While working with the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights in San Francisco, Van Jones grew outraged by the numerous instances of police misconduct and intimidation in inner city communities. With $50,000 seed money he raised in 1994, Van founded Bay Area Police Watch, one of the first organizations in the country dedicated to providing counseling and legal services for victims of illegal police harassment and brutality. Since its establishment, Police Watch has evolved into the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, a non-profit aimed to ensure all citizens feel empowered in their interactions with the justice system and that police officers operate within the law. The Center is also dedicated to prison reform for youth and adults with a branch in New York City.
Van Jones is a CNN political contributor, regularly appearing across the network’s programming and special political coverage.
Jones has founded and led numerous social enterprises engaged in social and environmental justice:
- The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, which promotes criminal justice reform
- Color of Change, which works for racial fairness through its one million members
- Rebuild The Dream, a 21st Century "think tank" that champions innovative solutions to fix the U.S. economy and uplift the next generation.
- The Dream Corps, which promotes innovative policy solutions. The Dream Corps' major initiatives are: #YesWeCode, committed to helping train 100,000 low-opportunity youth to become top-level computer programmers; #cut50, which is working to cut the U.S. prison population in half in the next 10 years; and Green For All, which lifts people out of poverty through green job training and job creation
Jones is a Yale-educated attorney. He is the author of two New York Times best-selling books, The Green Collar Economy (2008) and Rebuild the Dream (2012). The second book chronicles his journey as an environmental and human rights activist to becoming a White House policy advisor.
He was the main advocate for the Green Jobs Act. Signed into law by George W. Bush in 2007, the Green Jobs Act was the first piece of federal legislation to codify the term “green jobs.” During the Obama Administration, the legislation has resulted in $500 million in national funding for green jobs training.
In 2009, Jones worked as the green jobs advisor to President Barack Obama. In this role, Jones helped to lead the inter-agency process that oversaw the multi-billion dollar investment in skills training and jobs development within the environmental and green energy sectors.
Jones has been honored with numerous awards and spotlighted on several lists of high achievers, including: the World Economic Forum’s “Young Global Leader” designation; Rolling Stone’s 2012 “12 Leaders Who Get Things Done”; TIME’s 2009 “100 Most Influential People in The World”; and the Root's 2014 "The Root 100." He is presently a fellow at the MIT Media Lab.
Awards & Honors
- One of The Root's 100 Honorees for 2014
- One of National Priorities Project's 30th Anniversary Democracy Champions
- One of Ebony Magazine's 2013 Power 100
- One of The Root's 100 Honorees for 2013
- One of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2009
- Recipient of the NAACP's Image Award
- Rolling Stones' 12 Leaders Who Get Things Done in 2012
- One of Essence Magazine’s 25 Most Inspiring African Americans in 2008
- One of Ebony Magazine’s 2011 Power 150
- One of Fast Company’s 12 Most Creative Minds on Earth
- Visiting Fellow in Collaborative Economics at Presidio Graduate School
- Member of the international Ashoka Fellowship
- A 2005 World Economic Forum "Young Global Leader"
- Former distinguished visiting professor at Princeton University
- Former Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and American Progress Action Fund
Leadership on Human Rights
While best known as a pioneer in the environmental movement, Van has been hard at work in social justice for nearly two decades, fashioning solutions to some of urban America's toughest problems. He is the co-founder of two social justice organizations: the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Color of Change. He currently serves as a board member of the Ella Baker Center.
Van is on the board of several organizations and non-profits, including: Presidio, Campaign for America's Future, Demos, Million Hoodies Movement for Justice and AFRON African Robotics Network.