EBONY.COM EXCLUSIVE VAN JONES: Former Obama âGreenâ Advisor Talks OWS, Jobs and Why He Really Left the White House

Photo by Daryl Peveto for Time

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who could get tripped up over money or drugs or whatever. So OWS has a more resilient model.

The media says, “Give us ONE spokesperson!” I think the folks at OWS are smart to say, “Why? So you can discredit him or her? So some nutjob can gun him down?” The new generation is too smart for that. I don’t think it is about OWS needing to adapt its style to fit the political system. I think the political system will have to adapt to deal with phenomena like OWS—and the other forms of protest and creative expression that are coming.

EBONY.COM: Growing up in Jackson, Tennessee, you've said you escaped in books. What books do you remember loving? Are there books you've shared with your kids that were your favorites? What was your outdoor life like as a child? When did you realize that advocacy for the environment would guide your work?

V.J.: I spent my entire childhood playing in the woods near my house. As a kid, my main diet was Marvel comic books. To me, Marvel Comics were better than DC Comics. Marvel Comics were not afraid to use very big words. They went for the darker themes. They had complex plots. Nerdy kids like me just ate it up. I loved the idea of the X-Men, a group of hated outsiders who still fought for the good of society. As a black kid who was already very much into civil rights, I could relate.

As for as literature, I loved Ursula K. LeGuin. The Dispossessed was my favorite novel. I also loved Douglas Adams’, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The books, Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Illusions had a big impact on me—the idea that our “limits” are mostly fictional and self-imposed, miracles are always possible, that kind of thing. I didn’t appreciate or read James Baldwin until my adult years. He is probably the biggest influence of my adult life—more precise and penetrating than Martin, more forgiving than Malcolm.

I have always cared about animals and nature. I have always cared about my fellow human beings. Most people are like that. I just didn’t know that you could fight for both at the same time—not until I got older. Once I learned about green jobs—once I knew we could have Earth-friendly business that create jobs for people who need them—I became an evangelist.

dream hampton has written about culture for 20 years. She's a mother, an activist and an award-winning filmmaker. She lives in Detroit. Follow her on Twitter @dreamhampton.