FAMU at Power Shift 2011: The Van Jones Effect

A friend of mine swears that Green for All founder Van Jones is an incredible motivational speaker. I see now that as very often (but certainly not always), she was right. Jones was among the presenters at tonight’s opening ceremony for Power Shift 2011 in Washington D.C., and in the six minutes of speech that I was privy to, I understand why he is so acclaimed.

For reasons beyond our control*, the Florida A&M/Florida State delegation to Power Shift was late for the event’s opening. In a few words, we missed former Vice President Al Gore’s presentation and much of Van Jones’ speech. But don’t despair for us, because I doubt anyone who heard Jones spoke realized they missed anything whether they were two or twenty minutes late.

Van Jones is an African-American who champions extending the environmental justice movement to America’s minority communities. Experts say minorities are likely to suffer most from the global climate crisis. That was the motivation for Green for All, which has ambassadors on various college campuses across the country.

Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. My old director told me years ago that whenever I have anyone’s attention to make my point and make it stick, hopefully in the first try. But, she said, whenever possible repeat the message until it sticks. Jones does that well.

Van Jones was talking about the global dependence on dirty energy when I walked in. He was asking the audience of thousands of college students a simply rhetorical question: How can anyone in modern-day Earth expect any less than inhaling death and spilling death into the sea when we go through so much trouble to pull it out? He repeated the word “death” three times in about the same breath to discuss the scourge of fossil fuels.

Jones ended his speech, pitching alternative energy and reminding the young audience that we can “shift the power” – a phrase he also repeated a few times. That reminder stuck with me. I doubt that I was alone.

That was just a quick Power Shift moment that I felt needed sharing. Van Jones seems to be the kind of role model that we as black  men should seek – rather than the Lil’ Waynes and the Lil’ Boosies of the world.

It’s nearly time for the all-day sessions; expect more blog posts and pictures to come from us.


Later Days,




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