The irony of a recent San Francisco Board of Supervisors decision to appoint Mark Farrell, a White venture capitalist, as acting mayor, and how it played out, still rubs Amelia Ashley-Ward the wrong way.
The board’s decision resulted in the removal of London Breed from that position, who was the first African American woman to serve in that post.
“Here we are in a city that’s supposed to be so progressive and then you watch about 50 White progressives tell this young, Black woman that they don’t want her, because she’d have too much power and she’d have the advantage of running for mayor; that’s B.S.,” said Ashley-Ward, the new NNPA Foundation chair and publisher and owner of the San Francisco Sun-Reporter. “When did a Black woman raised in public housing get an advantage over anyone? London Breed isn’t begging for hand-me-downs, but this is another reason that the Black Press will live forever, because of injustices like this and my newspaper will keep this on the front page and we are going to call it like we see and no one else will do that.”
A single mother, Ashley-Ward raised her son, Evan, alone since he was seven years-old.
His father died when Evan was 15, but Ashley-Ward’s relentless push to keep her son from being just another statistic has helped him to become an Emmy Award-winning television news writer.
Born in Magnolia, Mississippi, Ashley-Ward and her family moved to San Francisco, where her mother encouraged her to apply for a job at the San Francisco Sun-Reporter; that’s where she met the legendary Dr. Carlton Goodlett, who owned the newspaper.
“At that time, we were about bringing something back to the community and my mother used to always read the Sun-Reporter, so she said told me to go and I went,” Ashley-Ward said.
Goodlett promised her a permanent job once she obtained a college degree.
In 1979, she graduated with a degree in journalism from San Jose State University, where she also studied photojournalism at San Jose State University.
Goodlett hired Ashley-Ward full-time after she graduated.
“I had a flair for writing and I was a photographer, who basically wrote with a camera,” said Ashley-Ward. “I was sort of a two-for-one deal in that I could write and take pictures.”
In just five years and after many achievements and accolades, Ward earned a promotion to the post of managing editor. A decade later, after Goodlett left the newspaper, Ward was promoted to publisher.
Her awards included the 1980 Photojournalism Award from the NNPA; the 1981 NNPA Feature Writing Award; and later, the 1998 NNPA Publisher of the Year.
After taking over as owner and publisher in 1997, Ward received the Woman of the Year award from the San Francisco Black Chamber of Commerce. In 1998, Ashley-Ward won NNPA Publisher of the Year. In 2004, she received the Alumnus of the Year award from San Jose State University, and was the commencement speaker for the university’s journalism department that same year.
In 2005, Ward was selected as Woman of the Year by California State Senator Carole Migden and, in 2008, she was named one of the 49 Most Influential People in San Francisco by “7?7” magazine.
“My work was also published in magazines like People, Jet and Sepia,” Ashley-Ward said.
Her belief in the Black Press led to ultimately owning the Sun-Reporter, where Ward prioritizes community news of interest.
She also started organizations like the Sun-Reporter Foundation and was founding president of the Young Adult Christian Movement.
Ward served on the boards of the NNPA and the San Francisco branch of the NAACP.
That background made for an easy segue into her latest role as chairman of the non-profit NNPA Foundation.