Green entrepreneur, urban advocate, author to address King Convocation Feb. 12

Van Jones (photo by Richard Hume, courtesy of Experience Life magazine)

Van Jones, founding president of Green For All, a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress, and author of The Green Collar Economy, will speak at UC Santa Cruz's 25th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Convocation February 12.

The title of Jones's speech is "The Green-Collar Economy: Restoring the Earth, Good Jobs, and MLK's Dream."

Held at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, the convocation will begin at 7:30 p.m. The event, which is free and open to the public, is part of the campus celebration of Black History Month.

Campus radio station KZSC (88.1 FM) will broadcast the event live and also stream it over its website.

The convocation brings the campus and regional communities together to honor the life and work of the American icon who inspired the world to move beyond race to celebrate our common humanity, said Catherine Faris, assistant vice chancellor, University Relations.

"This year, the convocation will take place in a climate where dramatic change is sweeping the nation," Faris said. "Although we are facing the serious economic consequences of recession, this year's convocation will communicate the spirit of hope for the future."

This year marks the first presentation of the Tony Hill Award. Hill, a prominent community activist and treasured mentor who died last year, had been involved in planning the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Convocation every year since its start.

Event organizers will give the award to a nominee who demonstrates the hallmarks of Hill's life: mentor, inspirational leader, gifted mediator, and bridge-builder in the community. The recipient of the award will receive a $500 cash contribution from UC Santa Cruz to the nonprofit of his or her choice. Nominations are being accepted through January 7.

Hill "was a dynamo in making the community a better place for all," said Hill's longtime friend, philanthropist George Ow Jr. "He used his life energies doing much heavy lifting and fighting many hard battles--that is why he isn't with us now."

The award "will acknowledge someone who is now fighting the good fight and keep Tony's name and memory before us," said Ow.

"His passion for building bridges between people and groups is well known in our community, but it is his warmth, humor, and humanity that we miss most of all," Faris said. "To honor Tony's life's work with an award that recognizes the values he lived every day is a distinct honor for committee members and for the campus."

Speaker Jones, a champion for the toughest urban constituencies and causes, has won many honors, including the 1998 Reebok International Human Rights Award, the International Ashoka Fellowship, selection as a World Economic Forum "Young Global Leader," and the Rockefeller Foundation "Next Generation Leadership" Fellowship.

He is a tireless advocate, committed to creating "green pathways out of poverty" and greatly expanding the coalition fighting global warming.

Jones, said Faris, "is one of the most exciting advocates for social change in our time, particularly because of his focus on the interrelated character of the biggest issues we face: race, poverty, the environment, and human rights. His message is wholly consistent with the King legacy and is relevant to the generation that will make the change that will impact the shape of the world we live in."

Jones's organization, Green For All, promotes green-collar jobs and opportunities for the disadvantaged. Its mission is to build an inclusive, green economy--strong enough to resolve the ecological crisis and lift millions of people out of poverty.

In 2007, Jones helped the City of Oakland pass a "Green Jobs Corps" proposal. The city allocated funds to train Oakland residents in eco-friendly "green-collar jobs."

At the national level, he worked successfully in 2007 with U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), U.S. Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.), and U.S. Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) to pass the Green Jobs Act of 2007. That path-breaking, historic legislation authorized $125 million in funding to train 35,000 people a year in "green-collar jobs."

In 2008, Green For All partnered with the Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection to launch the Green For All Academy. The Academy trains U.S. grassroots leaders to effectively advocate for an inclusive, green economy.

Jones also cofounded advocacy organizations the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Color of Change.

A 1993 Yale Law graduate, Jones, 40, lives in Oakland with his wife and two sons.

His books will be on sale at the event at the Bay Tree Bookstore table, along with books and materials on Black History Month and Martin Luther King Jr.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Convocation was established during Robert Sinsheimer's tenure as chancellor. In addition to UCSC, the 2009 convocation is sponsored by the Good Times, KUSP, Inner Light Ministries, and the City of Santa Cruz.

For more information, visit the King Memorial Convocation site.

UCSC shuttles on the loop route leaving campus at 6:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m., and 7 p.m. will provide transportation to the Civic Auditorium and return to campus after the event.