I.C. Murrell — Age and race don’t matter; impact does

Published 7:00 am Monday, February 17, 2020

So, there I was on a Sunday afternoon inside the Memorial High School auditorium, taking in the local production of “Dreamgirls.”

Seventeen years, at least, since I last acted on stage, I saw the most flawless musical right before my eyes. One scene took me back to my native Mid-South to a time one not born then could only experience through images — the 1960s.

The idea of singing a soulful song on a Memphis stage and then bringing a three-lensed television camera to portray a Jackson 5 performance on ABC was just ingenious. (The trademark ABC font on the camera was even spot-on.)

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Memories of listening to the first all-black format radio station in the nation, WDIA, and seeing chart-toppers perform on American Bandstand and Soul Train, the very programs that instilled a musical culture in me, were evoked.

Without knowing at least a couple of high school students in “Dreamgirls,” it would have been easy to say these young adults just nailed it.

Well, everyone nailed it, and some known adults did play some key roles, but that just speaks to the maturity and professionalism of a cast of mostly teens who are already leading ladies and gentlemen on the stage and of their generation.

If they so choose, they can lead borderline Generation X/Y folk like me in public service. Thanks to recent action by the Port Arthur City Council, they can still be as young as 18 and run for a seat at city hall.

No one that young has filed to run for the council, but a change in the age and racial makeup of the seven-person governing body is a strong possibility.

The field includes candidates from 20-somethings up, and four Hispanic/Latinos — each running in a different district or at-large position — have filed. It’s suspected city council campaigns here have never seen that many from that population of Port Arthur.

The city’s charter advisory, or “charter change,” committee unsuccessfully lobbied to the council to raise the minimum age to 21 or change the election method from majority to plurality, which would have meant the top vote getter would automatically win without the necessity of earning 50% or more of the votes. But as long as maturity, wisdom and responsibility are brought to city hall, who cares about age?

Responsibility produces accountability and sharpens leadership.

Without endorsing anyone, it remains to be seen whether the lack of a plurality system will hinder support for those who represent a quickly growing population of the city.

That is not to allege the majority system poses an unfair disadvantage for any one race; it just means every contestant has to work a little harder from start to finish, and every voter must value the right to vote from the get-go.

We won’t know until May, at the earliest, how the council will look during the summer, nor will it matter as much as the ideas and impact seven adults can have on an entire city.

Take it from the local cast of “Dreamgirls”: Everyone is important, but the impact of every leader — fresh faced or wiser with age — will be felt by everyone.

I.C. Murrell is the editor of The Port Arthur News. He can be reached at 409-721-2435 or at ic.murrell@panews.com.

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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