health of our country and the future of the marginalized members of society.