The Redemption Project with Van Jones is a trailblazing series that defies the traditional way of facing forgiveness in a society that struggles with proper criminal justice reform.
Thursday night at LACMA’s Bing Theater in Los Angeles, CNN Original Series presented an advance screening of The Redemption Project. Before the showing, The Knockturnal was able to have a brief dialogue with Van Jones about the making of the project.
First and foremost congratulations on this project that you’ve now completed!
What inspired this project?
Van Jones: This project actually comes more out of frustration than inspiration, in that I have seen our culture just become less and less about compassion, empathy, and understanding and more about “call out” culture, “cancel” culture, and “ima block you” culture. I just think that is killing us, it’s poisonous, and I wanted to create a show that was 180 degrees the other direction; leaning hard into the idea of empathy, listening, and learning and taking risks to show some kind of fellow feeling. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, cause it was crazy, but it’s turned out beautifully.
What do you hope audiences receive in reaction to this project?
Van Jones: You know, I hope that audiences will, first of all, give this show a chance in terms of it’s an unusual show. To have people sitting down and talking to each other across any kind of difference, let alone somebody who really hurt you or hurt/killed your child. That just seems crazy and yet it’s a beautiful process. So, I don’t hope that people learn anything, I hope that people remember the importance of forgiving and listening and trying. And even when you aren’t able to forgive, at least to extend a hand and try to understand. Because, we all know that. When we’re kids we’re all taught that, but we’ve forgotten it.
Are there certain moments in your career that have led you to this moment?
Van Jones: You know I’ve been working on criminal justice reform for 25 years, I’m a part of the cut 50 movement, to cut the prison population of crime in half, I’m the CEO of the reform alliance which Jay-Z, Meek Mill, and others got started. So, working on criminal justice is my heart and soul. Restorative justice, which is a part of criminal justice, really tries to get to healing. That’s something that I’ve always been committed to. That it’s almost like a secret movement, like an underground movement because you’re not suppose to let the crime victim and the so-called offender ever meet, because it’s dangerous. So, the system has rules and laws against it and so it’s almost like an underground movement to kinda get people together to try to get the healing to happen. So spending so much time in prisons, seeing people who maybe went into prison one way and then despite the prison, not because it, but despite it have transformed themselves into just diamonds of people wanting for the world to see that beauty that is sometimes emerged behind those walls, really made me want to do this series.
As guests made their way into the theater and waited for the screening to start, two speakers joined the stage and delivered powerful poetry to start the night off. From there Van Jones also spoke to the audience to give a few words about what this series was about. Within moments that the screening began the audience members were completely indulged in the episode. The reality of what happens on any given day resonates with the audience. As Van Jones also says, we all have something that we regret, which is why it is easy to relate to The Redemption Project.
Once the showing of The Redemption Project was over, there was not a single dry eye in the audience. What was just shown on screen was incredibly authentic, and how they were able to capture such genuine and heartfelt footage is what sets this series apart from other programs on television. Following the screening was a Q & A Panel with Van Jones and other key members that made this series possible.
When the event was over guests were able to go to the Ray’s and Stark Bar for a reception to continue the success of the night.
The Redemption Project is that shining light of hope and restoration that this world needs, and even more so in this very nation today. It is a must see project that will have you in tears because of the authenticity and never before seen stories shown on the screen.
Tune in for yourself on April 28 at 9 pm.