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Donovan M. Smith

Stories by Donovan M.

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New Visions for the Techmen

Benson principal moves to shore up signature programs

Benson's new principal, Curtis Wilson Jr, says he wants to return the 96-year-old tech-centric institution to a place that has historically been associated with academic rigor and excellence. “I want to bring back Benson to where people are challenged to come here, where they know if I come to Benson I’m gonna work. Because it’s hands on, the courses are very intense, and it’s a very rich tradition school,” he says.

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Saving Our Boys

Symposium focuses of reframing the narrative

African American parents and other parents of children of color gathered for a symposium Saturday to find new ways to elevate the academic achievements of their seeds. The 5-hour symposium hosted by Black Parent Initiative was held at the disbanded Marshall High School campus in southeast Portland. It was the fourth year the group has sponsored a range of workshops promoting equity and excellence in the classroom through increased parental involvement at school and at home.

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Incense Blamed

Fire damages Muslim Community Center

A fire broke out at the Muslim Community Center on Martin Luther King Boulevard Friday and now leaders of the center are looking to get re-settled.

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King School 'Hoodies' Call Mystery

PTA and school clarify position

If someone wanted kids at King Elementary to wear hoodies in solidarity with the family of slain teenager Trayvon Martin, no one is taking responsibility for it.

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Relating to Race

Educators convene to learn about culturally responsive teaching

Over 300 educators from across the state of Oregon convened on the campus of north Portland’s Roosevelt High School for the fourth annual Teaching with Purpose conference. Teachers attended various workshops over two days on Friday and Saturday that were intended to increase their ability to instruct students in a culturally effective manner and help students of color excel academically, closing an achievement gap between white and black students.

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New Lease on Life

Funding raises hope for ‘Village Market’

A community grocery store in the New Columbia neighborhood of north Portland has a new lease on life thanks to an economic development boost from government agencies. Village Market, operated by the nonprofit Janus Youth, was awarded $75,000 by the Portland City Council on Thursday in the hopes that the store can survive financially and continue to bring healthy food and jobs to low-income residents.

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Inspired by Dance

North Portland dance center reaches out

A north Portland dance teacher who's performed alongside the likes of Madonna, Celine Dion, and Pink, seeks community support for her north Portland dance studio.

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On The Brink

Head Start watches the shutdown clock

Leaders at Portland’s Head Start program are worried about the possibility of shutting down for the year if Congress does not soon reach an agreement on the budget and the looming debt ceiling. Ron Herndon, the director of Albina Head Start, said when the federal funding for Head Start runs out at the end of the month, the Portland program will no longer be able to continue serving its preschool children of low-income and poor families.

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Rose City Connections

Rapper Tech N9ne makes Portland stop

The Portland Observer caught up with recording artist Tech N9ne when he came to town during his current 50 city tour. The “Something Else” tour, entitled after his latest album features hip hop industry heavyweights such as Wiz Khalifa, B.O.B., Cee Lo Green, and Kendrick Lamar, his longtime collaborator Krizz Kaliko and many more. As the founder of his own record label, Strange Music, which currently pulls in more than $20 million annually, Tech N9ne is often labeled as the “the most successful independent rapper of all time”.

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‘Sneakerhead’ Turns Love into a Brand

Portland entrepreneur starts own fashion line

Setting foot in the city of sin turned out to be the start of a dream for one Portland man. A 2009 visit to Las Vegas for a street wear fashion tradeshow shifted David Jefferson’s whole career path. Jefferson says the show was the inspiration he needed to take him from being a local retailer of various big name brands in urban fashion to his newfound passion, selling his own clothes.

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Let’s Get Down to Business

Big personality entrepreneur has advice for the next generation

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. “There’s opportunity sitting out here, all people have to do is go and apply themselves. And I’m not saying it’s easy, nothing’s easy"--Roy Jay

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Life is 2Real

Promoter on cutting edge of rap scene

Unfortunately not many can claim a successful transition from the harsh realities of a notorious gangbanging past to true entrepreneurship. Jonathan Norman, also known as Big Smurf, a.k.a. Smurf Lucciano, is one of the exceptions.

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Amber Starks Builds Community Esteem with Business

Salon owner an expert in natural hair styling

As a child, Amber Starks used to “beg” her mother to let her perm her long locks of hair. It proved to be a fruitless pursuit. By the time Starks was a fresh face on the campus of the University of Oregon, wearing her hair chemical-free was only, well, natural. Now, the 32-year-old Starks owns her own salon and is exclusively focused on natural hair styling.

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A Sense of Belonging

Moorish Science embraces African roots

Temple teaches people of African descent their history through ancient tradition and knowledge.

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Black Portlanders

Woman’s shoots documents life in the city

Memphis native documents black life in the city with her blog, theblackportlanders.com

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Mystery Test Scores

King Elementary is under the microscope. The former principal, Kim Patterson, who was responsible for many reforms at the K-8 school, stepped down just before the school year to begin a new job at the Oregon Department of Education; Eryn Berg has been chosen to succeed Patterson who held the post since 2010. This all comes amid extensive investigations into plummeting test scores at the northeast Portland school.

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Seniors on the Move

New program focuses on healthy habits

Seniors in Portland are getting active with a new program keep get elder citizens moving called Walk With Ease. The program, which was launched by Meals on Wheels People, aims to take a group of 10 to 12 walkers aged 60+ on two to three trips weekly. It debuted in seven other locations in April. The goal is to have participants work up to 45 minute walks. Each participant is provided with a journal to log their walking habits.

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Tragedy to Awareness

Family’s grief raises profile of sickle cell anemia

Pastor Marcia's family has been stricken with tragedy through the years due to the disease sickle cell anemia. Through the years she was worked tirelessly to raise awareness about the blood disorder which affects 1 in 12 African-Americans.

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Haskins Proposes Return to PIL

Portland Public Schools’ newly named athletic director Marshall Haskins held a news conference Friday to announce a formal proposal to have all of the district’s high schools to compete at the 6A level, the highest sports ranking in the state as part of “re-establishing” the Portland Interscholastic League.

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Restoring ‘Lost’ History

Marker to mention first black visitor to Oregon

Oregonian Gwen Carr worked fervently to include a crucial part of the state's black history on a historical marker near Tilamook.

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Shaking Up Sports

Haskins looks to re-energize school programs

Portland Public Schools recently named community fixture Marshall Haskins the new athletic director of the district and he has already come through the door shaking things up. Less than a month into his post he put forth some radical proposals that however unofficial and unlikely to be put into play, create the thing Haskins desires most at the moment; dialogue.

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Let Portland Ring!

Bells toll for justice and freedom

Bells ring in Portland to commemorate 50 years since Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech.

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Down Home Cooking

Everything made from scratch and fresh at the Miracles Café

Soul food eatery, 'Miracle's Cafe' on Martin Luther King Boulevard is quickly becoming a go-to spot for many people across the city.

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A Legacy of Activism

Tribute speaks to civil rights issues of yesterday and today

Portlanders marched through downtown to commemorate the historic 'March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom'

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50 Years Later

Local leaders say there’s still work to do for civil rights

Local civil rights leaders prepare for commemoration march taking place Saturday in honor of the 50 year anniversary of the 'March on Washington'.

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Thoughts on The Dream

Portland recalls King’s historic speech

Portlanders recall Martin Luther King's 'dream' 50 years later

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Justice March for Ivy

Friends and family keep vigil on woman’s death

Things got off to a late start at the ‘Justice March for Ivy’ rally in downtown Portland Saturday, but the small legion of supporters were certainly seen and heard once things got going.

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Fighting for History

Memorabilia from decades past cause friction at Matt Dishman

The historic Matt Dishman Community Center in north Portland is the focal point of a battle that essentially questions the relevance of the celebrated relics of decades-past to the 63-year-old site’s immediate future.

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Arson Suspected in Aftermath of Inferno

Reward leading to arrest offered up to $2,500

The Portland Fire Bureau search for answers following Aug. 8's massive fire on MLK Boulevard.

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Making Political Impacts

Minority advocates count up legislative successes

Oregon is one of the least racially diverse states in the union, but that has not stopped minorities from making significant changes in the state Legislature this year.

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Tracking License Plates

Scanner technology gathers huge database

Portland Police are responding to an American Civil Liberties Union investigation on the use of high-tech police license plate scanners to record and monitor the movement or motor vehicles from across the city.

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Rattled Drivers

TriMet operators shaken up after violent attacks

Some TriMet drivers are questioning their day-to-day safety after several violent episodes.

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‘Justice for Trayvon’ Rally in Portland

Residents join call for action

Portlanders joins the nationwide protest for 'justice' following George Zimmerman's acquittal.

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We Needed This Verdict

A new call for action in the fight for justice

Verdict in the George Zimmerman trial stirs unrest. But will it stir change?

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We the Jury…

Verdict stirs conversations and protests

Verdict in Florida's George Zimmerman murder case with strong racial undertones prompts protests nationwide.

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Community Luminary

Paul Knauls celebrates 50 years of Portland memories

The unofficial "Mayor of North and Northeast Portland" celebrates half-a-century of continued success in The Rose City.

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Foreclosure to Opportunity

Building a foundation for new beginnings

Non-profit partnership with Multnomah County turns foreclosure into hope for new family.

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Ruling Sparks a Conversation

Gay marriage goes to states in wake of court action

People voice their opinions on the Supreme Courts gay marriage ruling.

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Keeping the Ribs Coming

Reo’s moves to Southeast Powell

Reo Varnardo has had to overcome several hardships as owner of Reo's Ribs, but with his new location he is hoping for a fresh start

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A Party for a Showcase

Peninsula Park and Community Center celebrate 100 years

Historic park celebrates 100 years

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Trouble at the Workplace

Employees impacted by recurring acts of racism

Several Portland-area workers battle against employers after experiencing blatant racial insensitivity on the job

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Reaching Out for Equity

Procurement Services raises profile with minority firms

Portland Procurement services continue to forge strong relationships with various minority and women-owned businesses

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Black Fatherhood

Portland filmmaker takes aim at the complexities

First-time filmmaker looks at the complexities of black fatherhood

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Mayor Aide Baruti Artharee Investigated for Comments

Suggestive Behavior Uproar

Mayor Charlie Hales gets some unwanted attention after one of his top aides is accused of making suggestive remarks and gestures

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Open to the Neighborhood

Concordia University builds bonds with the community

'If it's good for the community, it's good for Concordia'

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Hair Care Victory

Practitioners of natural hair get restrictions eased.

Oregon joins 22 other states in loosening restrictions on natural hair care.

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Worth Fighting For

Portland dentists add their voices to fluoride debate

Portland residents debate water fluoridation

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Science Club Works to Clean Up the Air

Roosevelt students respond to poor air quality report

Portland’s statistically poorest high school, Roosevelt, is home to some of the worst air quality in the nation.

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American Dreamer

From Iraq to Portland area entrepreneur

Hussein Al-Baiaty was a refugee in the Mideast and did not know a word of English when he migrated to the United States at age 8.

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