Freedom Rider to speak, portions of ‘I Have a Dream’ speech to be read on Ashland Plaza
By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news
The life of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. will be commemorated Monday in Ashland.
A celebration of the slain civil rights leader’s life and legacy will be held from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 16, on the Ashland Plaza. The third Monday of January became a national holiday in 1986 in observance of Dr. King’s birthday. The event is organized by city Councilor Gina DuQuenne, whose election in 2020 made her the city’s first Black councilor.
DuQuenne is excited about the speakers planned for the event, including John Doland, a Freedom Rider in the 1960s. Doland will speak about his experience as an ally standing up to injustice in the South.
Dr. Geneva Craig, who marched in Selma, Alabama, with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., will also speak at the event. She will join Mike and Emily Green, who started Rogue Valley-based Common Ground Conversations in summer 2020, in reading excerpts from Dr. King’s book, “Why We Can’t Wait.” The Greens work with school districts, cities, and law enforcement and have served as consultants to Black Alliance & Social Empowerment (BASE) in Medford.
Preston Moser will share the iconic “I Have A Dream” speech first spoken by Dr. King and will play gospel music before and following the event.
Ashland Mayor Julie Akins is also scheduled to speak.
D.L. Richardson of BASE Southern Oregon (Black Alliance & Social Empowerment) will emcee the event. Richardson is from Selma, Alabama.
“When I think of Dr. King and all of the people who come before me, it allows me to be here and who I am today,” DuQuenne said.
Reflecting on the past year, DuQuenne said she thinks about the things that the pandemic opened individuals eyes to, such as racial inequality.
Aidan Ellison, a 19-year-old Black Ashland man, was killed in 2020 by a white man who has yet to face trial for the alleged murder.
“In the health pandemic, we also had a racial pandemic,” DuQuenne said. “I’m hoping that from that reckoning in 2020 after the death of George Floyd … it amplified how many Black people are being killed on a daily basis.”
It is the third year in a row that the event is not being held at the Historic Ashland Armory, DuQuenne said, since it was last held there in 2020.
“After the armory event, everybody would walk over to the Plaza and listen to the ‘I have a dream’ speech by Dr. Martin Luther King,” she recalled.
DuQuenne hopes to plan an even more “robust” event at the Historic Ashland Armory in 2024.
“People are yearning for and leaning towards togetherness and community,” DuQuenne said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
See somlk.org for more information. Craig and others will be interviewed on JPR’s Jefferson Exchange at 9 a.m. on the morning of the event.
Rogue Valley Television (RVTV) has video of the 2023 Martin Luther King Jr. Day ceremony in Ashland scheduled to play at 9 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 19; Monday, Jan. 23; and Tuesday, Jan. 24, on its Prime channel. For updated schedule information, go to rvtv.sou.edu/schedules/prime/.
Reach Ashland.news reporter Holly Dillemuth at email@example.com.
Jan. 16 update: Reference to livestream removed as, contrary to what sources said, there appears to be no livestream. Information about scheduled replays on RVTV of the 2023 event added. Also, it was Dr. Geneva Craig, not Councilor Gina DuQuenne, speaking along with others on the Jefferson Exchange on Jan. 16.