For Venton Jones, running for the state legislature is a continuation of the civic engagement and service that he has been a part of nearly his whole life. The Signal caught up with Jones, who is in a runoff for House District 100 in south Dallas.
Jones, the Founder and CEO of the Southern Black Policy and Advocacy Network, has the endorsement of several elected officials and community leaders including State Senator Royce West and former Mayor of Dallas Ambassador Ron Kirk. Jones was the first candidate to announce he was running in the district, which became open when the current occupant Jasmine Crockett ran for Congress to replace the retiring Eddie Bernice Johnson.
Being born and raised in Oak Cliff played a major role in Jones deciding to run. He has seen firsthand how much the south Dallas neighborhood has transformed. “The area has changed so much physically, but when you look at the outcomes for communities that have been from there you have some of the same stories being perpetuated: lower health outcomes, communities losing their houses whether it be due to gentrification, not being able to afford their homes, or from things like reverse mortgages,” says Jones. “What you see is this continuous displacement of people that have made their lives and families in this area.”
Jones is running on several key platforms, but the common thread is creating systemic change. Healthcare is one of those areas that Jones views as needing a structural approach. He is staunchly in favor of expanding Medicaid in Texas, but he also wants to address the root causes for healthcare disparity in the state.
“I’ve been talking for years about the larger impact of public health, and not just public health, but these social determinants of health that continues to put brown and black communities at the crosshairs of these epidemics and pandemics,” says Jones. A longtime activist and advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness, Jones has worked on the local, state, and even federal level on behalf of a community that has often been ignored, marginalized, and stigmatized. That insight has certainly shaped his views on the larger role of public health.
Jones work with HIV/AIDS has taught him about how the economy and education can impact health outside of things like direct services. “If someone doesn’t have stable housing, their ability to be more healthy is in jeopardy,” he notes. He also points to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how it disproportionately affected House District 100.
If Jones wins the May 24 runoff and the general election (which is likely since the seat is overwhelmingly democratic), he would be one of the first openly LGBTQ Black members of the Texas legislature. And if fellow candidates Christian Manuel Hayes and Jolanda Jones get elected, Texas would have the largest LGBTQ caucus in the country.
After a heinous session that saw a slew of anti-LGBTQ legislation passed and attacks on trans children and their families, having a sizable caucus to counter would be a welcome change of course. “That voice is so important right now, having a larger caucus so that we can continue to fight back against these issues.”