Media mogul Russell Simmons, comedian and television personality Nick Cannon and actor Nnamdi Asomugha joined activist, New York Times bestselling author and CNN commentator, Van Jones, onstage for a powerful panel discussion. The We Rise Tour launched at the Hollywood Palladium Wednesday, July 26. The Hollywood event was the first of 13 upcoming tour dates across the nation.
Jones, a former Obama environmental adviser, signed a management deal with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation in May, according to Billboard. Jones, host of The Messy Truth, is the mind behind The Dream Corps. According to its website, The Dreams Corps’ mission is to “bring people together to solve America’s toughest problems through a number of initiatives.” One hundred percent of ticket proceeds will go toward those initiatives, in addition to local charities according to a news release from The Dream Corps.
“I’m tired of being sad, I’m tired of these tweets just driving me crazy and I had to make a decision in my own heart this summer, am I going to let anyone steal my joy?” Jones posed the thought-provoking question to the crowd. “Everyone I know is sad, mad, [or] upset,” Jones added.
Jones agreed that the current political climate is bad right now but calls for unity, regardless of party affiliation, among the “good” people.
“The good people, the fair-minded people, the open-hearted people, the loving people, we just don’t know what to do yet, that’s the real problem … what we’re declaring with the Love Army and the We Rise Tour, we’re going to take all the energy we’ve been putting toward the negative and we are going to redirect it,” said Jones.
Jones brought out Friends co-creator, Marta Kauffman, and activist, Yonasda Lonewolf. Lonewolf is African American and Oglala Lakota. In 2016, she protested in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota bringing awareness to the Dakota Access Pipeline, which poses a significant threat to the reservation’s water supply.
In 2016, construction was halted by the Obama administration. It was completed in April 2017, following executive actions by President Trump allowing construction to continue, according to CNN. “It’s in our DNA to fight hate with love,” said Lonewolf.
One of the Dream Corps’ initiatives is #Cut50. The goal is reducing the prison and jail population and also ending juvenile life sentences without parole in California.
Cannon, Simmons, Asomugha along with Shaka Senghor joined Jones onstage. Senghor spent 19 years in prison, seven of those years in solitary confinement. He was convicted of murder and sent to prison at age 19 and was released from prison in 2010.
Van Jones asked Senghor to comment on the importance of resilience. “I realized that I had to focus on a couple of things, focus on the purpose and not the pain … once I realized I was born with a purpose, I just embraced the reality that this is a painful experience but it can have any kind of outcome I want it to have,” said Senghor. His 2016 memoir, Writing My Wrongs was endorsed by Oprah Winfrey. Senghor is now a college lecturer and a fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab.
Vien Truong, CEO of the Dream Corps, has a brother currently incarcerated. She said the purpose of the We Rise Tour and The Dream Corps is to be sure everyone rises to the occasion. “We can’t sit down in despair, we really try to figure out what it is that we’re going to be doing in this country, we can’t wait for others to save us, how do we help each other, how do we love each other?”
Other initiatives include #YesWeCode, providing low-opportunity youth with resources necessary to attain jobs in technology. Also #GreenForAll, building an inclusive green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty. The We Rise Tour wraps up in Las Vegas August 20. For more information on how you can get involved, check out www.lovearmy.org or www.thedreamcorps.org.