The last time green-jobs pioneer Van Jones was in Memphis, the first-ever Dream Reborn Conference was under way at the Memphis Cook Convention Center. More than 1,000 people gathered in April 2008 to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by discussing opportunities for poor communities in the new green economy.
The former adviser to President Barack Obama returns to Memphis on Saturday, January 15th, as the keynote speaker for the Mid-South Peace & Justice Center's (MSPJC) "Living the Legacy of Nonviolence" 29th anniversary gala. Jones is also the co-founder of three human rights and green economy organizations: the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Color of Change, and Green For All. According to MSPJC executive director Jacob Flowers, Jones will find that the green economy in Memphis is growing on a grassroots level.
"People thought Memphis was going to do well with green fuels and agri-business, but the economic collapse caused problems with some of the big [biofuel] companies. Now grassroots green-collar organizations, like Grow Memphis and Project Green Fork, are extremely successful," Flowers says, referencing the MSPJC's community garden group and the local green restaurant-certification program.
Besides job talk, the gala will feature a catered meal made with local produce by the Project Green Fork-certified company Just for Lunch. Amy LaVere and Andy Cohen will provide the music, and Flowers says attendees can expect a major announcement about the future of the Peace & Justice Center.
Banquet tickets are $40, but for the first time, the MSPJC is offering $20 tickets for people who'd rather skip the meal and just listen to Jones' speech. They're also offering free entry for those who cannot afford to pay.
"Living the Legacy of Nonviolence" Gala, Saturday, January 15th, 6 to 9 p.m., First Congregational Church, 1000 S. Cooper (725-4990).