D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks at the Deliver for Voting Rights press conference on Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 17. (Screenshot)

By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. and Digital Editor
mgreen@afro.com

On the day celebrating the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Deliver for Voting Rights held a press conference with speakers and guests such as King’s granddaughter and son Yolanda Renee King and Martin Luther King III,  activist Melanie Campbell, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser. 

The more than two hour press conference featured lively speeches of people tying Dr. King’s fight and legacy with the battles activists and leaders are still fighting to this day, particularly Voting Rights and equity for Americans of color. As Republican Senators work to filibuster the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act legislation, which would further clarify, expand and protect Voting Rights, and there not being enough Democratic Senators in support of the bill, the press conference was a moment to further emphasize the importance of continuing King’s legacy by fighting for the protection of the right to place ballots on elected officials and issues.

The D.C. Mayor also weighed in on the importance of the political battle for Voting Rights and protection, particularly in relation to King’s work and the same fight for which he was assassinated.

“I, like most Americans, wonder what Dr. King would make of this moment we find ourselves in.  It is a moment sadly, that we’re all too familiar with.  What would he say about the inaction on the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which has already been ready a year?  We know what he would say because he fought that fight his entire life?  What would he say about a filibuster that stands in the way of protecting the most basic of American rights? Again, we know what he would say because he was fighting this fight 60 years ago.  This fight, a fight for fundamental rights as Americans, the fight to make true the ideals of Democracy, and we know today that enough is enough,” Bowser passionately said at the conference.  

“Do we accept minority rule? Do we give up on the idea of forming a more perfect union? Do we stand back and allow for the minority to dig in its heels to preserve a system and ideals that are relics of the past? And we say together, we can’t and we won’t,” the District of Columbia Mayor added.

However, Mayor Bowser did not let the event go by without reminding attendees that the nation’s capital is in its own justice fight- Statehood.

“I came here today to make sure that no one forgets about Washington, D.C. because we can’t talk about Voting Rights, without talking about the disenfranchisement of 700,000 tax-paying Americans right here in Washington, D.C.- a legacy of slavery and Jim Crow America.  Today we’re talking about the filibuster, but consider this, we wouldn’t even be in this situation if Washington, D.C. had two Senators- the two Senators we deserve. Because you know what, Washington, D.C. stands with the majority of our fellow Americans who are in favor of expanding and protecting the right to vote,” Bowser reasoned.  

“So don’t forget not only does the filibuster routinely silence the will of the majority, the will of the majority isn’t even fully represented and the plight of Washington, D.C. is the same plight millions more Americans could find themselves in if we don’t pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act– cut out from the Democratic process and treated as second class citizens; you will be expected to pay taxes; you will be expected to serve in the military and you will be expected to follow the rules set by the Congress and Senate,” the Mayor added emphatically.  

“Dr. King was unapologetic in his fight for racial justice, social justice and economic justice.  We cannot advance our Democracy or build stronger communities if Americans do not have a say when decisions are being made in how funds are being distributed,” Bowser said before closing.  “So we’re speaking up for Voting Rights, but also speaking up for the 700,00 people here who don’t have a vote in their own Congress in their own city.”

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Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor