Ashland Social Equity and Racial Justice commissioners ‘finding their footing’
By Gina DuQuenne
The Ashland City Council unanimously voted in March 2021 to create the Social Equity and Racial Justice Commission. I am grateful that Mayor Julie Akins and the council saw a sense of urgency and moved forward. After the death of Aidan Ellison in Ashland and during a racial pandemic, founding this commission was long overdue.
The local residents who have volunteered their time to be on this commission shows the passion and purpose these commissioners have. The commission is a diverse group of incredible, intelligent and amazing individuals. With their professionalism, lived experiences and values, they are a wealth of knowledge. Being the first African American, openly Queer woman on Ashland City Council, it is an honor to be the council liaison to the commission.
The first actual meeting was in September 2021. Ann Seltzer was asked to be the staff liaison by the then-City Manager Gary Milliman. The commission now has a chairperson, Emily Simon, a retired attorney, and co-chair Anyania Muse, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Director for Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
With only five meetings completed, they are finding their footing like many new commissions do, while simultaneously looking into an opportunity to have a DEI manager in City Hall. It is important to this body that the local government looks through an equitable lens to achieve their goals. The commissioners are doing things strategically, clearly and intentionally.
Several organizations, community leaders, and other commissions are looking forward to meeting the Social Equity and Racial Justice Commissioners. These groups are welcome to come to open forum during the meetings. The commission will give their first presentation to the council on Feb. 15.
I look forward to this commission making a difference in Ashland. It may be a heavy lift to educate a community. I am in hopes that people will embrace our differences and be mindful of one another. Having the support they need from council, I believe this commission can reach their goals and together we can move towards systemic acceptance.
Gina DuQuenne (she/her) is an Ashland City Councilor and council liaison to the Social Equity and Racial Justice Commission.