One thing civil rights activists must do is keep the public’s attention on serious matters. Still, even they have a sense of humor. One would argue that they must in order to keep fighting.
So, there was this time at a hunger strike….
In a moment of levity during an interview at First Annual Diversity Affluence Brunch, which was held recently in Palo Alto, Calif., Ben Jealous (former NAACP president and partner at Kapor Capital) recalled one of his first encounters with Van Jones (founder of Rebuild the Dream, #YesWeCode, and CNN commentator). Both men were participating in a series of seven-day rolling hunger strikes for Haitian refugees who were being held in camps because they had HIV. Jealous, at the time, was a student activist at Columbia University (from which he graduated in 1994). Prior to arriving at Columbia University, Jones participated in 7 days of hunger striking at Yale and at Harvard, each. “So I hadn’t eaten in a week,” said Jones.
Meanwhile, at Columbia, the anticipation was building for Jones’ visit. “He was Van Jones, I was just the local organizer…by the time he showed up he was a legend. This was the Black Cesar Chavez. This was the second coming of Gandhi,” quipped Jealous.
Only thing is, the mediagenic Jones didn’t look all that hungry to Jealous. Instead, he “showed up as he usually shows up — well fed, well rested, but he was leading a hunger strike.”
More from Jealous on the scene:
“I was a bit confused. ‘Cause I was like ‘look brother you’re leading a hunger strike you should be gaunt, you should be [inaudible], we were hungry, it was the first day of not eating, [while] he’d been leading it for a week. We expected him to roll in looking like Gandhi in a wheelchair, sipping some OJ, whispering into the mic. [Instead] he’s bounding up to it and I was just a little bit salty.
And I have basically followed him ever since.”
As for Jones, he said with a chuckle, “I’m not guilty as charged.”
See more of the jokes and mutual admiration these old friends and brothers in the struggle share in the clip above, and see them discuss the need for diversity in Silicon Valley in this article: Van Jones: The Future For Children Of Color Is Being Written In Code [VIDEO]
Learn more about Culture Shift Labs here.
The First Annual Diversity Affluence Brunch, which was held recently in Palo Alto, Calif., was attended by nearly 150 guests who are, primarily, affluent African and African-American business leaders, innovators and influencers in technology, innovation and social impact.