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Take the Mic: A singer uses her voice to advance the movement for racial justice

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courtesy of Alayshia Baggett
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Alayshia Baggett is an 18-year-old graduate of Tacoma School of the Arts. She's a singer who plans to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston in the spring.

When Alayshia Baggett, an 18-year-old from Tacoma, saw the video of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, she said she felt a lot of anxiety.

“I was going back and forth through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, just refreshing, refreshing,” she said. “Because things were just popping off.”

But it didn’t take long before Alayshia told a friend of hers that it was time for them to join the protests. Alayshia has taken a leadership role on issues of racial justice for years, driven in part by spending part of her childhood in Mississippi, where she said racism was blatant. She served as president of the Black Student Union at Tacoma School of the Arts and graduated this spring. Alayshia will attend Berklee College of Music in Boston in the spring.

“I can’t just sit here and watch this happen,” she said. “I feel like this is our job to come out here and stand for what we talk about. I don’t want to be a hypocrite. We need to do what we say we need to do.”

So she and her friends headed to Seattle for one of the first major protests and then later took part in a large protest in Tacoma, marching from the University of Puget Sound to Wright Park. And Alayshia did more than just join that Tacoma protest — she’s a talented singer who used her gifts to help lift up the crowd by performing Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” a cappella. The moment was captured on video by Alayshia's friend, Tristan Eason.

“That was amazing, including having the people there sing with me,” she said. “And that was a perfect song for the time we’re in now.”

Click on the audio above to hear Alayshia’s full piece. She shared her story for KNKX’s youth voices project, Take the Mic. We welcome more stories from teens and kids. You can find information on how to submit a story here.

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In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.