By Hamzat Sani, Special to the AFRO
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser led a first-of-its-kind panel of District political powerhouses in a conversation about the impact of the Federal Government’s interference in D.C.’s gun control laws. The panel included Attorney General for the District of Columbia Karl A. Racine, D, and DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, D, and was part of the 2018 D.C. Emancipation Day Full Democracy Champions Breakfast held at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel downtown.
The breakfast is one of several DC Emancipation-focused events going on this weekend as residents call on the Federal Government to make D.C. the 51st State. The crowded banquet hall included former local politicians, DC’s Shadow Delegation, the Emancipation Commission, D.C.’s Statehood Delegation and nearly all the D.C. Council in attendance with the notable exception of ex-Mayor and Ward 7 councilmember, Vincent Gray.
Zion Kelly spoke about what his brother meant to him, his classmates and the importance of creating safety zones for schools. (Photo redit: Hamzat Sani)
Panelists were moderated by the colorful President and Director-Counsel Emeritus of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Elaine Jones. Whitney Jackson led the crowd through the traditional national anthem and punctuated her soulful performance with a 5 stanza deep rendition of the Black national anthem. A fitting tribute to a city where the majority demographic makeup is Black and longtime statehood activists point to the racial context behind the federal government’s history of denying D.C. its voting rights.
While political panelists made astute and powerful arguments for D.C. having the right to regulate its own citizens on the issue of gun control, by the far the most stirring appeal was made earlier in the program by statement of occasion speaker, Zion Kelly. The twin brother of local gun violence victim and star Thurgood Marshall Academy athlete and scholar, Zaire Kelly, Zion not only came with a message that “enough is enough” but also a bill. Kelly’s family is proposing the Zaire Kelly School Zone Amendments Act, to create safe passage zones for students to and from school. The legislation lays out several community “safety zones” and expands the definition of “student” in D.C. to further protect students and ensure their safety.
For further information about D.C. Emancipation Day events and activities readers can visit emancipation.dc.gov.