Political pundit and author Van Jones’ life took a turn for the unimaginable when Amazon founder Jeff Bezos awarded him $100 million in 2021. Two years later, Jones is reflecting on the lessons he’s learned and the multitude of opportunities his newfound wealth has afforded him.
In an interview on the popular finance podcast Earn Your Leisure, the 55-year-old longtime CNN contributor and Color of Change founder spoke candidly about the road he’s traveled since receiving the once in a lifetime gift.
“I realized, I was gonna put myself in an early grave because you have insurmountable opportunities,” he said, according to AfroTech. “You also could have insurmountable obstacles. You could also have insurmountable opportunities. The door’s just opening and opening and opening and opening, and that can stress you out and that can also bring a lot of haters and a lot of criticism.”
It was through a renewed focus on overall wellness that Jones found his way to clarity. And now that he’s adjusted to life as a multimillionaire, the Yale Law School alumnus also has a clear view of how he plans to use his affluence.
“We’re worthy, we’re worthy to be in these rooms,” Jones said. “We’re worthy to move capital. We’re worthy to imagine whole industries. …We could make every Black neighborhood into ‘Wakanda’ with the best technology in the world. Every Black kid could have an AI tutor better than Harvard, MIT for free. All of these things, we’re worthy to have those dreams, and we’re worthy to fight for them and not just fight for them, just to manifest them and say, ‘This is what is going to be in my community.’”
Bezos also gave money to chef José Andrés in 2021 and gave each 10 years to invest their riches. Jones donated an undisclosed amount to Philadelphia-based non-profit Beat The Block, a paid training program that works with men ages 18 to 24 on accomplishing personal and professional goals, according to US Weekly.
“We found an unbelievable program [Beat The Block] that was incentivizing peace on the streets by going to folks who were hanging on street corners, getting in trouble and saying, ‘We will pay you for a 100 days to get off the street corner [and] come up with a plan for your life,’” Jones said. “My theory now is that the financial incentives to do bad are very high in a lot of the communities I care about and the financial incentives to do good are very weak. That’s what I want to go after.”
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