Van Jones

Van Jones

Van Jones is the founder and National Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights (EBC). Headquartered in Oakland, CA, EBC is a national organization that challenges human rights abuses in the U.S. criminal justice system. Born in rural west Tennessee in 1968, Van is a 1990 graduate of the University of Tennessee at Martin and a 1993 graduate of the Yale Law School. Van is a steadfast opponent of policies that result in the over-imprisonment and unlawful abuse of marginalized peoples in the United States. He is helping to lead a national fight for alternatives to the U.S. incarceration industry. In 2008, HarperCollins published Van's first book, the New York Times best-seller The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems .

Human Rights Crusader Van has been a pioneer in challenging police abuse, as well as the over-incarceration of young people. He helped to found the Ella Baker Center to anchor multiple efforts to challenge the criminalization, incarceration and abuse of low-income people and people of color. His efforts have won him widespread local, national and international recognition. His awards and honors include:

  • Global Leader for Tomorrow, 2002
  • Ashoka Fellowship, 2000-03
  • Kerry Kennedy Cuomo "Human Rights Defender," 2000.
  • Reebok International Human Rights Award, 1998 Rockefeller Foundation ‘Next Generation Leadership’

Social Entrepreneur Van brings an innovative spirit and entrepreneurial drive to his social change work. He has also recognized that breaking the incarceration industry's stranglehold on public debate and policy requires greater partnership between human rights activists and the progressive business community. Under Van's leadership, the Ella Baker Center has begun to pioneer new methods of promoting the human rights agenda. EBC is incubating a record label, Freedom Fighter Music. Freedom Fighter Music harnesses urban music and youth culture to tackle human rights issues. EBC has also formed a partnership with two urban media companies, New World Culture and Mindzeye Entertainment, to promote EBC's human rights message. Van has also worked diligently to build bridges between socially responsible business leaders and human rights activists. These efforts led him in 1999 to join the Social Venture Network, a powerful consortium of progressive business leaders. In 2001, Van was elected to serve as an SVN board member. He is also a non-profit member of the Full Circle Fund, a group of young Silicon Valley philanthropists.

Media Activist Van has an extensive background in media and communications. He has worked as a professional journalist, independent publisher, cartoonist, columnist and a national spokesperson. Van has also served as a leading board member for two progressive media organizations. Before entering law school, Van worked as an intern at the Jackson Sun (Tennessee), the Shreveport Times (Louisiana) and the Associated Press (Nashville bureau). He also helped to launch and spearhead a number of independent, campus-based publishing efforts. These enterprises included the Fourteenth Circle (University of Tennessee), the Periscope (Vanderbilt University), the New Alliance Project (state-wide in Tennessee), and the Third Eye (Nashville's African-American community). As a national spokesperson for the Ella Baker Center, Van is a regular guest on KPFA, the Bay Area's Pacifica network radio station. He has also appeared as a guest on CNN, BET (Black Entertainment Television), National Public Radio, Pacifica Radio's "Democracy Now" and many other radio and television programs.