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Let’s Get Down to Business

Big personality entrepreneur has advice for the next generation

Donovan M. Smith | 10/2/2013, 11:39 a.m.
Entrepreneur and Portland civic leader Roy Jay is synonymous with success in the Rose City. Once considered a prime candidate for mayor, the accomplished Jay is quick to share his insights and open doors for the next generation. Photo by Mark Washington

Jay realizes that the struggle to succeed is indeed a difficult one because of his own tribulations. From hearing the whispers of doubt from his own community to even physical threats of violence against him, he’s been no stranger to the trials of achievement. Even-so, the Portland Daily Journal of Commerce two-time Newsmaker of the Year has managed to persist, and serve as an inspiration for those both inside and outside of the black community.

Although an early career stop for was Jay hosting one of Portland’s premier radio shows, he sees too many young people looking to be professional entertainers and sports players as opposed to owning their own businesses. Jay is not completely against sports and entertainment, but despises the implications that can come from pursuing them for young minorities.

“White folks have told me, look, we pay you guys to entertain us,” he laments,

Instead, Jay is a staunch advocate for education as a feasible pathway to a successful life.

“It’s up to you, not me, new generation, to re-plant a seed out there to do some more shops, retail, flowers, service business, computers, housing, and all the rest of that stuff,” Jay says. “We aren’t at the table ‘cause somebody told us, oh no you can’t do that.”

He has participated in a multitude of fundraisers over the years for traditional schools with a high percentage of minority students, such as Jefferson High School and his 1965 alma mater Roosevelt. He says it’s all about giving back to the place that raised him.

“As my mother said, never forget where you come from. They can pat you on the back and give you all the accolades and stuff like that; at the end of the day baby you’re still black, and you still have an obligation to your family, your neighborhood, your people,” he says.

And though Jay remains one of the premier players in city politics and is a leader who was once considered a top prospect for running for mayor, he knows his ever-aging body will not allow him to attend to every civic issue or concern forever.

“Baby, after a while you start slowing. You start coughing and wheezing and hackin’ like your daddy and your grandparents and everybody else. So you realize, look, it’s time for us to get some new folks in here,”

He warns with an almost absolute certainty that the next generation “has to be ready” or the city will leave them behind.