Tag Archives: Ken Hawkins

In Memoriam: National program lays to rest 1,000th homeless veteran

Civil Air Patrol member Nick Henry receives the flag from the coffin of Stevenson L. Roy, who passed away Dec. 16 in Portland. Roy was a homeless Vietnam veteran. No family could be located, but he was buried Jan. 25 by Dignity Memorial members in Willamette National Cemetery with full military honors. (Photo by Ken Hawkins)

By Joanne Zuhl, Staff writer

Stevenson L. Roy was not the first, and sadly, he will not be the last. But on Jan. 25, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Roy became a milestone. He was the 1,000th veteran laid to rest through a national program to fund indigent or homeless soldiers burials.

He died Dec. 16 in Portland and was buried with full military honors in Willamette National Cemetery. Taps was played, a 21-gun salute was delivered, and the flag was folded with precision.

There are more than 1,300 homeless veterans across Oregon, a disproportionate percentage to the population as a whole. In Multnomah County, veterans comprise 12 percent of the homeless population, according to 2011 count, but only 9 percent of the general population.

Members of the Patriot Guard Riders, with the motto, “Standing for those who stood for us.” (Photo by Ken Hawkins)

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Photojournalist Ken Hawkins reflects on San Salvador massacre, Jonestown and his work to use photography to combat poverty

The dead, shot by federal soldiers, are laid out on the santuary floor of the San Salvador Metro Cathedral. The dead and dying were dragged inside the sanctuary from the steps of the church where they were shot.

By Stacy Brownhill, Staff Writer

In today’s media landscape, writers can get away with reporting battles from afar. But conflict zone photojournalists have no such luxury. Action is their shop floor. Armed with cameras, these men and women don’t just capture scenes of bullets and bloodshed, they live them. Last year, more than 100 journalists were killed on the job, according to the International Press Institute; two renowned photojournalists, Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros, were killed last month in Misrata, Libya.

Portland’s Ken Hawkins was a conflict zone journalist. At 61, Hawkins is quiet and still as he unravels his memories amidst a swarm of black and white negatives. Through his camera lenses, Hawkins captured the Vietnam War in 1970, the Jonestown mass suicide in 1978, the Sandinista Insurrection in Nicaragua from 1977 to 1979, the massacre at Metropolitan Cathedral in El Salvador in 1979, and other historically explosive events. He has worked for TIME, Newsweek and Wired, and has been a member of prestigious agencies such as SYGMA and the American Society of Media Photographers. In the calm of his Lake Oswego home, it’s hard to imagine Hawkins running through gunfire; but he did, and he photographed it.

Hawkins returns this week to the site of one of his grisliest photo-shoots: Metropolitan Cathedral in San Salvador, El Salvador. Thirty-two years ago, Hawkins was on special assignment in San Salvador for Paris Match, covering the hostage taking of a French ambassador who was being held by the People’s Revolutionary Bloc (BPR), a left-wing guerilla group. Unexpectedly, he ended up witnessing a massacre when police opened fire on a peaceful BPR demonstration outside Metropolitan Cathedral on May 9, 1979. Twenty-four people were killed on the Cathedral steps, many were wounded, and Hawkins himself barely escaped.

Six months before the San Salvador massacre, Hawkins had descended upon Jonestown to cover the mass suicide of more than 900 people for Newsweek. The Cincinnati-born, Atlanta-grown, Portland migrant (and Street Roots volunteer and board member) describes the San Salvador massacre and Jonestown suicides with remarkable candidness. He also discusses the similarities he sees in the recent Arab Spring, disheartening trends in journalism and his online gallery projects — 52Selects.com and EverySecondChild.org.

Stacy Brownhill: Describe the massacre in San Salvador at Metropolitan Cathedral.

Ken Hawkins: I was 29 years old. Paris Match had hired me, because of my experience with long lenses, to cover the hostage taking of Michel Dondenne at the French Embassy in San Salvador. No one was sure if Dondenne was even alive, but I got a picture of him through a window. After that, Paris Match wanted sidebars on BPR (the guerrilla group holding Dondenne). BPR was holding a demonstration at Metropolitan Cathedral, so I decided to cover it.

Massacre on the Steps of the San Salvador, El Salvador Metropolitan Cathedral on May 8, 1979

It was a beautiful day. Vendors were selling tamales in the square by the Cathedral, government workers were eating lunch in the park and protestors — mostly youth — were reciting speeches to the crowd. Yellow balloons were everywhere, in support of the demonstration. I was there with two other reporters from Associated Press and United Press International. It was high noon. Continue reading

Marcy Westerling, founder of Rural Organizing Project, reflects on community organizing in Oregon, as her own life takes a new direction

By Joanne Zuhl, Staff Writer

After 30 years, Marcy Westerling recently returned to Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals,” the famous and controversial book on community organizing used by both the Left and the Right. In those years between, however, the book and its principles never gathered dust under Westerling’s stewardship.

After years with ACORN, and later creating a rural women’s crisis network, Westerling founded the Rural Organizing Project, or ROP, taking her brand of grassroots organizing and turning it into a galvanizing force among pro-democracy groups operating in small towns across Oregon. ROP created a structure through which groups from all backgrounds could organize around common causes. It created human dignity groups in 50 rural communities throughout the state that brought divergent perspectives and agendas into political discussion.

Its first target was 1992’s Proposition 9, the anti-gay ballot measure put forward by the well-heeled conservative group Oregon Citizens Alliance, which claimed its roots in rural, right-wing Oregon. ROP organized the opposition, and the measure was defeated. In the nearly 20 years since, ROP has addressed farm workers’ rights, immigration issues and economic justice, organizing strategic caucuses   to move forward.

In 2009, Westerling accepted a fellowship with the Open Society Institute to take the tactics of community “mapping” nationwide; to create a toolkit in essence that people could adapt for their community. She was just getting started on the work when in the spring of 2010 she was diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer. She has had to scale back her work with the Open Society Institute, and she and her husband Mike moved from their beloved farm in Scappoose to Southeast Portland to be closer to her health care. She continues working on the mapping project and with ROP, working to keep the dialogue going from all sources. She remains committed to bridging false cultural divides, as she has called them, and staying healthy, even though she is quite frank about the odds. She embodies the progressive movement in fighting the right-wing takeover of rural America, and she can handle just about anything someone wants to dish out — just don’t call her a liberal.

Marcy Westerling: Liberal has never been a word I’ve been comfortable with.

Joanne Zuhl: Why not?

M.W.: I’m more interested in the content of the belief system. We believe in the words of every human being. We believe that every zip code no matter where it’s located is important. We believe that every issue is connected. And we believe that no rights supersede the rights of others. It’s a little more nuanced and value-based, but we’ve been able to have a lot of members who maybe are not comfortable with the next issue we will approach or the last issue we did approach. Our umbrella has to be big enough. Continue reading

Plugged in with Artist Mentorship Program (AMP)

Youth play in a jam session at the Artist Mentorship Program (AMP). Photo by Ken Hawkins

By Devan Schwartz, Contributing Writer

The electrical buzz of amplifiers predominates in the small studio space. A drummer strikes a three-count and starts laying down a beat. The second drummer hesitates only for a moment and joins him, throwing in a little extra high-hat and the deeper sound of the toms. Before long, rhythm and lead guitars have joined the jam, as has a bassist. The musicians communicate with eye contact or Spartan verbal cues when it’s an agreeable time for someone to solo or shift the tone to better match the group.

These musicians look ready for any of Portland’s music venues. Torn jeans. Tattoos.  Long foppish hair or assymetrical buzzcuts. Painted fingernails. Dangly jewelry. Baggy faux business attire and skate shoes. But they’re not here tonight to cut an album or polish a performance to get a percentage of some club’s cover fees.

Instead, they’re a group of homeless youth. They’re jamming for a couple of hours before Portland’s shelters open up for the evening. It’s just your average night at AMP — the Artist Mentorship Program — if such an average night exists. Continue reading

Mayor Sam Adams talks with Street Roots

By Joanne Zuhl and Israel Bayer, Staff writers

Support him or not, probably few people would want to trade places with Sam Adams right now. His first 18 months in office as Portland’s mayor has been saddled with a crushed economy that has hobbled the city’s financial status while fueling the need for city services. It has been plagued by ongoing flare-ups with police and the public, resulting in the firing of the police chief and the takeover of the bureau by the mayor’s office. And lurking in the shadows has been the rattling of recall efforts that twice failed to garner enough signatures to reach the ballot.

If it’s getting him down, it doesn’t seem to effect his game face, which more often than not remains stern and straight ahead. When we talked with him, he had just completed the 2010 City Budget — the 17th of his career working under former Mayor Vera Katz and now as mayor himself. This budget not only reflects the funding available now, but also projects a warning to bureau chiefs of the bumpy ride still to come.

Street Roots questioned the mayor about the budget and how he’s going to keep the so-called “city that works” working for everyone.

Street Roots: How does this budget stack up in terms of difficulty, obligations, priorities, etc.

Sam Adams: Putting together a city budget that balances basic services with smart investments in our city’s future is always challenging. This year’s budget was especially challenging due to the cuts to ongoing and one-time funds available. Fortunately, I work with a smart, dynamic and pragmatic group of colleagues on City Council. They fight for their bureau’s needs, but they also recognize the financial landscape we’re navigating through, and each is willing to compromise where necessary.

In terms of obligations and priorities, my first priority for this coming year’s budget (fiscal year 2010-11) was protecting the core services of the City and the services to help people most at need. It’s why I directed non-public safety agencies to cut 4 percent from their budgets and asked public safety agencies to target 2-3 percent. It’s also why I worked with Commissioner Nick Fish to increase funding to pay for increased shelter bed capacity, especially to meet more of the demand for women’s shelter beds. And, coupled with the Portland Development Commission’s budget, we’re putting $2 million toward construction of the Hooper Detox Center and additional funds toward the construction of the joint city-county mental health crisis center.

In the face of deepening county and state budget shortfalls, the City of Portland is going to have to find ways to fill the gaps created by other jurisdictions. When a person in our city is on the streets and needs services, they’re not saying to themselves, “I wish the county better funded these services.” They’re saying, “Who can I turn to for help?” So, I’ll continue to push for better funding for services for those most at-need, but I’m also committed to getting other jurisdictions — neighboring counties like Washington County and cities in our region — to increase their financial commitment to these services.

S.R.: You called this a recovery budget— what do you mean by that and what’s the forecast for Portlanders in the years to come?

S.A.: A recovery budget means that we’re not just helping people day-by-day, but that we’re funding the programs and services for people to make long-term improvements in their lives. So, for example, the Police Bureau’s Prostitution Coordination Team is about enforcing laws to curb prostitution. But it’s also coupled with a contract with LifeWorks Northwest, an amazing organization that helps women transition from lives in the sex trade to safer, healthier lives and livelihoods in the community. And I’ve continued to fund economic development efforts that help small businesses get access to start-up capital and storefront improvement dollars. At my direction, the PDC made administrative cuts that transferred $4 million toward economic development front-line programs. Continue reading

Best SR photos of 2009

Street Roots  has some of the best photographers in the city. The newspaper is lucky to have an all volunteer, all-star tandem of  award winning shooters, like Leah Nash, Ken Hawkins, John Ryan Brubaker, and Elizabeth Schwartz. They have dedicated their knowledge, skills and compassion to accompany some of the most hard hitting news stories in the city this year. Here, we look at some of the best shots of 2009, in no particular order. Enjoy.

Mult. County Commissioner Ted Wheeler talks with Managing Editor Joanne Zuhl in July about Urban Renewal Areas in an article titled Balancing Act. Photo by Leah Nash.

Street Roots highlights African immigrants who face cultural isolation in Portland. Mara Grunbaum reports. In this photo a family from Somalia pray together. Photo by Ken Hawkins.

Street Roots writes an in-depth piece on the return of heroin on Portland’s streets in Return of the Dragon. Here a 27-year old man shoots heroin near I-5 in SW Portland. Amanda Waldroupe reports. Photo by Ken Hawkins. Continue reading

The people behind the paper


Street Roots, the Albina Community Bank in the Pearl and some of Portland’s best photographers are teaming up to present a month long exhibit titled “The people behind the paper.”

You are invited to the opening on First Thursday, Nov.5 at 6 p.m. at 430 NW 10th Ave. in the Pearl. (You are also invited to stop by during normal business hours anytime in November to see the show.

SR4Commission Fish

The exhibit features the work of photographers Leah Nash, Ken Hawkins, John Ryan Brubaker, Elizabeth Schwatrz and Mary Edmeades, shot exclusively for Street Roots.

Return of the dragon – heroin takes over Portland’s streets


From the Sept. 18 edition of Street Roots.

On a sunny Monday during the early afternoon, a 27-year old homeless man only wanting to be identified as “Joe” for this story walks down a hill overlooking I-405 and sits on a piece of cardboard laid out among, bushes, empty bottles and litter. The sounds of cars and buses are all around. Joe takes out a blue bag, unzips it, and takes out a twisted-up piece of white wax paper. Inside the paper is an almost imperceptible amount of a gooey, dark brown substance. Joe says it’s a couple dollars worth of black tar heroin.

“I treat this like a medicine,” Joe says. “Oh shit, a cop just went down the street.” He quickly gets up to move.

“You’re focusing on doing something pretty intricate and you have one eye scanning so you don’t get caught and hemmed up,” he says as he walks down the street.

Stopping at an intersection, Joe looks around. “I think we’re good,” he says. He walks down along a hill overlooking another part of I-405. Tucking himself in between two bushes and setting his backpack next to him, he takes out a needle from a Ziploc bag of 10 he recieved at Outside In’s Syringe Exchange Clinic. Holding it in one hand, he takes the tin cup out of his backpack and puts the heroin in it. He also takes out a small water bottle, puts it on the ground, and puts a red lighter on his leg.

Pulling the syringe with his mouth, he pulls water out of the bottle and shoots it into the tin cup. Holding the cup with a twisted bread tie, he heats it for about 20 seconds with the lighter.

With the syringe’s plunger, Joe mixes the liquid. Licking the end of the plunger, he sucks the heroin into the syringe.

“She didn’t give me a tourniquet,” he says, looking through the Ziploc bag.

He takes off his belt and wraps it tightly around his bicep. His veins begin to pop out, and faintly lining his arm are the scabs and scars from previous injections.

Slowly, he inserts the needle, his fist clenched. But he doesn’t inject. Instead, he moves the needle left to right inside his arm, looking for and missing the much-sought-after vein. Murmuring to himself in pain, he pulls the needle out. A small bead of dark blood follows.

“Maybe there’s something wrong with this needle,” Joe says. “I’m just used to having the tourniquet.”

Swiping the blood onto his fingertip, he licked it off. Every time Joe saw a drop of blood as he poked his arm three more times, he’d lick—not to miss a single grain of heroin.

On the fourth injection, Joe stopped moving the needle. Holding it still for a moment, he slowly pushed the plunger with one finger, staring at the point of entry the entire time, watching until every drop of light amber fluid disappeared into his arm.

He loosens the belt before he lets the needle out. Blood trails down his arm. Wiping his arms with his hands, he licks his fingers.

“Sometimes it turns into a bloody mess and you’re just trying to get your fix,” he says as he uses an alcoholic wipe given to him at the needle exchange clinic operated by Outside In.

Joe says he does not feel that much different after taking the heroin. “This is even for me,” he says, not describing the high any further.

On his way up the embankment, Joe stops to talk to a panhandler sitting at the corner. Crossing the I-5 bridge back to downtown, he quickly walks in the direction of a surplus store, his gait almost gliding.

Joe says he will probably shoot up in another four to six hours.

A growing trend

Dennis Lundberg and Mike Reese rarely see eye to eye. But recently, the outreach worker for the homeless youths organization Janus Youth and the commander of the Portland Police Bureau’s central precinct have found common ground on a unlikely topic: the rise of heroin use in Portland.


Heroin use, Lundberg and Reese say, ebbs and flows in Portland with the seasons. Summertime is when the presence of the drug reaches it peak, coinciding with the presence of a seasonal homeless population frequenting downtown. As the weather cools and dampens, the amount of heroin declines as some youths leave town. Continue reading

Cambodian community talks about troubled past, looks to the future


It’s been three decades since the Khmer Rouge killing fields, and Sochanny Meng still has nightmares. Meng, 49, came to the United States as a refugee from Cambodia, where between 1975 and 1979 the brutal Khmer Rouge regime killed 1.7 million people – one-fifth of the country’s population – through overwork, starvation, torture and execution.

“Why my people killed my people like that … I don’t understand that,” says Meng, whose mother was executed by the Khmer Rouge. “I still don’t understand.”

In April, Meng will sit down in front of a camera for an interview about his past. What happened to him in Cambodia? What did he see? How did he survive? His questioners won’t be historians, reporters or documentarians but his American-born sons, 20 year-old twins Kenny and Jimmy.

The family is part of an oral history documentary project organized by the Cambodian-American Community of Oregon (CACO). With $60,000 in grants from the Northwest Health Foundation and Vision into Action, CACO is training Cambodian-American youths to interview their own parents and grandparents about their experiences under the Khmer Rouge. The interviews will be filmed and compiled into a 20-minute documentary, which will screen for the community and the public in August.

CACO President Mardine Mao says many of the community’s elders have rarely – if ever – spoken about their history before. Instead, they try their hardest to bury the painful memories.

“We feel like our younger generation don’t know much (about what happened), because their parents don’t tell them,” Mao says. “We’re asking them, basically, to open up a can of worms.”

The Khmer Rouge rose to power in Cambodia after years of guerilla warfare, aggravated by spillover from the U.S. campaign in Vietnam. Led by Pol Pot, the totalitarian regime imposed a radical system of agrarian communism, forcing millions of people out of cities and into farm labor camps. Children were separated from their families to be indoctrinated, put to work and sometimes trained as child soldiers. People who were educated, in ethnic minorities, religious or accused of disagreeing with the ruling party were tortured and killed.

Oregon and Southwest Washington are home to an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 Cambodian-Americans, many of whom lived through the Khmer Rouge years and came here as refugees in the early 1980s. Mao says many people in the community are still plagued by nightmares and post-traumatic stress – they may have stomachaches they can’t explain, or mistake celebratory fireworks for wartime bombs.

Between wariness of Western doctors and the stigma associated with mental health issues, many Cambodian-Americans are reluctant to seek treatment, according to Leakhena Nou, a sociology professor at California State University in Long Beach. Nou has studied Cambodian populations in both the U.S. and Cambodia.

Instead, emotional distress often manifests in other ways. Nou says Cambodian-Americans have high rates of diabetes and stroke, as well as problems with drug addiction, alcoholism and family violence.

“There are lingering effects of this trauma,” Nou says. “When you cut yourself, a deep cut, and there’s a scar – no matter what you try to do, the scar remains. That’s how I see the state of mind for the Cambodians.”

Mao hopes the oral history project will accomplish three things: raise public awareness of the Khmer Rouge atrocities, help Cambodian-American youth understand where their families came from, and give Khmer Rouge survivors some catharsis so the community can begin to mend.

“The process of talking itself, the process of hearing the story – it’s a healing process,” Mao says.

Of course, remembering can be traumatic in itself. Nou says that some refugees are afraid to tell their stories, especially in public forums, because “there is still a real fear that the Khmer Rouge will come back and harm them.”

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