Milestone: Five Years of Chronicling

As The Chronicle marks its fifth anniversary, we celebrate Ann Arbor's remarkable community with the 2013 Bezonki Awards

Since we launched The Chronicle in 2008, we’ve met many remarkable people.

Jimmy Ragget, Common Cycle, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Jimmy Raggett of Common Cycle, a nonprofit that won a Bezonki award last year, brought his kids Cole and Cooper to The Chronicle’s Aug. 9 reception. (Photos by Leisa Thompson)

And for the past three years, we’ve thanked a few of them with our annual Bezonki awards.

This year’s winners are an extraordinary group: Derrick Jackson of the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office; community activist Lisa Dengiz; teacher and environmentalist Dan Ezekiel; the nonprofit Ann Arbor Active Against ALS; Paul Courant of the University of Michigan; and Linda Diane Feldt, an author and holistic health practitioner who’s one of The Chronicle’s most prolific and poetic Stopped.Watched contributors. I’ll tell you more about them in a bit.

We honored these folks at a reception on Aug. 9, when they received the physical Bezonki awards. Each of the six Bezonkis is unique, made in part with bits salvaged from equipment at the former Ann Arbor News – a totem of our profession’s past. They were crafted by local artist Alvey Jones, whose Bezonki cartoons are published monthly in The Chronicle.

The awards are unique in another way. Each winner of a Bezonki is a steward of the physical award for a year. Winners in the past year hand it off to the next year’s winners. This year the hand-off took place at the Aug. 9 reception held at Zingerman’s Events on Fourth. Our hope is that the awards create connections year after year between people in the community – people who might not otherwise have crossed paths.

At our annual receptions, we also hope to introduce attendees to new experiences. And we try to have some fun. We’re an online publication, but this year we tipped our hat to journalism’s heritage by making “pressman’s caps” out of newsprint. So in the photos below, you’ll see many of our guests wearing their own. [If you'd like to make one yourself, you can download the instructions here.]

This year we also invited local artist/inventor Michael Flynn to display his “cooperative phonograph” to our event – a four-foot stainless steel spinning disk that’s truly a work of art. Using a card as the “needle,” you can pick up sounds from the ridges that he’s cut into the disk’s edge. One of the tracks was a repetition of the phrase “Love is all you need.” That’s fitting, because as we celebrate five years of Chronicling, Dave Askins and I are also celebrating our 24th wedding anniversary today. It’s getting better all the time.

But on Aug. 9, the main point of our reception was to honor a few of the many people who help make this community a special place. So please join me in celebrating the 2013 Bezonki winners!

2013 Bezonki Awards: Derrick Jackson

I first met Derrick Jackson when he was director of elections for Washtenaw County. At the time I didn’t realize that he also had been a case study in making every vote count. He ran for the Ypsilanti Township board of trustees in 2004, and lost by one vote. He shares that one-vote distinction with former Bezonki winner Yousef Rabhi, who is now chair of the county board of commissioners.

Today, Derrick is director of community engagement for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office, where he brings his background in social work to bear on helping change the culture of our local criminal justice system.

Derrick is connected to last year’s winner, Jeff Micale, through their elections work – Jeff oversees Ann Arbor’s absentee voter count board.

Derrick Jackson, Jeff Micale, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Derrick Jackson, holding his 2013 Bezonki award, which was presented by last year’s winner, Jeff Micale, for his work overseeing Ann Arbor’s absentee voter count board.

To Derrick Jackson: In recognition of his humor, grace and thoughtful civic engagement, both professionally and personally, to make our community safer, stronger, and more compassionate.

2013 Bezonki Awards: Lisa Dengiz

Lisa Dengiz is one of those people in this community who helps reduce degrees of separation. If you don’t know her directly, you almost certainly know someone who does, and who will quickly describe how much they admire and respect her work. She’s probably best known as co-founder of the Neutral Zone teen center, and more recently as the founding board chair for the Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation, which gives micro-grants to groups and individuals.

Lisa was nominated for a Bezonki by Joan Martin, who worked with Lisa 25 years ago to start the Ecology Center’s pesticide task force. It’s that work to protect our environment that connects her to last year’s winner, Roger Rayle, who’s a leader of Scio Residents for Safe Water and member of Washtenaw County’s Coalition for Action on Remediation of Dioxane (CARD).

Lisa Dengiz, Dave Askins, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Lisa Dengiz receives her Bezonki from Chronicle editor Dave Askins.

To Lisa Dengiz: In recognition of her tireless, creative contributions to build organizations that help our community excel in serious and seriously awesome ways.

2013 Bezonki Awards: Ann Arbor Active Against ALS

This group of volunteers began their work inspired by one person with Lou Gehrig’s disease – Bob Schoeni, known to many as Coach Bob. Ann Arbor Active Against ALS is a cause, to raise money to fight ALS. What’s remarkable about A2A3? For this organization, “cause” is not a noun – it’s a verb. It causes people to do remarkable things. Like lift 1,000 pounds, run a virtual marathon on a treadmill, pedal a bicycle between the Michigan State football stadium and the Big House, interrupt a perfectly pleasant 5K run by eating a Twinkie, then proving to former city parks director Ron Olson that the Twinkie really is “all gone” before continuing, or dive into the English Channel and swim across, then back again.

They received the Bezonki from last year’s winner, Anna Ercoli Schnitzer, one of the most active people I know. She’s a tireless advocate for the disabled community, for diversity of all kinds, and for fighting discrimination wherever she finds it.

David Lowenshuss, Anna Ercoli Schnitzer, Ann Arbor Active Against ALS, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

David Lowenschuss, a board member with Ann Arbor Active Against ALS, receives his Bezonki from last year’s winner, Anna Ercoli Schnitzer.

To Ann Arbor Active Against ALS: In recognition of their creative efforts to raise awareness about ALS by causing people to be active. Their work is an inspiration, reminding us that action is the best response to adversity.

2013 Bezonki Awards: Dan Ezekiel

Dan Ezekiel’s commitment to the environment and his community has taken many forms over the years, from helping start Recycle Ann Arbor in the ‘70s, to his day job as “Mr. Ezekiel,” the science teacher at Forsythe Middle School, to his tenure as a founding member of the city’s greenbelt advisory commission.

You might also see Dan riding his bike around town – he likes to describe the location of greenbelt properties in terms of how long it would take to get there by bike. It’s that cycling connection that links Dan to last year’s winner, the nonprofit Common Cycle.

Dan was out of town on the night of our awards presentation, so his Bezonki was accepted by Barry Lonik, a local land preservationist.

Jimmy Raggett, Barry Lonik, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Last year’s Bezonki winner – Jimmy Raggett of Common Cycle – presented the award to Barry Lonik, who accepted it on behalf of Dan Ezekiel.

To Dan Ezekiel: In recognition of his lifelong commitment to the Ann Arbor community. His work has helped residents understand their impact on the environment, and their role in protecting its land and resources for future generations.

2013 Bezonki Awards: Paul Courant

Paul Courant‘s accomplishments and influence play out on the national and international stage, though he’s grounded in this community. As an economist, scholar, and former University of Michigan provost who recently stepped down as dean of libraries, Paul brings an eclectic perspective to bear on looking at problems and trying to fix them. He’s also extremely funny.

A couple of years ago, I attended a talk that Paul gave as part of TEDxUofM. He told the crowd that he got interested in public policy because he’s interested in making things work better – and that government, judiciously applied, can be a vehicle for doing that. Paul is retiring as dean of libraries but will continue teaching. I also hope he’ll consider how he might judiciously apply his own time in local government.

Paul is connected to last year’s winner, the Ann Arbor District Library’s digital archiving team, in an obvious way – they all miss card catalogs.

Paul Courant, Josie Parker, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Paul Courant with Josie Parker, director of the Ann Arbor District Library. She presented the award to Paul on behalf of last year’s winners, the AADL’s digital archives team.

To Paul Courant: In recognition of his intellectual curiosity and international reach, his thoughtful insights on questions of public policy, and his belief – despite occasional evidence to the contrary – that government can be a force for making our lives better.

2013 Bezonki Awards: Linda Diane Feldt

The Chronicle includes a regular feature that we call Stopped.Watched. Anyone can contribute these brief vignettes, which are simple observations of what’s happening in our community, logged as people move about in the routine of their daily lives. By honoring Linda Diane Feldt – who has raised these items to an art form – this Bezonki is also a nod to all of our Stopped.Watched correspondents, and a thanks for stopping and watching the world as it passes by.

Linda’s powers of observation are reflected in much of her work – as a writer, teacher, urban wildcrafter, holistic health practitioner and more. You may have seen her walking around the city, usually with her dog Nala, stopping to talk to the many people who know her and the many people who will know her soon. Her compassion and deep sense of community are inspiring.

Her Bezonki was presented by last year’s winner, Jim Toy, a long-time activist for the LGBT community – the Jim Toy Community Center, located in Braun Court, is a tribute to his lifelong work. And in one of those unintentional connections that I’ve come to expect from the Bezonkis, it turns out that Linda was a student in a class that Jim taught decades ago at Community High School.

Jim Toy, Linda Diane Feldt, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Jim Toy, who won the Bezonki last year for his lifetime of advocacy, presents the award to Linda Diane Feldt.

To Linda Diane Feldt: In recognition of her ability to see the poetry in the seemingly mundane, to elevate the beauty of our everyday lives, and to share her observations with the rest of us along the way.

Scenes from The Chronicle’s Bezonki Reception

You can read more about last year’s Bezonki winners here, and follow this link to learn about the 2011 recipients. And if there’s a person or organization that you think should be recognized in 2014, please let me know.

Meanwhile, here are some additional photos from our Aug. 9 reception, taken by my former Ann Arbor News colleague, Leisa Thompson.

Michael Flynn, Chuck Bultman, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Architect Chuck Bultman tries out the “cooperative phonograph” by local artist Michael Flynn, who’s standing in the background.

Alvey Jones, Domenica Trevor, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Alvey Jones and Domenica Trevor made pressman hats out of copies of The New York Times at The Chronicle’s Aug. 9 reception. Trevor writes a book column for The Chronicle. Jones is a partner in WSG Gallery and creator of the Bezonki comics, which run in The Chronicle on the first Sunday of each month.

Russ Collins, Michigan Theater, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Russ Collins, executive director of the Michigan Theater.

Lisa Dengiz, Alan Dengiz, Paul Saginaw, Eileen Spring, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Bezonki winner Lisa Dengiz with her husband Alan Dengiz, Paul Saginaw of Zingerman’s, and Eileen Spring, executive director of Food Gatherers.

Peter Eckstein, Jeff Gaynor, Yousef Rabhi, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Local economist Peter Eckstein, Jeff Gaynor, a teacher at Clague Middle School, and Yousef Rabhi, chair of the Washtenaw County board of commissioners.

Jim Toy, Anna Ercoli Schnitzer, Bert Schnitzer, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Two Bezonki winners from 2012 – Jim Toy and Anna Ercoli Schnitzer – with Bert Schnitzer, a retired University of Michigan professor.

Andy LaBarre, Declan LaBarre, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Washtenaw County commissioner Andy LaBarre with his son Declan.

John Kotarski, Theresa Tinkle, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

John Kotarski and Theresa Tinkle. Kotarski serves on the Ann Arbor public art commission. Tinkle is a University of Michigan English professor.

David Erik Nelson, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Local author David Erik Nelson, who writes a monthly column for The Chronicle.

Bezonki Awards, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

The Bezonki Awards, handmade by local artist Alvey Jones.

Rhonda Foxworth, Kevin Merrill, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Rhonda Foxworth, vice president at the Bank of Ann Arbor, and Kevin Merrill, director of communications for the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment.

Lucy Ann Lance, Mary Morgan, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Radio talk show host Lucy Ann Lance (1290 WLBY) and Chronicle publisher Mary Morgan.

Tom Bowes, LInda Diane Feldt, Peter Honeyman, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Tom Bowes and Linda Diane Feldt with Peter Honeyman and Lynn Chamberlain. Tom is a permaculturist and energy educator. Peter and Lynn both work at the University of Michigan. Peter, who is also a frequent Stopped.Watched contributor, is director of the center for information technology integration (CITI). Lynn is a research associate at the School of Education.

Jeff Micale, Mary Beth Damm, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Jeff Micale, who won a Bezonki in 2012 for his work with the city of Ann Arbor elections, with his wife Mary Beth Damm.

Paul Courant, Bob Shoeni, James Hilton, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Paul Courant with Bob Schoeni of Ann Arbor Active Against ALS and James Hilton, who is replacing Courant as the University of Michigan’s dean of libraries.

Andy LaBarre, Derrick Jackson

Andy LaBarre talks with Stacey and Derrick Jackson.

Mary Morgan, Dan Smith

Chronicle publisher Mary Morgan and Dan Smith, a Washtenaw County commissioner.

Kristin McGuire, David Lowenschuss, Ann Arbor Active Against ALS, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Kristin McGuire and David Lowenschuss are board members with Ann Arbor Active Against ALS.

Chris Lord, Don Hewlett, Michael Appel, Ruth Kraut, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Local poet Chris Lord and Don Hewlett. In the background are Michael Appel and Ruth Kraut, who writes a column on education issues for The Chronicle.

Mary Morgan, Dave Askins, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Chronicle co-founders Mary Morgan and Dave Askins, who celebrate their 24th wedding anniversary on Sept 2, 2013 – the 5th anniversary of The Chronicle.

Alvey Jones, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Alvey Jones winds down the Bezonki reception with the New York Times.

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  1. September 2, 2013 at 9:03 am | permalink

    Congratulations to the Chronicle and the 2013 winners! I’m especially glad that you recognized Lisa Dengiz. She has been an incredible force in the community. I worked with her back in Pesticide Task Force days and have admired her work ever since.

  2. By Dan Ezekiel
    September 2, 2013 at 9:05 am | permalink

    Kudos to you, Mary and Dave, on five years of Chronicling Ann Arbor! Hard to believe it’s already been five years. I was already sorry I missed the party, and the photos made me even more so. People often ask Barry Lonik and I if we are brothers, so I think he was a reasonable facsimile. Also, I learned most of what I know about farmland preservation from him.

  3. By Rina Miller
    September 2, 2013 at 10:42 am | permalink

    Happy anniversary, Mary and Dave! May you enjoy many more years together.