Van Jones is the National Executive Director of The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, which houses the New York City Police Watch Project and the Bay Area Police Watch Project.
is significant about this gathering?
Obviously something incredible is happening, because you have
the opening of a new century, you have the Kennedy Family stepping
forward and saying that they are willing to put their prestige
and their influence behind, not the Civil Rights Movement which
they did forty years ago, but a Global Human Rights Movement.
That is an incredible development for this family to now project
its influence and its prestige internationally, and to use its
name to pull together the best of this new emerging movement.
It's a powerful development. For those of us who are a part of
that movement, who have seen ourselves in isolation and who have
been fighting our own battles individually, for us to see ourselves
as part of a worldwide movement is an amazing thing. One of the
things that's really,
really powerful and really important now is to see the last century
as the century of destructive violence. The new century can be
a century of creative non-violence redemption if Hollywood, Silicon
Valley, and families like the Kennedys, come together. It's just
a question of us deciding what the new century is going to be
about. The new century is going to be about creative redemption.
It's going to be about people coming together in unexpected ways.
No one would have predicted two years ago that a police brutality
activist from the Bay Area would be sitting here with world leaders.
He is sitting here with the Kennedy families, sitting here with
celebrities talking about what is going on in the United States.
He would have not predicted that. But there are changes happening.
Things are beginning to move and flow in a new direction.
did you make a connection with Kerry Kennedy Cuomo?
really because of the issue of police brutality in the United
States has moved from the margins of public consciences to the
center of moral concernbecause of what the police are doing
and what they are getting away with. Kerry Kennedy Cuomo was a
part of that process (the Reebok International Human Rights Award,
which Kerry has been a part of, was given to me in 1998) and she
has been really working very hard to make sure that if she speaks
about human rights she is not just talking about somebody else's
country or somebody else's problem. She is one of the few American
leaders who is willing to put herself into indictment and say,
"My country, too." That's what has given me more authority
to speak to other people around the world.
rights issues are not always on the radar scope. Do you think
that is changing now?
have seen the new economy and new technology create a lot of opportunities
to make profit. We have not seen those tools being used help the
human family make progress. That's what's starting to happen now.
So you going to see again websites--Silicon Valley stepping up.
You're going to see a lot of the good things that have come out
in the past couple of years being used to much better purposes
and that's what this is about.
do you respond those who say, "This isn't a human rights
issue," regarding situations like the Rodney King beating?
Well, the thing is that human rights violations can occur whenever
there are human beings. This is not just a problem limited to
somebody else's country. This is not true. In the United States,
we have some of the best and the most beautiful things happeningand
also some of the worst. We have to take responsibility in our
country. If we want to stand on the world's stage and say to others,
"Do better by your own," we have to do better by
our own. And this effort of U.S. activism transforms the whole
debate. It makes all of us responsible for the solutions and that's
the power. Once you begin to say, "This is my problem, this
is our problem and I have a role to play," then you unleash
the energy and creativities of untold millions of people to solve
the problem. But as long as we distance ourselves from the problems,
we not only cut ourselves off from other human beings, we cut
ourselves off from the energies that we need to solve those problems
in the first place.
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