All Articles Tagged "van jones"

Van Jones, Michelle Obama And The Necessary Death Of “Classic” Beauty

July 28th, 2016 - By Nneka Samuel
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Michelle Obama DNC

Image: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Granted, he was all verklempt and filled with pride, as many of us were while watching First Lady Michelle Obama deliver her powerful Democratic National Convention speech this week, but CNN commentator and former White House environmental adviser Van Jones made an on-air statement regarding FLOTUS that didn’t sit well with some of the network’s viewers. When CNN anchor Anderson Cooper noted that Jones was crying during Obama’s speech, Jones responded with this: “Well I mean, first of all, if you weren’t moved by that, go see the doctor. I mean, every American has to appreciate what it means for a woman like her to have grown up in Chicago, dark skinned, not particular — you know, not the classically, you know, beautiful woman according to the theme of that time.”

You guessed it – it was Jones’s classically beautiful comment that garnered backlash. Jones took to Twitter to clarify his remarks writing, “Maybe [my words] didn’t come out right,” and “Of course, First Lady is classically beautiful! I meant how our dark skinned sisters were dissed generations ago.”

Now unless I missed something, dark-skinned women are still treated as though they’re at the bottom of the beauty standard totem pole. Just ask comedian Leslie Jones, who was recently accosted by racist trolls, so much so that she temporarily deleted her Twitter account. Or ask Viola Davis, who in 2014 was described as “less classically beautiful” in comparison to her fairer-skinned Black contemporaries by New York Times writer Alessandra Stanley. In that same article, Stanley also described Shonda Rhimes as an angry Black woman, the stereotypical label that seems to follow Black women everywhere we go, no matter what we do. Better yet, hold a mic up to Lil Kim, Azealia Banks and other Black women who have lightened their skin because they believed the lies they were told about their respective hues and inherent beauty. I could go on, but let me stop there.

Have we made significant gains when it comes to acknowledging and celebrating Black beauty, and in turn, widening the narrow spectrum in which beauty still seems to be defined? Absolutely, but we still have a long way to go. And let’s not forget that racists didn’t refrain from spewing their hateful vitriol just because Michelle Obama stepped foot in the White House. Quite the contrary. Jones’s “generations ago” comment is about as inaccurate as the debunked myth that we live in a post-racial America, but that’s not what I’m ultimately concerned about.

While Jones meant no harm by saying what he did, the attention he’s received should be redirected towards an effort to altogether abandon the term “classically beautiful.” Let’s face it: “Classically beautiful” was never inclusive and never used to describe Black women. In the eyes of the Eurocentric beauty beholder, our hair is too nappy, our noses too wide, our lips too full – but nothing short of spectacular on women of lighter hues – and our skin too dark. To think, these hurtful fallacies that regard our bodies as less than, unfeminine, undesirable and somehow inhuman only describe Black women from the neck up. Even more has been said about our various shapes and curves, our supposedly freakishly large derrieres (Saartjie Baartman, anyone?). But throw that a– on a White woman and suddenly it’s appealing and sexy as all get out.

Our features have been used to label us as promiscuous deviants unworthy of love but deserving – in fact, welcoming of sexual harm and battery. Our features were and continue to be offensive to the palette that utilizes scientific racism (the same racism used to declare Black people unintelligent, incapable, genetically prone to violence, etc.), mathematics and methods from an era long past of painters, sculptors and other artists intent on creating the perfect piece of art to define beauty. Perfection, of course, being an impossible ideal. And yet, here we are, using imperfect reasoning to define something as expansive as a woman’s physical beauty.

The term “classically beautiful” has nothing to do with a woman being timeless or effortless, for that matter. It is a narrow, sealed box; limiting, damaging and not at all reflective of where we say we want to be. Beauty exists in a spectrum that’s much wider than White, so let’s refrain from using an outdated term that never included Black women to begin with, and holds us back instead of moving us forward.

Should We Trust The Koch Brothers And Their Prison Reform Campaign?

July 17th, 2015 - By Charing Ball
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Should we trust well-known conservative funders the Koch brothers when it comes to their interest in prison reform?

It’s a question that some folks are asking after Van Jones, former Special Advisor for Green Jobs for the Obama Administration, and Mark Holden, senior vice president and general counsel for Koch Industries, appeared on “Democracy Now.” The two talked about their partnership to make the justice and prison systems more fair. They were guests on the program to discuss, among other things, the SAFE Justice Act, which seeks to reduce recidivism, reform sentencing and decriminalize certain laws on the books. The bill is currently being considered by the House.

It might come as a surprise to some that in addition to being a union buster and anti-Obamacare commercial funder, Charles Koch, who co-owns Koch Industries with his brother David, also considers himself a prison reformer. According to The Hill, his aims are to help those who are disenfranchised. Some of his stated goals include: returning voting rights to nonviolent felons; advocating for more money and resources for public defenders; and reforming mandatory minimum sentencing. Earlier this year, he pledged to make those changes a priority in 2015; and so far, he has galvanized bipartisan support by way of some of the unlikeliest of allies. That includes conservative politicians and hardline groups like the Heritage Foundation and ALEC, as well as left-leaning groups and activists like the American Civil Liberties Union and Van Jones.

Jones and Holden’s appearance on “Democracy Now” comes as President Obama has aggressively taken on the issue of mass incarceration. In the last couple of weeks, President Obama has reduced the sentences of 46 non-violent inmates who are serving time for various drug offenses. He has made an historic trip to a prison in Oklahoma. And he has given a speech before the NAACP in which, among things, he made a plug for sentencing reform. In the speech before the NAACP, President Obama also shouted out all of the bipartisan support for reform within the criminal justice system.

“This is a cause that’s bringing people in both houses of Congress together. It’s created some unlikely bedfellows. You’ve got Van Jones and Newt Gingrich. You’ve got Americans for Tax Reform and the ACLU. You’ve got the NAACP and the Koch brothers. No, you’ve got to give them credit. You’ve got to call it like you see it. There are states from Texas and South Carolina to California and Connecticut who have acted to reduce their prison populations over the last five years and have seen their crime rates fall. That’s good news.”

That is good news, but what’s the bad news?

As noted by Leon Neyfakh in an article from April 2015 for Salon titled, “The Koch Brothers Want It Both Ways,” the Koch brothers’ interest in reforming the criminal justice system may have less to do with helping the disenfranchised, and more to do with a yet to be identified political strategy, which could possibly bite folks in the behind in the end. His proof is a New York Republican fundraiser dinner where David Koch pledged to spend nearly $900 million of the brothers’ loot during the 2016 election to support Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s bid for the White House. Walker is best known for destroying collective bargaining in Wisconsin, but as Neyfakh notes, Walker has also not been a friend to criminal justice reform.

As Neyfakh writes:

Writing in the Nation in February, Scott Keyes ran through Walker’s record on the issue and concluded that, over the course of his political career in Wisconsin, Walker had passed one law after another that resulted in more people being sent to prison for longer. “In just the 1997–98 legislative session, Walker authored or co-sponsored twenty-seven different bills that either expanded the definition of crimes, increased mandatory minimums for offenders, or curbed the possibility of parole,” Keyes reported.

In addition to supporting a candidate for president with a pretty dismal track record of reforming the criminal justice system for the better, the Koch brothers have also been associated with some pretty contradictory anti-crime legislation. Such legislation hasn’t helped those populations most impacted by the criminal justice system. According to this piece by John Nichols, entitled “How ALEC Took Florida’s ‘License to Kill’ Law National,” it was the Koch brothers who funded ALEC, which would help to take Stand Your Ground laws national. And writer Kathie Halper reported for Salon back in 2013 that Stand Your Ground laws were more likely to help White and particularly affluent defendants than Black people.

So why would the Koch brothers be interested in prison reform now? Perhaps, it is just a matter of good press? As Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank noted back in 2013, this softer, more classic liberal side of the Koch brothers might have something to do with their pet lobbying group’s attempt at reinvention. As Milbank writes:

It reported that the group has lost almost 400 state legislators in the past two years and more than 60 corporations. Its income fell a third short of projections in the first six months of this year. To raise money, the documents showed, ALEC considered expanding its policy portfolio to gambling, and, concerned about potential tax problems with its designation as a 501(c)(3) charity, it is considering 501(c)(4) status, which would allow it to lobby more openly.

Or perhaps there is a financial incentive here, as noted by Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig in a recent article for the Republic titled, “Why Conservatives’ Prison Reform Plans Won’t Work.” The Koch brothers’ interest in prison reform might have to do with helping both state, federal and private prisons control the spiraling cost associated with incarceration, particularly as it pertains to locking up those with health and mental problems. As Bruenig states:

Thus, the politics of cost-cutting harms the very people that prison reform should aim to help. It isn’t that prison sentences shouldn’t be reduced, or that mass incarceration shouldn’t come to an end, or that the conditions of prisoners shouldn’t be vastly improved. But poor and mentally ill people who wind up in prison will still be poor and mentally ill even if the prison system is reformed. So the focus shouldn’t be on slashing spending, but improving the lives of people before, during, and after prison.

Whatever is behind their motivation, the partnership between these unlikely bedfellows is really interesting to say the least. I get that we all have to sometimes work with people and groups we don’t agree with politically (or even personally) for the benefit of a bigger goal. But it makes me wonder what had to be traded in order to reform the system?

Environmental Groups Respond To Black Chamber Of Commerce Objections To Clean Power Plan

June 22nd, 2015 - By Tonya Garcia
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Environmental groups are sounding off on the Black Chamber of Commerce for their criticism of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce carbon dioxide levels. The BCC says the plan will raise the utility costs to poor and Black families.

When our story went up last Wednesday, we quickly got responses from two groups saying that the BCC was off base about their conclusions. We received this from Dr. Jalonne L. White-Newsome, the director of Federal Policy for WE ACT for Environmental Justice and National Coordinator for the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum on Climate Change:

If we believe for one minute that the air Black people [breathe] is the same as it elsewhere, we are playing ourselves.  A 2011 analysis found that African Americans are more likely to live in counties with the worse ozone pollution.  Ozone pollution causes wheezing, shortness of breath, asthma attacks and even premature death. Our children are twice as likely to have asthma and four times as likely to die of asthma than white children. It should be no surprise that our communities of color and low income communities suffer more. 

Poor health costs! The annual economic cost of asthma is more than $56 billion. With more Black families living in poverty than others, many are already stressed and struggling to make ends meet.  The additional health costs as a result of the dirty, polluted air that we are breathing – an unexpected trip to the ER or missing days of work to take care of our sick children – just adds to the burden.

That’s why it is important that we don’t give in to the hype and let your voice be heard!  Don’t let the National Black Chambers of Commerce mislead you. They’ve aligned themselves with dirty energy providers who are more concerned with their finances than the health and well being of our communities.  Our communities need a fully implemented Clean Power Plan, not more of the same bad energy policies allowing these polluters to put the lives of children in jeopardy.  The Clean Power Plan will NOT raise energy costs, it will not kill jobs.  It is an opportunity for our communities to position themselves to be generators and distributors of clean, renewable energy (like solar and wind), as well as give our “Sister-preneurs” a new segue into the clean energy economy.  Leave it up to the National Black Chambers of Commerce and their allies that produce dirty energy and the health of our communities will continue to get worse as their pockets get bigger. Our children, our health and the welfare of our communities should NOT be for sale. 

And Van Jones, president and founder of Green For All, wrote a rebuttal that we received in our inbox. Here’s a piece of it, which  will also be published on Ebony in full:

Let’s just get this out of the way: The president’s Clean Power Plan will not raise our energy costs. In fact, it’s projected to save families an average of $8 a month on their residential electricity bills.

More importantly, the plan will save lives. It will prevent thousands of premature deaths from pollution-related illnesses, and roughly 150,000 asthma attacks in children each year. This is significant, because one out of every six African American children in this country suffers from asthma.

Our kids literally can’t breathe. And one big reason is because of unchecked pollution from dirty energy plants. Coal-fired power plants kill nearly 13,000 people a year, according to the American Lung Association. These plants tend to be located next to communities of color, so our families are hit hardest.

Obama’s Clean Power Plan will mean fewer hospital trips and fewer missed school days for African American kids, plain and simple. In fact, the health benefits of keeping power plant pollution out of our air and lungs could save our country as much as $93 billion per year.

But the plan will do more than protect our health. It could also increase our wealth. By driving innovation and the growth of clean energy, it will create jobs—about 360,000 net jobs, according to the latest data. We still have work to do to ensure that people of color have access to the best careers in the clean energy economy—but that’s a good problem to have.


Green For All also posted this compilation of supportive comments for the plan.

If you do a quick search of the EPA and this plan, there are no shortage of opinions on the subject. What are some of the environmental issues that you’re concerned with?

Van Jones Joins Revived ‘Crossfire’ On CNN

June 27th, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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Credit:Daniel Tanner/

Credit:Daniel Tanner/

The ratings over at CNN have been faltering, despite a network makeover that included letting go of Soledad O’Brien. It seems the network is turning to some previous favorites to lure viewers to return to the network. The political debate program Crossfire is coming back to CNN and among those on the panel are Van Jones, the founding president of Rebuild the Dream, an organization that promotes innovative policy solutions for the U.S. economy. Jones worked as the green jobs advisor for the Obama administration in 2009.

Jones, who is the  author of two The New York Times best-selling books (The Green Collar Economy and Rebuild the Dream), will co-host with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and conservative columnist S.E. Cupp along with Stephanie Cutter, who like Jones, will represent the left. Cutter is a partner at newly-launched strategic consulting firm Precision Strategies. She previously served as the deputy campaign manager for President Obama’s re-election campaign and was Michelle Obama’s chief of staff and senior adviser to then-Senator Obama during the 2008 election.  She also served in the White House as Assistant to the President and Deputy Senior Adviser for communications and strategy.

All four hosts will also appear across the network’s programming and its special coverage surrounding elections and political events.

“Few programs in the history of CNN have had the kind of impact on political discourse that Crossfire did – it was a terrific program then, and we believe the time is right to bring it back and do it again,” said Jeff Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide, in a press statement.

Crossfire was one of CNN’s most popular shows when it initially aired from 1982 to 2005. Conservative Pat Buchanan and liberal Tom Braden were the original hosts of the program,  and other hosts included Robert Novak, Tucker Carlson, James Carville and Paul Begala.

In Our Own Backyard: Nine African-American Environmentalists Who Changed Our Community’s Landscape

April 11th, 2013 - By Blair Bedford
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African Americans are at the forefront of today’s environmental issue, actively seeking ways to improve and break ground (literally). And not all environmentalists are tree-hugging, burlap-wearing hippies.

Whether it’s through the African-American Environmentalist Association that aims to educate the Black community on the issues of the environment today or through community service in our own backyards, African Americans have been giving their time, talent and legacies in order to close the racial divide in environmental activism.

We recognize these nine African-American environmentalists for their contributions to the health of our community and Earth as a whole.

Donna Brazile, Roland Martin Could Be Next To Leave CNN

January 31st, 2013 - By Tonya Garcia
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AP Photo/Alex Brandon

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

The cuts at CNN could get deeper very quickly.

Just yesterday, we reported that Soledad O’Brien has been removed from her morning anchor position, among other changes. Now, Fishbowl DC is reporting that Roland Martin and Donna Brazile could be the next two on the chopping block. The website notes that three new faces — civil rights activist Van Jones, The New York Times’ Charles Blow, and Democratic strategist Cornell Belcher — have appeared regularly on the network as of late. And both Martin and Brazile were excluded from the network’s coverage of the inauguration.

Charles Blow. via Twitter

Charles Blow. via Twitter

Brazile is also an ABC correspondent; Martin has a program on TV One and serves as an analyst on Tom Joyner’s program.

In other media news, Long anticipated cuts are going to be made at Time Inc., which, like many media companies, is suffering at the hands of dropping newsstand readership and advertising sales. According to Bloomberg, 500 positions are being eliminated, about six percent of the company’s workforce. Essence, Real Simple, and People are among the magazine titles at Time. Cuts are expected across all divisions.

It’s All Love? Pro-Black Men Who We’re Surprised Dated Or Married White Women

November 26th, 2012 - By MN Editor
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Andres Otero/

While interracial relationships are not nearly as uncommon as they once were, we’d be lying if we said that the dating and marriage histories of some of the nation’s most outspoken black social activists didn’t come as a surprise to us. Let’s take a gander at socially and politically active black men who dated outside of their race.

Oh My Damn, You Fine! 10 Men Whose Good Looks Snuck Up On Us

November 14th, 2012 - By Clarke Gail Baines
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Ever looked at someone and at first glance, they were just okay, but at a different angle, in a different situation, or whatever happened, they all of a sudden looked good as all get out? It happens more than we think, especially when a man gets a makeover, grows some nice muscles we didn’t see coming and puts some Chapstick on (I was kidding on that last one, but it does help!). Check out these 10 fellas whose good looks crept up on us and now we just can’t get enough. Call a sista!


I guess if you’ve been a ride or die fan of Nas since Illmatic, you probably picked up on the fact that Nas is more than just a man who can rhyme very well, he’s a FINE man who can rhyme very well. I think it was just the very baggy clothes and the ruggedness back then that had some scratching their heads when other women would squeal, “GIRL, Nas is FINE!” But the older he gets, the more we hear that voice, the more we can’t help but wish we knew Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones a little better outside of the music. And granted, we’re not fans of the way things fell apart with Kelis, but that still doesn’t take away from the fact that those lips are a gift. Man oh man…

Van Jones And The American Dream Movement

October 4th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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By Charlotte Young

With the Occupy Wall Street Journal protest now in its third week, activist and author Van Jones is setting the record straight on the success of the protest and its deeper implications on America, despite a lack of serious coverage from the media.

According to the Root, Jones views the protest as part of the larger American Dream Movement, a group of progressive voices fighting for struggling Americans. The movement was started in part by Jones in June. He interrupted his presentation on Monday at the American Dream Conference to give his audience an update on the protest; declaring that US Marine Veterans were standing beside the protestors to protect and support them.

“This is a movement moment! Something’s happening in America! Don’t you give up on this country! Don’t you give up on this movement! This is your movement,” he said to the crowd.

Using the Tea Party as a model, Jones began to organize the American Dream Movement and helped to raise the support of over 70 progressive organizations. Compared to the Tea Party, the American Dream Movement began with 1,597 house meetings, almost double the 800 house meetings the Tea Party had at its start. In addition the American Dream Movement was able to mobilize 131,203 people, nearly triple the Tea Party’s 50,000 people at its conception.

One of the hindrances to the liberal side, Jones said, was a dependence on the president to be able to fix everything.

“We have the wrong theory of the president’s seat,” Jones said at the conference. “We somehow thought that by electing a single person, an individual who was inspiring…that we could just sit back and munch popcorn and watch him.”

Past presidents have always been accompanied by strong movements in Jones’ view. For example, Lyndon B. Johnson signed civil rights laws in coordination with the strength of the Civil Rights Movement. Franklin D. Roosevelt was urged to bring the New Deal into effect because of the Labor Movement.

Jones emphasized that all progressive activists, labor, LGBT rights, immigration and all others, must work together instead of branching off to fight for their independent causes.

“If we can be as warm and sharing and kind as the Tea Party, which one might suspect is a relatively low bar, we might be able to do something for our country. That’s the invitation to you,” he said.

The three-day American Dream Conference will bring representatives from 35 different organizations to the forefront, including People for the American Way, the Hip Hop Caucus and the League of Young Voters.

During the next two days, participants at the conference hope that their brainstorming and interactions will enable them to take the movement to greater heights across the country.

It’s Easy Being Green: 7 Innovative African American Environmentalists

August 30th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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Environmentalists have evolved from the tree hugging hippies making a case for preservation areas to passionate politicians who have no problems telling us an inconvenient truth. All along black people have been active in the campaign for environmental issues, but more recently many have become major players in areas ranging from green jobs, to urban gardens to heading the EPA. Here’s our list of top black environmentalists:

Lisa Jackson is best known as head of the Environmental Protection Agency – an appointment bestowed upon her by President Barack Obama. She is the first person of African American descent to serve as EPA Administrator. The chemical engineer was employed by the EPA for 16 years before taking the helm. She has become the first EPA administrator to focus on reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, which regulates the introduction of new or already existing chemicals. She was also cited as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by Time Magazine.