NPR

In Midst Of Racial Hatred, Van Jones Still Pushes Love

Roc Nation's latest signee delivers hard rap about black America's moral obligation in the era of President Trump.
CNN political commentator and Prince devotee Van Jones is fusing hip-hop into his #LoveArmy. Source: Manduley, Christina

On the same night that torch-bearing white nationalists wound up staging a rally at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Van Jones stood at a podium, in the nation's capital, telling a theater full of supporters why they should let love rule in the face of racial hatred. The timing was sheer coincidence — the ninth stop on the CNN pundit's 14-city WE RISE tour had been scheduled well ahead of Friday night's prelude to the violent Unite the Right protest — but one that speaks to the reason why Jones' #LoveArmy crusade has been met with criticism from the very circles he's hoping to corral.

"A lot of people are asking, 'Why are you doing this?' " Jones said Friday from the stage of D.C.'s Warner Theatre. "I am sick of you guys being stressed and depressed since this past election."

Deemed "a star of the 2016 campaign" by the New York Times shortly after blaming "whitelash" for President Trump's election, Jones quickly earned the liberal left's ire after characterizing Trump's State of the Union address as "presidential." Since signing with JAY-Z's Roc Nation management firm earlier this year, however, he's earning cred among a different constituency: generation hip-hop. The first political activist on an artist roster ranging from Big Sean to DJ Khaled and Damian Marley to Rihanna, Jones recently got stopped in the airport by a young TSA agent who said she recognized him, not from the cable news network, he tells me, but for appearing in Footnotes for 4:44, the Tidal-exclusive short doc series complementing JAY-Z's latest album.

"JAY-Z's platform is bigger than CNN's platform for this new generation coming up," Jones says by phone.

Though he admits his own hip-hop bona fides are less up-to-date — "I mean, I know Chance the Rapper," he adds — Jones is using his Roc Nation affiliation to fuse a tighter relationship between artists and activists. During his Atlanta stop, he talked to T.I.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from NPR

NPR3 min readPolitics
As Allies See Nationalism Rise, Germany Sees Threats To Alliances It Champions
The worldview that nations should promote their interests over those of the international community poses a challenge for Germany, a country built on partnerships.
NPR5 min read
'Booksmart' Director Olivia Wilde: Teen Movies 'Made Me Excited To Be Young'
Wilde says her directorial debut is a "love letter" to the '80s and '90s movies that defined her adolescence. She hopes this film will help Generation Z "celebrate being young."
NPR2 min read
'Two Wings: The Music Of Black America In Migration' Celebrates A Journey Millions Took
Singer Alicia Hall Moran and pianist Jason Moran mix original music works with 20th century spoken word to reflect on The Great Migration, when African Americans moved from the South to the North.