Exclusive! “Murder in Ashland” by John Darling

By John Darling
   Newly elected City Councilwoman Gina Duquenne, the first black to be elected in Ashland, launches into office confronted with a full-blown crisis on her hands — the racially- driven murder of black 19-year old Aidan Ellison by a white man.
   Among her first acts was to call the victim’s mother in Klamath Falls and talk to her “black mother to black mother. We cried together as mom to mom. All black mothers know the talk that black mothers have — be mindful of where you are and when pulled over, be polite, hands visible, things white people don’t even think about. Living while black is a scary thing. Systemic racism is everywhere.”
   In a twist of tragic irony, DuQuenne relates that “Aidan’s mom said he came here to escape to a safer place and escape racism. He’d been here (Ashland) and felt it was a safe place.”
   When she heard about the murder, DuQuenne reflected, “I was shocked because I was told it couldn’t happen here in Ashland. I’m a mom of two and have a son living here. 
   “Aidan’s mom was so full of grace, a wonderful human being who didn’t want her son’s life to be taken in vain.” 
   Aidan’s mom also got a call from black activist Precious Edmonds of Southern Oregon Black Leaders, Activists and Community, who said the mother wants justice for her son and “part of that is dismantling the Keegans of this world.
   “He is a casualty of that white-supported culture in the valley, said Edmonds. “It’s unfortunate but not surprising that culture is maintained by violence.”
   What is white supremacy? Edmonds says, “It is the cultural practice to feel obligated to make whites comfortable and submit to a self-appointed authority. A black man listens to music. A white man gets upset and comes out. The black man refuses to turn down his music. Initially, Aidan got the receptionist to come out. Aidan made a complaint with the receptionist. The white man shoots him in the chest. This would not have happened if Aidan were not black.”
   Edmonds adds, “This can happen here and did. People of Color are always aware that the idea it can’t happen here does not exist for people of color. There are two different Ashlands and this town is not different than any other place in the country. Sanctuary and race relations are the same here as anywhere else. This is an example of how it’s the same.”
   For this article, the victim’s mom emailed “I would like to thank you for your interest, in Aidan’s TEEN years, however at this time, I will focus comforting my family and myself.  
   As a coda, she added the line, “We can’t help everybody, but everybody can help somebody.”
   Keegan was still at the scene when police arrived and Ashland Police Chief rejected the plea that he acted out of self-defense because he felt threatened. 
   “I think that any crime of violence against a black person, by a white person, is going to ignite that conversation, and rightfully so. We have difficult relationships within our community and events like this one focus light and attention on those strained relationships.   “Yes, we have that reputation (of being a safe bubble, non-racist), but that may be the extent of it. Racism is present in Ashland, no one should try to deny that…Events like this remind us that the Ashland bubble doesn’t exist, and never did.”
    Newly elected progressive Ashland Mayor Julie Ann Akins, in an interview, said, “It was a racist murder. It comes from a corrosive implicit bias and produces an atrocious tragedy. To justify it (with losing a home in the firestorm) or any other reason is absurd.”
   She said the new City Council will be on it when they take office Jan. 1, “looking at implicit bias, white privilege and ourselves.