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Kids press local officials on leadership, equity in new BASE video

Ashland Mayor Julie Akins, left, said Martin Luther King Jr.’s voice speaks directly to her heart during BASE’s new video, ‘Martin Luther King, Jr.: Our Voices.“ The video includes the children of BASE’s AfroScoutz program asking local officials questions guided by King’s writings. [Video screen shot]

From what the role means for the first Black city councilors in Southern Oregon to questions about leadership for the head of Medford’s school district, a new video produced by a nonprofit called Black Alliance & Social Empowerment explores kids’ questions to local leaders and the wisdom of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Children in BASE’s AfroScoutz program asked leaders, including Ashland and Medford city officials, the Medford schools superintendent and local police officials questions inspired by King’s “Why We Can’t Wait” in a new video, “Martin Luther King, Jr.: Our Voices.” which premiered on a Facebook livestream and RVTV Monday afternoon.

In the video, students asked Medford City Councilor Chad Miller and Ashland City Councilor Gina DuQuenne how it felt to be the first Black councilor in each of their respective cities.

“I didn’t view my skin color first as a factor, but I think that it opens doors for those who could look to me and say, ‘Hey, this community doesn’t have opportunity for people of like skin color,’” Miller said. “It does, and here’s this example.”

DuQuenne told the children at the table with her and the Ashland mayor that, “This is so important that your voices are here at the table.”

“This is my time to be able to open the door and make that pathway for you youth to walk through and come in,” DuQuenne said. “That’s what Dr. King did for us, and that’s what I want to do for you.”

When the kids asked Miller what he would ask King if he were still alive, Miller recounts the strides since the Civil Rights movement. In King’s time, Black people were being denied the right to sit where they wanted on the bus and were being sprayed with water hoses when they peacefully demanded justice.

“Now here’s a president, here’s generals, here’s people in power,” Miller said. “But would that satisfy him, or would he want more change?”

He posed the same questions to the kids.

“I think he’d be pretty satisfied,” the young interviewer said, “but he’d still say there’s a lot more to be done because racism and discrimination is still a thing, and that’s what we’re trying to change.”

Ashland Mayor Julie Akins told the students that the sound of King’s voice motivates her to action.

“I think my favorite thing is the sound of his voice in my heart,” Akins said. ”There are people who can speak to your head, but with Dr. King, his voice resonates in the heartspace for me.“

“I hear that voice, I hear that timbre, I hear him talking about his children, I hear the moments of anger, it moves me to action,” Akins added.

During an interview with Medford schools Superintendent Bret Champion, a kid asked what makes someone a good leader, and why it is important.

“That person who’s leading is leading people somewhere,” Champion said. ”One of the things I appreciate about Dr. King is the idea of making people better.“

Another student asked Champion, “What does equality mean to you?”

Champion explained the difference between equality — everyone getting the same thing — and equity, which focuses on bringing everyone to the same level.

“The reality is sometimes somebody needs more and somebody else can get by with less.”

Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.