Van Jones has been honored with the Nelson Mandela Changemaker Award in light of his efforts as an activist in the social justice movement and an advocate for criminal justice reform. Jones received the honor on Wednesday (June 15) during the PTTOW! ceremony, an invite-only event celebrating leaders of the industry, global icons, and agents of change.
The co-founder of organizations such as The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Color of Change, Green for All, Dream Corps, and REFORM Alliance, Jones has stood on the frontline of endeavors and initiatives pushing for equality, particularly when it pertains to the Black community.
During the ceremony, which was attended by LL Cool J, Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Kweku Mandela, and other notable figures, Jones spoke on the legacy of the award’s namesake while accepting the honor. He commended Mandela for his resilience and ability to see the best not only in his own people, but even his fiercest adversaries.
“Nelson Mandela changed the world,” Jones said. “But first, he changed himself. That’s what people forget.” He continued, adding, “He didn’t just believe in the beauty of his own people,” said Jones. “He believed in the beauty of his opponents.”
One of Jones’ most recent contributions to social justice ranks among his biggest, as he played a major part in seeing The First Step Act into legislation, which was considered “the most significant criminal justice breakthrough in a generation” by The New York Times.
Previous recipients of the Nelson Mandela Changemaker Award include rapper Meek Mill, actresses Sharon Stone and Sophia Bush, Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri, Global Citizen CEO/Founder Hugh Evans, and Dr. Martin Luther King’s advisor Clarence Jones.