The scar on Russell Contreras’s cheek comes from his high school days, when he tried to help a white classmate escape a pummeling. His school in Houston, Texas, had been integrated in the 1970s, and one unfortunate byproduct was a campus ritual called “white day”—the day that black and Hispanic kids would randomly pick on white classmates and punch them. Thus, for all its good intentions, school desegregation in Houston had backfired in a sad way. While the campus was integrated, there hadn’t been enough attention paid to how the students learned the larger life lesson of how to live, study and work together.
On Monday morning, I joined hundreds of family members, friends, journalists and funders in mourning the death of Dori J. Maynard, the president of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education and an unflinching critic of the news media’s treatment of African Americans and other minority groups. She passed away on Feb. 24 from lung cancer at the age of 56. Later that night, I conjured Dori’s spirit, values and teachings to help students in my media class at San Francisco State University understand the need to promote diversity in journalism.
Our beloved and respected colleague Raul Ramirez, KQED Public Radio’s executive director of news and public affairs, died Nov. 15 at age 67. Before his death, Raul was scheduled to receive the 2013 Distinguished Service to Journalism Award from the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Because he was gravely ill, Raul asked Renaissance Journalism’s Jon Funabiki, who had known Raul for more than 25 years, to read his address on his behalf. The event, following just four days after Raul’s passing, was bittersweet as Jon shared Raul’s inspiring insights about the journalistic values of diversity and excellence with his peers.