Councilman Michael A. Brown (I–At Large), other DC leaders and activist groups kicked off a new website to promote DC Statehood efforts. Residents hope the new website, www.statehooddc.com will take the District’s statehood campaign global using today’s technology and social mediums.

US Shadow Representative Michael Panetta (D-DC) agreed the new outreach campaign can dispel negative rumors. “Let’s get ready to take our message to California, Maine, Texas and all other places outside the District.”

Since 1801, residents of the District of Columbia have been denied the federal voting rights and full self-governance enjoyed by residents of the 50 states. The District’s 600,000 residents do not have full voting representation in either the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate and lack an autonomous local government.

“If we don’t wage the fight day in and day out, nobody’s going to pay attention to it,” said DC Mayor Vincent C. Gray. The mayor and 70 others were arrested on Capitol Hill in —— for demonstrating for voting rights. Activist Keith Silver, the first demonstrator to go on trial was recently acquitted.

“Let’s send every city in America a message in a bottle. With the website and other social mediums, we can plug into people from all over the world to listen to our cry,” said Shadow Senator Michael D. Brown. “The protestors across the street have occupied DC for several weeks. Well, we’ve ‘occupied’ DC for over 200 years and we want to be recognized as a state.”

Congress maintains oversight of the democratically-elected DC government. Congress, with representatives from the 50 states, can change or veto any budget or legislative measure passed by DC’s locally-elected officials, regardless of the preference of DC residents.

Councilwoman Yvette Alexander (D- Ward 7) recalled a time when a statehood rally consisted of 10 people. “Now look at this crowd. I will not rest until DC becomes the 51st state. Let’s go to all the 50 states with our message and campaigns. We can’t take it anymore.”

A double-decker tour bus passes with tourists standing up shouting, “DC Statehood, DC Statehood.” The crowd cheered!

“Today, is further proof that we are determined that we will succeed to beat the odds against DC statehood,” said Councilman Jim Graham (D- Ward 1)
While District residents pay more than $3.8 billion in federal income taxes annually, they have no input on how their tax dollars are spent. Without representation in Congress, they also lack a voice on important national issues such as declarations of war, treaties, health care or presidential nominations.

Councilwoman Mary Cheh (D- Ward 3) said the website will help to dispel myths about the District. “Some people believe that people don’t live here and others think that DC residents don’t want statehood.”

US Shadow Senator Paul Strauss (D-DC), said the united effort and use of technology represents a new energy. “Armed with this new directive we can face any obstacles and those who deny us. I welcome this new face of unity.”

While much of Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s (D-DC) remarks focused on DC Voting rights, she still remained committed to the ultimate goal of statehood. “Residents have been as steadfast in their support for statehood as they have been for their right to full citizenship equal in every respect to other Americans,” Norton said. “They have refused to sit on their hands when other opportunities present themselves, but residents will never settle for less than statehood.”

Ilir Zherka, executive director of DC Vote, an educational and advocacy group dedicated to securing full voting representation in Congress and full democracy for DC residents, joined the new campaign with open arms. “This will remind Americans what we are totally about – not specific rights but all equal rights.”

Councilman Brown mentioned several new ad campaigns including banners on buses that travel frequently used tourists’ routes.

On the website, an electronic petition is available for Americans to share with others around the globe. “Democracy in South Africa was not achieved by the people inside the country alone. It took efforts from people around the world to achieve it. This is what will be required in the District,” said former Rep. Walter Fauntroy (D-DC) in an earlier interview in September.

 

Valencia Mohammed

Special to the AFRO