Inspiration: Van Jones and James Rucker create Color of Change and systemic shifts

James Rucker, co-founder of, speaks to the media about net neutrality issues during the protest at Google. Credit: Michelle Le

By Gillian Ramirez, Alliance Intern from UC San Diego

Color of Change was founded 18 years ago by two of the 19 most influential civil rights leaders of today, James Rucker and CNN commentator Van Jones, in response to the devastating effects Hurricane Katrina had on communities of color. They were appalled by the damage of the natural disaster and the inattentiveness of the government. They created a web-based advocacy group using social networking to address racial issues. The group has grown to be the largest online racial justice organization in the U.S. with 1.7 million members. Some of their biggest victories are:

  • Shining a spotlight on the Jena Six in Mississippi, exposing the racism of local officials and helping students who were unfairly targeted. 
  • Getting 100 corporations to pull their support for ALEC, a national organization writing and promoting hundreds of draconian right-wing legislative policies, like voter ID laws. 
  • Helping to elect reform-minded prosecutors through its Winning Justice campaign to transform the criminal justice system

Color of Change draws power from digital activism and engages with grassroots organizations to create change, according to Ben & Jerry’s. The organization’s working goal is to end systemic racism in America by challenging and changing fundamental rules that guide our society. Systemic racism allows for people of color to be disadvantaged in all facets of society from education to healthcare. 

Color of Change implements both in-person actions like marches, protests, and sit-ins, as well as email, online petitions and social media to amplify their voice and mobilize action. Ben & Jerry’s has partnered with Color of Change on front-end criminal justice reform through the Winning Justice campaign, whose aims include holding influential individuals accountable to end money bail, unfair sentencing practices, and the over policing of schools.

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