Our beginnings are humble and can be traced to the Northwest Minority Media Association that was the brainchild of Patricia Fisher, a reporter at the Seattle Times. In 1984, she founded the group along with Lori Matsukawa, a reporter at KING-TV, Times reporter Teresa Cronin, Betty Anderson of the Tacoma News-Tribune and Fran Arrieta-Walden.
NMMA evolved into the Northwest Journalists of Color years later, but not before it gave birth to several organizations.
In the winter of 1987, a few black journalists met in Fisher’s living room and began putting together a local chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists.
In February 1988, the Seattle Black Journalists Association was formally recognized by NABJ. The founding members were Fisher, Anderson, Times reporters John Peoples, Janice Hayes and Jerry Large.
Hayes, the first president, changed the chapter’s name a few months later to Black Journalists Association of Seattle (BJAS) pronounced (B-jazz).
BJAS was one of the first NABJ affiliate chapters to adopt the Unity platform of working with the area’s other minority journalism groups. Over the years, BJAS has hosted several speakers including former Seattle Mayor Norm Rice, Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper, authors Jill Nelson and Nathan McCall and playwright August Wilson.
The organization’s biggest accomplishment has been starting the Patricia Fisher Scholarship, an annual financial award given to local African-American high school students entering college. Rhoda McKinney and Don Williamson organized a fundraising drive that collected $50,000 with the help of the Seattle Foundation.
A kickoff ceremony was held at Seattle’s Franklin High School in 1991 and the first scholarship was given in 1992.
Among the groups other accomplishments are:
- In 1989, BJAS hosted a NABJ regional convention at the Mayflower Hotel, which attracted 75 journalists.
- BJAS hosted its second regional convention in March 1994 at the Warwich Hotel, which attracted 65 journalists. Later that year, BJAS welcomed the NABJ executive board, which held its winter quarterly meeting in Seattle.
- In 1994, BJAS helped organize a media access workshop, which informed the community, how to access the media to publicize special events or bring attention to issues in the black community. The event attracted nearly 200 participants.
- In 1994, BJAS was awarded the Chapter of the Year for Region X by NABJ.
- In March 1995, BJAS hosted a reception aboard a yacht for visiting sportswriters covering the NCAA Final Four.
- In 1996, BJAS hosted two debates among the state’s democratic and republican gubernatorial candidates.
- Hosted a gala event at the 1998 National Association of Black Journalists convention in Washington, D.C. The event drew over 1,200 people.
- Setting a standard for philanthropy, BJAS awarded $11,000 in scholarship to three recipients in 1999.
- BJAS cemented itself as one of the leading chapters in NABJ after successfully hosting the Unity convention in 1999, the largest gathering of media of color ever assembled. The event attracted over 3,000 people and BJAS was awarded Chapter of the Year for Region X by NABJ.
- Janice Hayes (1988-89)
- Betty Anderson (1989-1990)
- Rhoda McKinney (1990-Nov. 1991)
- Neil Scarborough (Nov. 1991-Nov. 1992)
- Daryl Strickland (Jan. 1993-April 1996)
- Wendy Ellis (April 1996-May 1997)
- Paul Hollie (May 1997-Nov.1998)
- Lynne Varner (Nov. 1998-Aug.1999)
- Percy Allen (Aug.1999-2001)