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Van Jones and Criminal Justice Reform

THE FIRST STEP is a 2021 American documentary film directed by Brandon Kramer. It tells the powerful story of Van Jones as he pushes for criminal justice reform. It had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on June 10, 2021, and was released on February 17, 2023, by Meridian Hill Pictures. The message of the film is important, and it was brilliantly constructed and filmed. It’s an emotional roller coaster of a story we should all know. 

The New York Times calls it “Tactful…Compelling…Human.”

The Los Angeles Times says it “Captures something rare in documentaries: The messy business of finding bipartisan solutions in a hyper-polarized country.”

Van Jones is an American news and political commentator, author, and lawyer. He’s the co-founder of several non-profit organizations, a three-time New York Times bestselling author, a CNN host and contributor, and an Emmy Award winner. Jones served as President Barack Obama's Special Advisor for Green Jobs in 2009. He founded or co-founded several non-profit organizations, including the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Color of Change, and the Dream Corps. The Dream Corps is a social justice accelerator that operates three advocacy initiatives: Dream Corps Justice, Dream Corps Tech, and Green for All.

I had the opportunity to interview via Zoom FIRST STEP producer Lance Kramer and Dr. Ladrina Wilson, founder and CEO of Iman Consulting in the Quad Cities.

Lance is a Washington, D.C.-based filmmaker and co-founder of Meridian Hill Pictures. Lance produced City of Trees; Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, nationally broadcast on PBS’ America Reframed, Netflix, and the Webby Award-winning independent documentary series The Messy Truth.

Ladrina is a Leadership Trainer and Coach, Diversity, and Equity and Inclusion Consultant who was helping welcome the film to Iowa for screenings. She is also the Dream Corp JUSTICE Empathy Network Leader for Iowa.

Importantly, she brings her personal experience to the issue, having a family member who was incarcerated and as a victim of violent crime.

Below is the trailer.

The First Step - Official Trailer (2023) Van Jones

Here is the website for the film.

And you can click here to watch. You will never look at the issue in the same way again.

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Many of you have read about the controversy over the State of Iowa shutting down 66 real-time water quality data monitors supervised by Chris Jones of the University of Iowa (who has a new Substack, by the way). I interviewed Chris, and he shared some breaking news. Now Julie Gammack wants to dig in deeper and has invited Chris to discuss the issue in real-time in a Zoom meeting at noon on Monday. And YOU can be there as news is made. Here is the Zoom link.

Please sample the talents of my fellow collaborative members. If you can afford to be a paid subscriber, that would be great. If not, the vast majority of content is free. And here is a link to the Iowa Podcasters’ Collaborative, should you be interested. My Iowa Revolution podcast with award-winning broadcaster Spencer Dirks can be found here.

Laura Belin: Iowa Politics with Laura Belin, Windsor Heights
Doug Burns: The Iowa Mercury, Carroll
Dave Busiek: Dave Busiek on Media, Des Moines
Art Cullen: Art Cullen’s Notebook, Storm Lake
Suzanna de Baca Dispatches from the Heartland, Huxley
Debra Engle: A Whole New World, Madison County
Julie Gammack: Julie Gammack’s Iowa Potluck, Des Moines and Okoboji
Joe Geha: Fern and Joe, Ames
Jody Gifford: Benign Inspiration, West Des Moines
Nik Heftman, The Seven Times, Los Angeles and Iowa
Beth Hoffman: In the Dirt, Lovilla
Dana James: New Black Iowa, Des Moines
Pat Kinney: View from Cedar Valley, Waterloo
Fern Kupfer: Fern and Joe, Ames
Robert Leonard: Deep Midwest: Politics and Culture, Bussey
Tar Macias: Hola Iowa, Iowa
Kurt Meyer, Showing Up, St. Ansgar
Wini Moranville, Wini’s Food Stories, Des Moines
Kyle Munson, Kyle Munson’s Main Street, Des Moines
Jane Nguyen, The Asian Iowan, West Des Moines
John Naughton: My Life, in Color, Des Moines
Chuck Offenburger: Iowa Boy Chuck Offenburger, Jefferson and Des Moines
Barry Piatt: Piatt on Politics: Behind the Curtains, Washington, D.C.
Macey Spensley, The Midwest Creative, Davenport and Des Moines
Larry Stone, Listening to the Land, Elkader
Mary Swander: Mary Swander’s Buggy Land, Kalona
Mary Swander: Mary Swander’s Emerging Voices, Kalona
Cheryl Tevis: Unfinished Business, Boone County
Ed Tibbetts: Along the Mississippi, Davenport
Teresa Zilk: Talking Good, Des Moines

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Deep Midwest: Politics and Culture
Deep Midwest: Politics and Culture
Robert Leonard