Rosa Clemente Weighs in on Van Jones Takedown



Notes from a Hip Hop Radical: The Van Jones takedown and the politricks of the Obama Administration
by Rosa Clemente September 11th, 2009

RosaClemente-BfreshOver the Labor Day weekend Van Jones, a member of the Hip Hop generation and special advisor for green jobs at the White House Council for Environmental Quality, tendered his resignation, and it was accepted by the Obama administration.  I will be the first to say that I never found Van Jones to be a radical, a Black Nationalist or a communist as  Fox News has suggested.

Although I appreciate his book The Green Collar Economy, I never believed that a green economy will save working people. I felt that the book gave solutions on how to save the current capitalist system. And fundamentally that presents a problem, as many in this country are suffering because of capitalism and its failures.

No matter my political differences with Jones, I will never discount his work, energy, community organizing skills and progressive tendencies, which have reconnected urban youth with Mother Earth and have inspired many in my generation to create space in the predominately white liberal “green” movement. As the former Green Party Vice-Presidential candidate, I am not surprised that Jones turned out to be a high-profile casualty of an administration that started at the center and continues to move to the right.

But what has surprised me is that people are not holding the Obama administration for its role in the matter. Do not be fooled. There is no doubt that the Obama administration knew about Jones’ so-called “radical” past. I am not willing to believe that they never did a Google search on Jones or looked at his past comments, speeches or actions. By accepting Jones’ Resignation the Obama administration essentially gave a victory to the very racist Glenn Beck and the most vile “news” station in modern time. They have put a target on all of us who would be deemed activists or radicals. Accepting Jones’s resignation is a slap in the face to all of us.

So for those who voted for Obama, when will you let him know that you will not accept Van Jones as a casualty of an administration capitulating to the right? How dare we allow a bunch of white boys whom in the 1950’s would have been wearing hoods and burning crosses on Black peoples lawns have this much power.  Where is the movement? Where is our infrastructure? Where is progressive media?

So where do we go from here?  I caution people, first do not make Jones a martyr. Van jones is not Jesus, God or Malcolm reincarnated and elevating him to icon status is dangerous and does us no good. I am urging people to go back to the grassroots, go back to local community organizing and support progressives and 3rd party candidates in local elections. Stop thinking that once you vote that is your contribution, the easiest thing to do now-a-days is vote, the work begins after you cast your ballot.  Malkia Cyril the Executive Director of the Center for Media Justice the other day on Democracy Now! stated, “We need to create an echo chamber of progressive media to counter the echo created by the right.”

The Van Jones takedown has revealed our own frustrations and inability to build and sustain a powerful multi-faceted, multi-racial, self-sustaining movement.  I do not know all the answers and solutions to the chaos we finds ourselves in at this moment in history, but I do hope that people take one lesson that I learned from Van Jones’ book, “Stop fight against something and start fighting for something.” Maybe our fighting for something began at 11:45pm this past Saturday. If that is the case, we should all thank Van Jones for leaving the manicured green lawns and oak offices of the White House and for those who are still not convinced, the words of dead prez:

“Everywhere we go, everyday on TV, they be talking about who you gonna vote for,
Got a Black man running but I wonder if he get in who he gonna open up the door for
I don’t want to discourage my folks I believe in hope I just want us to want more
Politics is a game, how they keep us contained, there’s gotta be more that we can hope for
Democrats and Republicans just two sides of the same coin, either way its still white power, it’s the same system just changed form,
You wanna vote, please do, cast your ballot, let your voice be heard
But what I do wanna say is after the election you’ll see mark my word
It’s Politrikkks time again.”

© KnowThySelf Productions LLC.

Rosa Alicia Clemente is a community organizer, Hip-Hop activist, journalist and the Green Party 2008 Vice-Presidential candidate.  Rosa resides with her husband and daughter in the South Bronx and is currently on her speaking tour, Its Bigger than Black and White. She is also at work on her first book: When a Puerto Rican Woman Ran for Vice-President and Nobody Knew Her Name and will soon begin her doctoral studies in Political Science. She can be reached at and facebook.

11 comments on “Rosa Clemente Weighs in on Van Jones Takedown

  1. I’m starting to warm up to her. For me that’s saying something. I don’t know Van Jones. All I know is if you hire me for a job don’t fire me for something in the past that has nothing to do with the job. Us clock punchers call that selling me out.

  2. RC’s analysis is dead on this time. interestingly, i think Jones’ situation has begun to create that echo chamber. just look at all the folks who are weighing in with thoughtful and insightful commentaries.

  3. From my blog Revolutionize Yo Block last year 8/08/08:

    Who is leading Hip Hop?

    Recently Rosa Clemente spoke at the Hip Hop Congress (HHC) National Conference in Biloxi, MS. It was a great speech. It was so genuine and on-point that as I said in a previous posting, it allowed me to recognize that I had been caught up in the Obama hype and hadn’t been paying attention to the real issues that were afflicting me and my people (i.e.: joblessness, foreclosure, extreme gas prices, poor health care access.)

    In her address she didn’t just highlight why she accepted the nomination, but she also spoke about how others reacted to her accepting that nomination. She expressed disappointment in the less than enthusiastic response from Hip Hop organizations who would have otherwise embraced her during different times. In fact, at the time of her speech, she stated that HHC and the National Hip Hop Political Convention (NHHPC) were the only two Hip Hop organizations to invite her to speak about her bid for the election.

    Anybody who has ever heard Rosa speak knows that she doesn’t mince words, even if what she says might make her own friends or family bristle. She is unapologetic about urgently working towards a freedom that includes everybody. And she is confident that Hip Hop can be and has been that entity to push for lasting social justice and social change.

    When she spoke at the NHHPC she again highlighted these points going even further to point out that the panel from which she was speaking only had one female on it, herself. She highlighted this truth as an example as to what is going on as a whole within Hip Hop and the larger social change movement: Our inability to accept female leadership.

    Furthermore, she expressed her frustration with the fact that the leadership within the Hip Hop organizational community has failed to embrace the reality that finally there is a political party that not only includes social justice in it’s agenda but walked the walk when they chose Rosa has their VP.

    There are key people and factions within Hip Hop who hate when we divide on issues that have public attention. Hip Hop is a diverse democracy. It’s okay for us to have varying opinions. It keeps us honest and uncut.

    What if Micheal Eric Dyson had been tapped or Bikari Kitwana? How would have Hip Hop reacted to that?

    Sexism within Hip Hop is not a new topic. Male leadership hates to address it on any real level outside of validating its existence and pointing to the larger white hegemony from which we grew out of as though sexism is merely an extension of white supremacy. A total falsehood. Women have been the most oppressed group of people on the face of the planet since the dawn of time spanning all cultures.

    Sexism within Hip Hop is so detrimental to our movement that enemy outsiders are able to stifle and discredit our own voices when they point it out. Combating racism and poverty has been major issues that we have tackled. If the larger highly prejudiced American society can ponder the notion of a Black president surely we can begin to search for a way to deal with the idea of a female leader in our movement.

    Obama may be the next president to lead the American people. But who is leading Hip Hop?

  4. With all the talk of holding Obama accountable, what is the substance of such talk? What exactly are Clemente and Hill and others suggesting? All Clemente is saying is keep electing progressive and third party candidates, which is not much of an alternative because it leaves politics the domain of politicians and we the people its passive recipients.

    Historically, both parties have only been willing to grant concessions to people of color and workers through the latter’s self-organization; through independent political organization; through illegal actions that any progressive candidate would encourage us not to take up: strikes, sit-ins, workplace and campus occupations, illegal marches, and direct confrontation with the police and other armed institutions.

    And even if Clemente was in a position of elected power, she might be comfortable using such forms of struggle for her own political ends, unlike Obama. But should the question ever become self-government, or a revolutionary moment where ordinary folks and their from-below organization overthrow the State, Clemente and other social democrats politicians would be lining up to oppose it. I say that not to speculate about her own character, but to be sober about the history and nature of politics from above, regardless how militant its appearance might be.

    Mind you, I’m not encouraging adventurism. The risks of any activity always have to be appraised. But there’s not gonna be any change, even the basic of reforms, unless ordinary folks see themselves as the levers of power, as the agents of struggle and of democracy. Let’s hope the Republic Windows and Hartmarx workers, the New School, NYU, Prairie View A&M, and Howard students, the Oscar Grant protestors in Oakland become the standard of new politics in the 21st century.


  5. Van Jones called himself a communist when it was convinient and served his interests and changed it to “progressive” as soon as that became more convinient. Not a path I would have taken, but so what? Taking an opportunity can sometimes require opportunism and I’m not going to call foul on him for “selling out” because I’m sure he genuinly believed that joining the administration would allow him to create more change then staying on the outside as an organizer. dude has definately paid his dues over the years, even if I disagree with his politics.

    As for Obama, I’m sorry to say I didn’t expect any better – it was like watching the drama with JEremiah Wright play out all over again. Except this time Obama didn’t even have the courage to throw his erstwhile ally and supporter to the wolves himself.

    I think the left needs to wake up to what sort of a man is actually holding the reins in the whitehouse and realize that just because he steals lefty rhetoric and begged us for money for his campaign doesn’t make him an ally or a friend.

    We’re still mired in two wars and the war in afghanistan is being expanded as I type this. we’re still giving billions to the banks and car companies that caused the collapse. our phones are still being tapped and the white house is still defending the telecoms instead of standing up for our civil rights. It’s time to get back in the streets and start organizing, protesting, and fighting for the change Obama promissed but had no intention of delivering.

    It’s time for a Revolution.

  6. Krisna

    thanks for your comments, and no we dont know each other, but anyone who knows me, knows that i do not just advocate for electing people in to office, that is the most basic thing we can do, i see the tool of casting a vote as a tactic, if the momenet came for working class people to be involved in a revolution i would be a soldier and go with the people, i just dont put rhetoric out there for no good reason, i am a community organizer and activist for 15 years, i am an ordinary person who fights for self determination every day, i urge you to do do a google search on me to understand that your analysis on who am i and what i do, is incorrect, believe me if i had play the game to go along and get a long i would be in the WHite House as an advisor or some shit, but as someone who ran with another women of color I know exactly what side i would be on, i do not see this as an adventure, the fight for freedom is an everyday struggle and what we do as activists are not risks but rather necessties for our daily lives, i encourage you to read a book called Hauling up the morning, and read the stories of the over 125 political prisoners in the USA and see what the USA government will do to stop us and our politics, and then you can see why in the art of any war, you must sometimes take a step back and regroup, also read the book the Cointelpro papers, peace rosa

  7. There is no capitalism system. People just “do things” and call it a system so we can all feel comfortable and have order in our lives .

    have fun


  8. I find Clemente to be quite racist herself, her antipathy towards everything white is appalling in 2009. She is a hardcore radical, I wonder how her ideas would work for the entire population. Well, they could not work out, radical craziness can never work for the masses.
    I can’t take people seriously that accuse everyone of blatant racism while she is a 100% racist herself.

  9. I don’t think she’s a racist at all …or a hardcore radical – just a lady locked into her own world and shelling out empty gradoise proclamations.

    Just like democrats, republicans or any other political group.

  10. to she is a racist and party crasher, i invite you to email me at so we can further dialogue, its funny how people hide behind fake names and such when they do not know me, or have no idea of my work and history, do not be cowards, we can even skype if you would like

    and just for clarification RACISM as defined by sociologists, it when a group of people in power maintain that power through institutional methods

    i can be prejudiced yes, we all are, but no person of color in america can be defined as racist, as we are not part of the dominant group, i.e. white people in america

  11. ‘its funny how people hide behind fake names and such when they do not know me, or have no idea of my work and history,’

    Rosa, most people don’t ‘know’ one another on the net – it’s kinda accepted at this point. 🙂

    Anyway, moving on

    I prefer a fake name. This way I can type what I really think without consequences.And I prefer to do it openly.If you disagree with anything I typed feel free to debate. I don’t mind.

    Here, I’ll start.

    “No person of color in America can be defined as racist, as we are not part of the dominant group, i.e. white people in America”

    Thats not true – thats just your ideology. And its a perfectly acceptable one – but it’s not true. Just look up the dictionary definition of ‘racist’.

    Anyone can be a racist. In pre Hitler Germany jews really did own and dominate the financial institutions but Hitler could still be an anti-jewist (racist) regardless of the rationalizations for his ideology, even if his ideology was just a technique to unite Germany to pull them out of an Economic depression.Just like your ideology might be used to help attract less-than-educated people in urban ghettos into the more educated classes and facilitate change for yourselves.
    Which I actually admire… the only problem is people (on average) are a lot more educated and have a stronger lineage and more access to open information than people did in the 30’s so they intuitively see through a lot more bullshit – even if they’re not quite sure why

    You can rattle off Dead Prez quotes and cliche’s all you want but when the economic clamp comes down and people are forced to pick a direction it’s not going to parallel whatever societal ideal you have floating around in your head, or mine or anybody else. People jump to whatever feeds them and provides comfort – not what they perceive as ‘starting trouble’ 🙂

    have fun


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