The push to make the residential and commercial areas of the District of Columbia a state won’t stop District leaders and statehood activists are saying. While Donald Trump was winning the presidency on Nov. 8, District residents voted 80 percent for a referendum that advises the D.C. Council to petition the U.S. Congress for D.C. statehood. D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) said she was encouraged by the high percentage of voters supporting the measure.

Eleanor Holmes Norton is the District’s delegate to the U.S. Congress.  (Courtesy Photo)

Eleanor Holmes Norton is the District’s delegate to the U.S. Congress. (Courtesy Photo)

“You would be hard-pressed to find anyone in D.C. who is more excited than I am about what voters did for D.C. statehood,” Norton said. “The over-the-top majority signals D.C. recognizes that Congress needs a kick in the pants to jump start a new drive for statehood. Starting with the first-ever support for statehood from the D.C. Republican Party, D.C. is through waiting for Congress to act and has seized the initiative.

“I look forward to working with D.C. residents, activists and elected officials on a 2017 plan to drive the D.C. statehood momentum to new heights of continuous local and national action until the District of Columbia becomes the 51st state.”

The latest plan to get the District statehood is through a process known as the “Tennessee Plan.” That process involved the city’s leaders drafting a constitution that included the boundaries of the new state, the referendum approving the state by its people, and congressional approval.

In the past, District residents have sought statehood through a failed 1978 constitutional amendment and a bill offered by Norton in 1994. In recent years, there has been legislation to achieve D.C. statehood through a process Norton calls incrementalism or achieving statehood by steps.

In 2014, U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) sponsored a bill to make the District a state but it has gone nowhere.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) also embraced the referendum and talked about the next steps for statehood. Bowser has been working for months on the statehood process with D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) and the elected District statehood congressional delegation of Statehood Sens. Michael Brown and Paul Strauss and Statehood Rep. Franklin Garcia (D).

“Going forward, the Statehood Commission will submit information to the president and Congress, requesting admission to the United States,” the mayor said. “If Congress approves the request, then Washington, D.C. will become the 51 state in the nation.”

Josh Burch is the leader of Neighbors United for D.C. Statehood, an advocacy organization that focuses on grassroots organizing and congressional lobbying for the movement. Burch, in his Nov. 11 post on the organization’s blog written during a stay in Chicago to meet with League of Women Voters members, said the results of the presidential election shocked him.

“I thought I’d be going there under very different circumstances,” Burch said. “I thought I’d be meeting with women celebrating the election of a daughter of Illinois as president who happened to also support D.C. statehood.”

Burch, citing his grandmother Mary Capito, who was a civil and equal rights activist in the 20th century, said he is moving forward. “I can do this,” Burch said. “If they could stand up to and organize against an oppressive state enforced injustice so can we, so can I.”

Anise Jenkins, executive director of the pro-statehood organization Stand Up! for Democracy, agreed with Burch that the fight should continue despite political obstacles. “We had a wonderful turnout for the referendum but we should not depend on the higher-ups for action of statehood,” Jenkins told the {AFRO}. “Congress, no matter who controlled it, wasn’t going to immediately act on D.C. statehood. Even if Hillary Clinton won the presidency, statehood wasn’t on the forefront of her agenda because she would be trying to stop the Republicans from dismantling Obama’s programs.”

Jenkins said that residents will have to carry on the struggle for statehood. “We have to keep on, keeping on,” she said. “We need to put real money into lobbying and a national public relations campaign, and we should have a paid statehood delegation. We shouldn’t stop pushing.

“Let Congress strike it down. It will motivate us to take to the streets.”