Ramon Savoy: The word in action
Before the Las Vegas Sentinel-Voice shut down operations in 2014, a Friday night might find publishing-editor and reporter Ramon Savoy, camera in hand, covering a Jack and Jill formal. A Sunday might find him at a candlelight vigil, carrying on a tradition of active Black journalism featuring stories of uplift, warning, and aspiration. Founded by the Brown family in 1980, The Las Vegas Sentinel-Voice reached a circulation of 30,000 under Savoy’s tenure. A recipient of the Crystal Trailblazer and the Las Vegas Association of Black Journalists Griot awards, Savoy is a native New Yorker who migrated to Las Vegas as an airman at Nellis Air Force base in 1978.
I would go out and pitch The Sentinel as a historical document. I would say, “This is not a newspaper, this is a historical document.” Keep in mind this is way before texting came out. I would say, “Look at this paper. This is print. This does not disappear.” Radio is spoken and gone, then the next song comes on. The next commercial comes on. I could come back next week, and the print would still be here. My thing was when I was at the paper, photography. Photography was big for me. Seeing Black people up front on the cover. Opening up the paper and seeing Black people in the middle. We go from Clarence Thomas, to Jesse Jackson to Malcom X, to Elijah Muhammed, Dr. Martin Luther King, and all the way down to the wino on 147th Street. They still our people regardless of who they are and what they are. They still are human beings. And they might not have had the same opportunity. Things that I did, I no longer say I was lucky — I was blessed. I’ve been chased by the police. I’ve been shot at. One of those times, with the Las Vegas Sentinel-Voice, when the Rodney King riot happened in West Las Vegas. It was a Thursday and the Cosby Show was on. Breaking news interrupted and they’re talking about an uprising in West Las Vegas. I jumped up, jumped in my car. Got my camera, came over to the westside taking pictures. They shut the westside down on Bonanza, and the train tracks, you couldn’t go, but I knew the backroads. I got stopped by the North Las Vegas police and I told them I was with The Sentinel. They said, “Okay.” They had the brothers from the quads all up on the sidewalks with their hands behind their backs. You could go out, you were allowed off the westside. Nobody could come in. Nobody could come in. There was a grocery store on the Owens and H corner. You know, that was our plaza on the westside — Nucleus Plaza. The store was on fire; folks had started looting it. And Chief Washington from the Las Vegas Fire Department, he was trying to put out the fire. I was over there and I started taking pictures. This woman started pointing, “He’s taking your pictures.” All of a sudden, pow. It got close. But I took my pictures and everything. That was quite an adventure. Nothing different than the riots and blackouts in New York. Opportunity. There was one death that night. A kid got caught in the fire. Looking at what we have in this embodied 89106 community, to see and talk about development, what would it take to develop and make this a viable area? You have generations of people downtrodden and lost. And now, you have to correct that. Where my apartment is, I have this view. Every Sunday starting early in the morning, there’s this parade of cars that come into the 89106. This parade of cars come into the 89106 for one reason — going to a church. They get the Word; they get pumped up, and so forth. And then I see this same parade of cars make that left turn on Owens and H Street to get the hell out of here, before they can act on the message. You go and you get filled with the Word, but the Word is nothing if there is no action.
Jeff Scheid of Jeff Scheid Photography