Dr King didn’t get famous making a speech called “I have a complaint. I have a critique. I have a list of things that thoroughly piss me off.” He had a vision, something that inspired people, communicated hope.

Van Jones by Robert Shetterly
Van Jones by Robert Shetterly
As I collect my business cards and badge to attend this year’s Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Conference, I can’t help but remember last year’s event. Illinois Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama hosted a panel on Green Jobs and urban environmentalism. I went to the session specifically to meet and shake the hand of Van Jones . I told him so as the crowd made their bee-line towards Obama. “I’ve already met your friend,” I joked with Jones. I’d heard a lot of buzz about Van Jones before. Now he’s one of the most sought after speakers and advocates for urban justice. This link will take you to the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly webpage and his speech made on July 1, 2008 in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Van Jones first came to my attention for being the co-founder (with Diana Frappier) of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, CA. The center’s namesake, Ella Baker will make an appearance on my Community Organzers HOF, sure thing, but just the name of the center caught my attention right away, and that’s how I became familiar with the work of Van Jones. The Ella Baker Center works for justice, opportunity and peace in urban America. They promote positive alternatives to violence and incarceration through four cutting-edge campaigns:
Books Not Bars – Campaigning to reform California’s abusive & costly youth prison system.
Green-Collar Jobs Campaign – Creating opportunities in the “green” economy for poor communities and communities of color.
Bay Area PoliceWatch – Supporting victims and survivors of police abuse and their families.
Silence the Violence – Uplifting young people and addressing Bay Area violence with a mix of social activism and street culture.

Van Jones humorously upstaged the Illinois Senator with his famous “we can save Pookie and the polar bear too” punch during the CBC panel. As we begin picking over the bones of the industrial revolution, now is the time to turn those blue collars in for green ones. Greens are good for you. As a southerner, I know.

Van Jones is the founder and president of Green For All, also based in Oakland, California. Their mission is to help build an inclusive, green economy – strong enough to lift millions of people out of poverty. Jones has really put a lot of focus on this vision which may sprout some sort of Green Corps (that’s the latest buzz Im hearing).

They say “three’s the charm” – Van Jones is also co-founder of ColorofChange.org, an online community organized to empower its members — “Blacks and our allies” — to make government more responsive to the concerns of Black Americans and to bring about positive political and social change for everyone. ColorofChange.org was organized in response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster and the tragic lack of response from FEMA and other state and federal agencies. ColorofChange.org now have over 500,000 active on-line members.

The painting of Van Jones at the top of this blog is by Robert Shetterly. I found it on the Yes! magazine site as well as a link to the artist’s webpage for Americans Who Tell the Truth Do Tell! Pookie and the polar bears are all ears.