"We dominated," said publisher Bernie Foster, gleeful that his small paper had triumphed over publications such as the St. Louis American, the Richmond Free Press, the Los Angeles Sentinel, and the Philadelphia Tribune. "They kept calling our name to go up there. I could barely hold all the awards."
The Skanner took two first place wins and two third places in the A. Phillip Randolph Messenger Awards. The Skanner won two of the five Messenger Awards, and scored two runner-up honors.
A. Phillip Randolph was known to his pro-segregation opponents as "the most dangerous Black in America." A civil rights leader, he helped found the March on Washington Movement, and also published and edited a monthly magazine, The Messenger. The Messenger awards, now sponsored by the Miller/Coors company, recognize excellence in reporting and writing. And in case you're wondering, no, the winners do not get a year's supply of free beer.
Each Messenger Award is worth $5,000, with the runner-up prizes $500 each. Judging was conducted by individuals from outside the newspaper industry -- university journalism professors from around the country.
Editor Lisa Loving and reporter Brian Stimson, took first place in the Cultural Diversity category for "A Tale of Two Urban Schools." The two-part series compares Portland's Jefferson High School with Rainier Beach High School in Seattle. The schools have similar demographics, but achieve very different results. (Part two here.) Loving and Stimson shared the monetary award.
Contributing writer and former editor Helen Silvis took first place in the Aid/Disaster Relief category, with Prepare/Survive a Disaster, examining the reality facing Northwest residents in the event of a major disaster such as an earthquake. The win was her third Messenger award for The Skanner – an unprecedented achievement.
Runner-Up Messenger awards also went to Loving for her feature story, "Healing Cultural Fears of The Wild ," and to Stimson for "Finally -- Affordable Green Homes." Loving's story explored Jourdan Keith's efforts to confront African Americans' damaged relationship with the outdoors, through the Urban Wilderness Project. Stimson's story announced the arrival of the Helensview development on N.E. Killingsworth. The pair shared runner-up honors in the Environment category. Held in Minneapolis this year, the event brings together publishers, politicians, journalists and community leaders to discuss key issues for African Americans, and to celebrate the best stories, photographs, layout and design in Black newspapers around the nation.
The NNPA merit awards cover 19 categories. The Skanner snagged first place awards for overall layout and design, and for its entertainment pages. Stimson won a third place for best feature story, "Innocent but Not Yet Free," about exonerated Chicago native Alton Logan's quest for freedom after being incarcerated in Joliet Prison for 26 years. The paper also took third place awards for best use of photographs, (a two-page election spread) and for best circulation promotion. The John B. Russworm Trophy, which goes to the paper which takes most points in the merit awards, went to the Chicago Defender.
Considered the very highest honor given in the field of African American journalism, The Skanner's former news editor, Helen Silvis, has now won the prize twice for the newspaper, in 2005 and in 2008.
The Skanner News Group is the only newspaper in the five western states of Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Nevada, and Arizona, to ever win the award twice.
Silvis won this year's award with a two-part series about the growth of the "green" jobs economy nationwide, and how African American workers in Portland can benefit from the trend.
Reporter Brian Stimson was named runner up for the Messenger Award in the Heritage category, for a feature story about the historic MultiCraft Plastics building in Northeast Portland, which was once home to The Dude Ranch, one of the hottest jazz clubs on the West Coast.
The Skanner also won first place in the Best Use of Photographs category, for a photo display from the 2007 Martin Luther King Jr. Annual Prayer Breakfast.
Pictured here are several of the nation's top African- American journalists and publishers with the Black Press, gathered at the A. Philip Randolph Miller Messenger Awards reception during the 2008 NNPA Convention, held in Louisville, Kentucky last week.
The Skanner News Group is the only newspaper in the five western states of Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Nevada, and Arizona, to ever win the award twice. Silvis won this year's award with a two-part series about the growth of the "green" jobs economy nationwide, and how African American workers in Portland can benefit from the trend.Reporter Brian Stimson was named runner up for the Messenger Award in the Heritage category, for a feature story about the historic MultiCraft Plastics building in Northeast Portland, which was once home to The Dude Ranch, one of the hottest jazz clubs on the West Coast. The Skanner also won first place in the Best Use of Photographs category, for a photo display from the 2007 Martin Luther King Jr. Annual Prayer Breakfast.
Pictured at the NNPA convention in Kentucky are (from left) John Smith, Sr. President of the NNPA, Dorothy Leavell, Chairwoman of the NNPA Foundation, Mario Price, Bernard V. Foster, publisher of The Skanner, Larry Waters, senior director of multicultural relations for Miller Brewing Company, Danny Bakewell Jr., publisher of The Los Angeles Sentinel, Dawne Gee, NBC 3-TV local news anchor and James A. Washington, publisher of The Atlanta Voice.
"We are very proud of this award," said The Skanner Publisher Bernie Foster. "Our mission is challenging people to shape a better future now, and this award is in keeping with our values. We are very proud of our staff, which works so hard in support of our values."
Winners received awards totaling up to $24,000, with an additional $5,000 to benefit the NNPA Foundation.
The winners are: Education/Employment — Helen Silvis, The Skanner; AIDS/Health — Robert Jeffrey II, The Atlanta Voice; Cultural Diversity — Christine Sabathia, The Los Angeles Sentinel; Heritage — Francis Taylor, The Los Angeles Sentinel.
The award is named after A. Philip Randolph and the first Black newspaper, The Messenger.
This is the two-part story that won this year's award:
Part One, Published January 16 2008
The New Force of Green
Portland's minorities must look toward sustainable careers
By Helen Silvis of The Skanner
Thanks to globalization, many blue-collar manufacturing jobs have packed up and left the country. Workers in developing countries will do the same jobs, but for far less money. And costs for employers are lower all round. For American workers, however, this exodus has left a huge void where traditional living wage jobs used to be. Now a new environmental justice movement says the future security of working class families will depend on "green collar" jobs.
"The chief moral obligation of the 21st Century is to build a green economy that is strong enough to lift people out of poverty," says Van Jones, a civil rights activist and founder of Green For All, a nonprofit that advocates for job training, employment opportunities and green development.
"Those communities that were locked out of the last century's pollution-based economy must be locked into the new, clean and renewable economy. … Our youth need green-collar jobs, not jails."
Jones, a Yale educated lawyer, started out advocating for minority youth caught up in the criminal justice system in Oakland, Calif. He founded the Ella Baker Center in 1996, a nonprofit whose motto is "Working for justice in the system, opportunity in our cities, and peace on our streets." Now, along with Majora Carter, executive director of the New York-based nonprofit Sustainable Bronx, Jones is leading a national effort to bring economic prosperity to low-income and minority communities.
If their vision materializes, people of color will soon be earning living wages and saving the planet at the same time.
Last month the U.S. Congress passed the "Energy Independence and Security Act," which included a bill that promises to create "green pathways out of poverty" for poor people and people of color. If authorized, the legislation would direct $125 million every year into efforts to train and prepare working people to benefit from the rapidly growing "green economy."
According to House speaker Nancy Pelosi, this legislation alone could create three million jobs over the next 10 years.
Too bad then that the funding may never materialize, since President Bush has vowed to veto the bill—along with the entire energy package. Nevertheless, advocates say individual states and cities can do a lot to create well-paying jobs that benefit working people in low-income urban communities.
Why is the green economy so important? As cities and states across the United States face up to the challenges of global warming and dwindling energy resources, they will be looking at solutions such as: energy-proofing homes and offices; adding more renewable energy sources such as solar panels, wind and wave power; improving public transit; recycling waste and many other fixes.
Workers with skills and experience in these areas will be in demand. And cities with a skilled "green" workforce will attract firms who need those workers.
"That's to me what is most exciting," says TriMet chief, Fred Hansen. "Being able to make sustainability an economic force – not just an environmental force, but an economic force in our community."
In Oakland and New York, these efforts already are underway. The City of Oakland has allocated $250,000 to fund the Oakland Green Jobs Corps, a job-training program that will work with urban youth, helping them develop highly marketable skills in areas such as renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. In New York, the Bronx Environmental Stewardship program is training area residents – many of them previously jobless – in everything from landscaping and green-roof installation to stormwater and brownfield site cleanup.
These projects have come about because of activists such as Van Jones and Majora Carter.
"In 2001, I founded Sustainable South Bronx — not as a moral crusade, but as an economic-development group that was about planning our future, not just reacting to environmental blight," Carter told Grist online magazine. "I wanted to play offense, not defense. I wanted to give our community permission to dream, to plan for healthy air, healthy jobs, healthy children and safe streets."
Closer to home, opportunities for people of color to benefit from the "clean and green" economy have been less obvious. Portland, with its reputation as the greenest city in the nation, has made plenty of noise about wanting to attract young "cultural creatives" to the city, but much less about building an environmentally smart workforce out of the residents this creative class is displacing.
Lack of diversity is most obvious at the higher levels of the emerging green economy – where planners, scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs are laying the groundwork for these new jobs. Traditionally bright young people of color interested in contributing to their communities have chosen to enter law, medicine, politics or education – not ecology, solar power technology or any of the many other specialist study areas that are driving the green economy.
Take Portland State University, for example. Recognized as one of the top places in the country to study cities and community development, PSU is an ideal jumping off point for young people who want to take leadership roles, says Karen L. Gibson, an associate professor in the department of Urban Studies and Planning.
"Portland is known as the best planning place in the nation," she said. "Yet how many Black people are there in this department? Very few. And how many Black people in community development? Very few."
Gibson wants to see programs in schools that inspire students to pursue careers in planning and community development as well as in other growing fields.
Yet despite the apparent absence of minority leadership, Portland already may be well positioned to ensure people of all backgrounds can profit from opportunities in the emerging green economy. That's due to the efforts of key leaders in the city council, TriMet, Portland Community College and the Oregon branch of the National Association of Minority Contractors.
Coming Next Week: Green Jobs in Portland
• View Van Jones on the Internet at www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SmF3B3734E.
• View Majora Carter on the Internet at www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQ-cZRmHfs4.
Part Two, Published January 23 2008
Green Careers Take Off
Portland offers good environment for a sustainable workforce
By Helen Silvis of The Skanner
This week, Portland Mayor Tom Potter is in Washington DC, for the Mayors Innovation Project. High on the agenda will be climate change, energy conservation and how to build an economy that creates green jobs, including living wage jobs for people of color and low-income people.
Here in Portland, job opportunities already are growing. That's because key city leaders and minority advocates are taking crucial steps to make sure that Portland is on the cutting edge of the green economy.
"It's a new phenomenon, and we need to take advantage of it," said Fay Burch, consultant, entrepreneur and board member of the Oregon branch of the National Association of Minority Contractors. "It would be nice to see people of color learning more about and taking ownership of green technologies because there are all kinds of opportunities in this field: from business consultancy to owning your own business to jobs with nonprofits."
According to a report by the Bay-area nonprofits the Apollo Alliance and Urban Habitat cities and states can build green economic opportunities by investing in renewable energy sources, energy efficient buildings and training a green workforce.
Their recommendations for cities include:
Set high environmental construction standards for all city buildings;
Fund retrofits for existing city buildings that do not meet green standards;
Promote energy efficient investment;
Fund worker training programs;
Ensure diverse communities have a seat at the table when economic development is under discussion;
Convert city fleets to biodiesel or hybrids;
Promote local hiring on city projects;
Connect communities with efficient transportation systems.
By these standards Portland is way ahead of the curve – well placed to attract green projects and business. The challenge will be to make sure people of color and low-income Portlanders are included in the new green workforce.
Take transportation. In TriMet, the city has one of the strongest city transportation systems in the country. The agency, which has managed huge construction efforts like the Interstate and Westside light rail projects, also leads the field in the diversity of its workforce.
That's because TriMet chief, Fred Hansen believes you can't have sustainability without social equity. Sustainability is about using rerefined oil and biodiesel instead of gasoline, or recycling road asphalt as the road bed under the light rail, Hansen said. But it also is about removing barriers for minorities and hiring a diverse local workforce.
"If we do not have social equity then it isn't sustainable," Hansen says. "And let me stress this is not with one iota lower quality of work. In fact we have had excellent work from our minority contractors."
To remove barriers for minorities, TriMet worked with its prime contractor to break down large contracts, and offered technical assistance to small contractors. In the process TriMet has helped those firms expand in expertise and size.
"We have seen these same firms grow from where their biggest contract was $30,000 or $50,000 to now doing half a million dollars a year," Hansen said.
Turning to city agencies, the Portland Development Commission has diversified its board, and its lending efforts. PDC also now offers certification classes in green building construction.
Fifteen people from the Association of Minority Contractors have been attending the classes ans studying to pass the highest level of the LEED (green building) certification test, Fay Burch told The Skanner. The association offers a weekly information session for its members on LEED certification.
"PDC alerted us early on so we could get registered," she said. "I think it (training in sustainable practices) is something that we need to do for ourselves, especially here in Oregon. "Whether you are in waste management, paving, trucking, plumbing, there are ways that this issue can apply to your business. A lot of our members actually need to do this to remain relevant."
At the City of Portland's purchasing department, director Jeffrey Baer helps minority and small businesses land city contracts through the sheltered market program, which allows state-certified disadvantaged, minority, women –owned and small businesses to compete amongst themselves for city contracts between $5000 and $200,000. Now those contracts are looking for environmentally friendly products and services.
"We are greening where we spend our dollars," Baer said. "So, when we buy paper, for example, we are buying 100 per cent chlorine-free paper."
To help contractors moving to more sustainable working practices, the city is offering classes and technical advice on sustainability.
"We tell them what green building is and how to do it," said Alisa Kane, from the Office of Sustainable Development. "We talk to thousands of people a year about how to incorporate green standards into their business practices."
Other city classes target homeowners. In fact, consulting with businesses and homeowners on energy efficiency and sustainability is a growing career field.
Portland Community College and Mt. Hood Community College both offer classes that help prepare construction professionals to work on green buildings, Kane said, for example a course that offers a sustainable builder advisory certificate.
"It will give them a strong foundation in green building and it will give them credibility –that they have gone through a training," she said. "What I'm hoping is that we will continue to increase opportunities for green jobs and that other people will step up to the plate and provide training."
More training is needed, admits Kimberly Schneider, Commissioner Sam Adams policy director for economic and workforce development. "We are talking a lot about how to get people into living wage jobs," she said. "We talk a lot about what is a self-sufficient wage and how do we get people living wages."
Adams has been looking at how to finance a green job corp. that would train young people to work in areas such as stormwater management, environmental cleanup or landscaping.
"The idea would be to create a youth job training program, that would serve youth from low income backgrounds or at-risk youth," Schneider said. "We're looking at different bodies and asking who has the experience to do this. Should it be the labor unions? Should it be Worksystems? (Worksystems Inc. runs workforce training programs.) Could we link up with Americorps?"
Schneider expects a final plan early in 2008, she said. "We are really excited about it."
The following is The Skanner story that was runner up for the Award in the Heritage category:
Storied Building Revived
Once-hopping jazz spot will become a center for artists
By Brian Stimson of The Skanner
November 7 2007
240 N. Broadway. You could easily walk by this blighted building without ever noticing it. Known to many as Multi-Craft Plastics, the building has been vacant for years. But before that, it housed a plastics factory, a pharmaceutical drug maker, a confectionery and ice cream parlor. Rumor says during the 1920s it was a speakeasy. But for a golden moment in the 1940s, it was The Dude Ranch, one of Portland's premier "Black and Tan" jazz clubs.
Now, a local developer and musician, Daniel Deutsch is lovingly restoring the building to create a community art space that will reflect its storied past.
Pat Patterson, the first African American to play basketball for the University of Oregon, owned and ran The Dude Ranch along with his friend Sherman "Cowboy" Picket. According to jazz historian Robert Dietsche, who wrote the Portland jazz history book "Jumptown", The Dude Ranch was, "the shooting star in the history of Portland jazz, a meteor bursting with an array of the best Black and Tan entertainment this town has ever seen: strippers, then called shake dancers, ventriloquists, comics, jugglers, torch singers, world renowned tap dancers like Teddy Hale, and of course the very best of jazz."
No wonder it attracted legends such as Louis Armstrong, Thelonius Monk, Roy Eldridge, Coleman Hawkins and Lucky Thompson, as well as countless others. With hat check girls, waitresses dressed as cowgirls and all-night card games, Dietsche writes that the Dude Ranch was packed with everyone from politicians and Pullman porters to zoot-suited hipsters.
"Racially mixed party people who couldn't care less that what they were doing was on the cutting edge of integration in the city that had been called the most segregated north of the Mason-Dixon line."
In 1946, the city shut it down. Few believed that big stakes gambling and an accidental shooting were the real reasons behind its closure.
"There was too much race mixing," Dietsche told The Skanner. "It was a black eye for City Hall. They looked for any excuse … and there were so many."
What the city couldn't close down was Portland's love affair with jazz. During those years, you could find jazz at any time of the day or the night. The city was bursting with newly arrived workers for the shipyards and other war support industries. And Williams Avenue – an economic area that spanned many blocks on and off the street — featured a jazz joint on nearly every block.
"It was quite a scene," said Dick Bogle, jazz columnist for the Skanner and radio host on KMHD 89.9. During that period, Bogle said Blacks were confined to living west of Union Avenue (now Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.), giving club owners a targeted geographic area of talent and patrons.
Bogle said he began frequenting jazz clubs in the 1950s. He was too young to have entered the doors of the famed Dude Ranch when it was open. But he does remember the race mixing. Whites were always welcome in the clubs on Williams Avenue, both as players and patrons. But the openness wasn't reciprocated in the Downtown clubs, at least for Black patrons.
Why the Dude Ranch was singled out for allowing race mixing could be any number of reasons, but Dietsche said he thinks it also had to do with the gambling.
"Portland was a pretty wide open town except for mixed races," Dietsche said.
Vice was everywhere – prostitutes made their contacts at places such as the Dude Ranch, and gambling occurred in house, he said. Where there was jazz, he said, vice was sure to be there too.
A New Era
When it was built in 1923 as the Hazelwood candy complex, 240 N. Broadway featured an ice cream parlor and eatery on the ground floor, with candy, donut and confectionary rooms upstairs. As the Dude Ranch, bands were featured on the ground floor and at least one of the upper floors in the original corner building was dedicated to gambling.
All good things eventually come to an end. For jazz, both Dietsche and Bogle say changing music styles, urban renewal, unrestricted housing, civil rights battles and eventually gangs, brought about the end of Williams Avenue's jazz joints.
240 N. Broadway became the headquarters of Mutual Wholesale Drugs during the 1950s. And in the 70s — after urban renewal, Interstate 5 and the Rose Quarter had changed the neighborhood beyond recognition – Multicraft Plastics turned it into a factory.
Developer Daniel Deutsch, a board member of the arts group Disjecta, bought it in February 2007. The building had been sitting vacant for several years and other developers bidding on the project wanted to tear it down. But Deutsch recognized the value of the original building and hired designer Andy Powell to help him turn the 66,000 square foot structure into a gathering place for artists.
Dubbed the "Leftbank Project" the building will house studios for up-and-coming artists, as well as larger spaces for established firms. There will be enough room for gallery shows and possibly a music venue. The main ballroom will probably return to its original use as an eatery.
"In a big sense, it's a great big experiment," says Powell, who also helped design the interior of the Someday Lounge downtown. "It can be a hub for creative, progressive projects."
Powell said Deutsch isn't trying to maximize profits from the building. The plan is to create a sustainable model that balances artists/firms who can afford to pay market rate against those who need more affordable space. In other words, Powell says, they don't want 240 N. Broadway to become just another step toward gentrification.
The renovation will include repairing or replacing warped, waterlogged floors, broken windows and a leaky roof. Yet, despite years of neglect, the main ballroom has survived. Its original woodwork is intact, along with a dumbwaiter, an antique walk-in safe and a an enormous defunct boiler system.
Powell is shooting for high environmental standards. Construction crews will use sustainable building products; dozens of the original windows are being restored; and the heating unit is one of the more efficient on the market.
"We believe the single greatest act of sustainability is saving the building," Powell said. "Reusing is probably the least impactful thing we can do."
By next summer, when tenants should begin moving into 240 N. Broadway, each of the three buildings that make up the site will be decorated to reflect the era and purpose for which they were built. Plans aren't yet firm, but Powell wants to decorate the outside walls with photographs that illustrate its journey from a confectionery and industrial workplace to the hottest jazz palace in town. Visible to everyone who passes by, its contribution to Portland's history will never be forgotten.
Best Use of Photographs
The Skanner also won first place in the Best Use of Photographs category, for a photo display from the 2007 Martin Luther King Jr. Annual Prayer Breakfast.
This was published January 17, 2007.