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LAWCROSSING          THE LARGEST COLLECTION OF LEGAL JOBS ON EARTH   LAW STAR                                             ...
LAWCROSSING           THE LARGEST COLLECTION OF LEGAL JOBS ON EARTH   LAW STAR                                            ...
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Van Jones; Founder and National Executive Director, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights; Oakland, CA


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Van Jones is Founder and National Executive Director, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights Oakland, CA.

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Van Jones; Founder and National Executive Director, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights; Oakland, CA

  1. 1. LAWCROSSING THE LARGEST COLLECTION OF LEGAL JOBS ON EARTH LAW STAR 1. 800.973.1177 Van Jones; Founder and National Executive Director, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights; Oakland, CA [by Charisse Dengler] Founder of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights (EBC), Van Jones is intensely passionate about exposing human rights violations and being an instrument of “justice, opportunity, and peace in the streets.”Having grown up in the rural South, with me. I thought it was unfair. So, that began “We were and are still one of California’sschoolteacher parents who spoke out boldly to inform what I wanted to do with my law only state-bar-certified, police-misconduct-on the subject of desegregation, Jones was degree.” lawyer referrals,” Jones said.destined to be a leader in the fight for justiceand equality. Upon graduation, Jones took a job at the Other programs the EBC has implemented Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights in San include Books Not Bars and Reclaim the“I grew up in a very pro-civil rights Francisco, and it was there that he met Eva Future. Books Not Bars is a programhousehold, and that really affected my Paterson, the civil rights attorney and mentor dedicated to getting California’s youthworldview,” he said. who would help him accomplish his dream of out from behind bars and into positive founding the EBC. rehabilitation centers, and Jones is proud ofJones first began to consider becoming a the progress the program has made so far. “Based on the things I saw working as alawyer while working at a newspaper in young civil rights attorney, I decided to “As a result of our efforts and the effortsShreveport, LA. create a human rights center that would of others, there’s been about a one-third be really focused on some of these abuses reduction in the number of kids who are“I felt that there was a lot of racism and wouldn’t stop at calling them civil locked up in the state system, and that’sdiscrimination in the community that rights abuses or miscarriages of justice, something we’re pretty proud of,” he said.the newspaper was actually adding to but would say that these are human rights “We’ve got a long way to go, but we’re seeingand fanning the flames of, as opposed to abuses,” he said. “Same way that if we saw real progress.”correcting, and I felt implicated because I any other country that was putting its poorwas working there,” he said. “I just disagreed people and its minority population in prison Reclaim the Future is a program designedwith a lot of things—a lot of the slants and in disproportionate numbers to its majority to help people with barriers to employment,angles and the way different neighborhoods population, we’d call those human rights such as those with criminal records, findand communities were being portrayed—and abuses. I wanted to say the same thing was quality jobs. The EBC also helped startso I decided that I wanted to make the news happening inside U.S. borders.” Freedom Fighter Music, a music labeland not write it and went to law school.” featuring artists whose work expresses the Three years later, Jones turned his dream EBC’s beliefs.While in law school, Jones once again into reality.became aware of discrimination in the “We think that they [Freedom Fightercommunity around him, and this time, it led “I started the Ella Baker Center for Human Music artists] are adding an importantto the decision to focus his legal career on Rights in 1996, so it’ll be 10 years old in perspective—an important voice—especiallybattling human rights abuses. September,” he said. “Our initial mission was in the world of hip-hop music, where socially to document, challenge, and expose human relevant music isn’t as popular or common“I noticed that students at Yale University rights violations, especially by U.S. law as it was in the late ‘80s,” Jones said.used drugs fairly freely—breaking the law enforcement.”pretty much every weekend—and never got When asked why he believes young peoplearrested or put in prison for that criminal The EBC’s first program, Bay Area have responded so well to the EBC’sbehavior,” he said, “but, literally four blocks PoliceWatch, was created in 1995 to “police programs, Jones said it’s because theaway, kids doing that in the housing projects the police.” The program works to expose organization allows the youth of today towere labeled drug dealers and drug abusers police misconduct and campaigns on behalf speak out in their own voices and do thingsand sent off to prison. That really shocked of victims’ families to bring about justice. their way.PAGE continued on back
  2. 2. LAWCROSSING THE LARGEST COLLECTION OF LEGAL JOBS ON EARTH LAW STAR 1. 800.973.1177“We don’t try to dress them up or water For law students interested in effecting some an avalanche in the direction that you thinkthem down,” he said. “We think that people major change in their society, Jones advises things should go. That’s the worst thing.”really need to hear from young people in finding a mentor who has been in their field Over the past decade, Jones has workedurban America—raw and uncensored—in all of interest for a while and who can make relentlessly to create an organizationtheir hope and all their pain so we can start recommendations and give advice. He also dedicated to justice, opportunity, and peace;making wiser choices about how to lift those vigorously encourages students to go with and now that the EBC is established andyoung people up.” their instincts and fight for what they believe flourishing, he has no intention of slowing in. down.Since he founded the EBC, Jones has beenbrazenly educating the world on human “If you feel called to start something, “I think the Ella Baker Center is on the pathrights abuses and opening people’s eyes chances are if it’s worth doing at all, most to becoming a world-class strategy andto the injustices taking place in their own people will tell you don’t do it,” he said. “So, action center for justice and opportunity…andcommunities. listen to your own heart. Get a patron or we’re going to continue on that road,” he somebody—get a couple—and then, don’t be said. “And as for me, I’m going to keep trying“I get a chance to talk to elected officials. afraid to fail.” to find ways to make this country more justI get a chance to talk to philanthropists, and to make the struggling in marginalstudents, [and] community leaders that “The worst thing in the world is not being communities more healthy and prosperous.”are maybe not focused on this part of the passionate about something and trying toproblem,” he said. “It always feels good when start a project and it failing,” he said. “That’syou’re able to see the light bulbs go off in not the worst thing at all. The worst thing ispeople’s heads and you realize that you are to be passionate about something and takehelping to shape people’s understanding of no action and always wonder whether youthe world and what in fact is going on.” could’ve thrown a rock that would’ve causedPAGE