5 minutes with Van Jones

Ex-Obama White House staffer and environmental advocate Van Jones chats with us about the collaboration between Rebuild the Dream and Prince's upcoming Welcome 2 Chicago concerts, what ticketholders can expect, and his favorite music from the Artist.

How did this partnership develop?

Prince and I were in touch before my arrival to the White House. After hearing me on Tavis Smiley's show, he reached out to me. I was championing to create green jobs for inner city youth to combat pollution and poverty. This was in 2007, when the country was talking about doing something with clean energy and water. In fact, he was one of the first people to contact me after my resignation from the White House. Prince was very encouraging. We sat down to talk about how government works and the ways decisions are made. We kept in communication. He's always been concerned about what's going on in the world and that includes Chicago. Unlike many people who request that a building be named in their honor, Prince is quiet about his charitable contributions.

Why Chicago?

I'm not sure. You don't ask Prince for a memo. He said that he wanted to go to Chicago. I liken Chicago to Oakland. You know how every time you turn on TV you hear all this negative stuff about Oakland, and then you visit and find out it's not so bad? Chicago's the same. This is a great opportunity to see Prince in concert, give the city some good press and highlight organizations that are already building up their neighbors and communities. It's not like you have to start something new. There are a lot of groups in Chicago already involved, but people don't know about them. Some of them will be on site at the Rebuild the Dream Village. 

Walk us through Rebuild the Dream Village.

Rebuild the Dream itself can be looked at as a broader statement of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. It's a group of everyday people with members in every congressional district, who are working in solidarity to better their communities. We encourage people to get involved and stay involved. We keep members informed and help them get vocal. We're barely a year old. We're looking to develop local chapters in 2013. As for the Village, it will operate as an expo inside the United Center. I realize no one has heard of Rebuild the Dream, or wants to hear Van Jones. People are coming to see Prince. We're capitalizing on that by encouraging concertgoers to arrive early and visit booths where they can pick up information on financial wellness, becoming a better parent, how to save money on their energy bills and other resources for building a sustainable future. Maybe they don't need the informaion. Pass it on to a cousin or someone who does. To add a little incentive, concertgoers can have their Dream Card stamped to accumulate points for a chance to win a VIP seat on stage with Prince.

You said no one wants to hear from Van Jones. But you did make your way into the spotlight earlier this week. How was chatting with the women on The View?

I called everyone I knew including ex-girlfriends. I was like, "How you like me now?"

What is your favorite Prince song and album?

"Thieves in the Temple" and Controversy because it was my first Prince album.

For more information on Rebuild the Dream and Prince's Welcome 2 Chicago residency, visit rebuildthedream.com.

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)