5 Questions With Van Jones

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Van Jones

NASHVILLE, TN —  Van Jones’ WE RISE AGAINST HATE TOUR made a stop in Nashville recently at the Ryman Auditorium. The tour is continuing to travel across America as it wraps up a 14-city schedule. With the recent tragic events taking place in Virginia, the tour’s message of uniting against hate is more important than ever. The tour, powered by #LoveArmy in partnership with Roc Nation, aims to address the current divisive climate in American and engage local communities and changemakers to help address some of the most pressing issues facing the country. 100% of net ticket proceeds will go to Van Jones’ nonprofit, the Dream Corps, its initiatives, and local partner charities. Jones, a native of Jackson, TN took the time to answer 5 Questions with the Tribune during his recent visit to Music City.

TRIBUNE: You’ve received so much national and international acclaim, and accolades. What is it like for you to personally speak in front of the hometown crowd. V.JONES:   I’m from Tennessee, born in Jackson, my dad was born in Memphis, my mom is a native Jacksonian. I went to the University of Tennessee at Martin undergraduate before. So, for me it was great to be here in Nashville. In fact, my girlfriend, when I was in college back in the 1980s, believe it or not, was president of the Black Student Alliance at Vanderbilt.  I had a bunch of friends at Tennessee State and Fisk, so being here in Nashville is kind of a homecoming of sorts. In fact, a couple of guys from my high school came from Jackson and other places to see. It was great!”

TRIBUNE: Your comments, your thoughts, about the horrible tragedy that took place recently in Charlottesville, Virginia. V.JONES: “Apparently, a Nazi assassinated an American citizen in broad daylight, using ISIS tactics of ramming cars into crowds. And the entire country came together to condemn it, except for the President of the United States. So, that’s unfortunate. I would have thought – I mean, obviously, Trump gave a weak statement about it, without the real passion, and without the specificity that every other leader showed, and I would think that Trump, as the father of a Jewish daughter, with a Jewish son in law, would have had more passion and more urgency to denounce an anti-Jewish, anti-black violent terrorist movement. But it was not the case.”

TRIBUNE: You have a lot of insider contacts and information. Do you anticipate other problems like Charlottesville happening in the immediate future?  V. JONES: Yes, these troubles are just beginning, because the actions and inactions of the President has given aid and comfort to some of these nasty, toxic forces. They feel emboldened and legitimated by the things he says by the things he says and the things he doesn’t say. So, they’re going to march more, they’re going to commit more acts of violence, they’re going to try to take up more political space in the media, and they’re going to try to make it seem like it’s okay to put the white racial identity above the rest of humanity.

TRIBUNE: So, what do you think people who are minorities, LGBT people, women, Jewish people, white people, who are against this type of hatred should do?  V. JONES:  I think people have to do two things that usually don’t go together. We have to decide that this hatred and venom is just intolerable and not acceptable, and we have to try to have proactive discussion…We’re going to have to do with Dr. King, and Ella Jo Baker, and Fannie Lou Hamer did. It wasn’t just people woke up one morning and said, ‘Hey, segregation is wrong.’ It was a big, long process of public education, consciousness raising, people in study groups, ministers getting their sermons together, and all of these things had to happen in order to move the conscience of a country.  But we also should have a kind of tough love for people who are being attracted to these movements. For White men who might be attracted to these movements – you have to have a kind of a tough love for them. Tough in that this is the wrong way, but there’s got to be some love in there too. Some people are having a hard time in this economy with all these changing demographics, and they’re feeling a little bit lost in the shuffle, and I think we have to ask, as progressives, do we have a place in our hearts for the straight white guy, who might be conservative on some issues, to have a place of dignity and honor in our own assessment, or is he just the enemy all the time? If he’s the enemy in our hearts, then it’s very hard for us to tell him not to make us the enemy in his heart. We have to redouble our efforts to fight the ‘why’ is it good for us to have diversity.

TRIBUNE: Would you, or have you thought about running for any kind of political office? V. JONES: “No, because I love myself (he laughs). I have seen the best in the world up close and personal, try to make a tremendous difference, but run up against so many obstacles. And when you’ve seen the best president ever up close, (President Obama), and let’s just say I have one-one-hundredth of his talent, and see what he was up against, you realize that there’s a lot of brush that needs to be cleared for that next great force to come down the track, and I’m trying to clear the brush. There’ll be a Kamala Harris, or a Cory Booker, or somebody coming down this track, that will maybe meet or even exceed what Obama was able to do. We’ve got to get the brush off the track. We’ve got to change these gerrymandering laws, we’ve got to change these campaign finance laws, we’ve got to change the political culture so making a deal that helps your side and the other side is not considered a sellout. There’s a lot of work to be done, so I’m more focused on the reforms that will let the next great leaders actually lead.

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