Van Jones

Civil Rights Lawyer : b. 1968

"Dr. King didn't get famous giving a speech that said,"I have a complaint." It's time for us to start dreaming again and invite the country to dream with us. We don't have any ┬┤throw away┬┤ species, nations, or children. We must birth a global green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty."

Biography

Born in rural Tennessee, Jones graduated in 1990 from the University of Tennessee and, in 1993, from Yale Law School. At the age of 27, Jones convinced the California State Bar Association to allow him to begin a program that would provide lawyer referral services for police abuse victims.

Jones, a civil-rights lawyer, is founder and executive director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, a nonprofit agency for justice, opportunities, and peace in urban America. Located in Oakland, California, the Center focuses on campaigning to reform California’s abusive and costly youth prison system, creating opportunities in the "green" economy for poor communities and communities of color, supporting victims and survivors of police abuse and their families, and uplifting young people and addressing Bay Area violence with a mix of activism and street culture.

Jones has lead many campaigns including Books Not Bars, an advocacy program for parents/grandparents of incarcerated youth in the United States. It has been credited with a 30% drop in the total number of youth incarcerated in California. Additionally Jones sits on numerous governing boards, and following Hurricane Katrina co-founded an online activist community addressing African American issues.