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Friday, 18 June 2021 15:31

This Juneteenth, Washington, D.C. residents say there's no freedom without statehood

Written by Trymaine Lee | MSNBC
DC Votes Yes DC Votes Yes Into America with Trymaine Lee, MSNBC


‘It’s the last plantation:’ Why Black D.C. residents are demanding their city become a state.

Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom, but in Washington, D.C, Black people are still fighting for the right to control their own affairs. Becoming a state would help. Into America heads to D.C. to learn about the push for statehood.


About this episode:

Saturday marks Juneteenth, when the last enslaved people in Galveston, Texas finally got word of their freedom in 1865. This came two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, which despite popular opinion did not automatically free every enslaved person. Washington D.C. was among the first cities to end slavery, doing so in April of 1862, months before President Abraham Lincoln’s historic speech. But many D.C. residents argue full democracy and freedom is still out of reach.

Washington, D.C. is home to 700,000 people, nearly half of whom are Black. And despite living within arms’ reach of the halls of power, residents of the so-called Chocolate City do not have a voting representative in the House or the Senate. That’s because D.C. is not a state.

For years, activists have been pushing for statehood; some hope to name it the Douglass Commonwealth, after abolitionist Frederick Douglass. In April, the House of Representatives approved HR-51, which if approved by the Senate, would make D.C. the 51st state. With the Senate Homeland Security Committee set to hold a hearing on D.C. statehood next week, statehood activists say they are closer than ever to achieving their goal. Democrats, including President Joe Biden, are on board. However, with strong GOP opposition, the outcome is anything but certain.

George Derek Musgrove, a University of Maryland-Baltimore County history professor, explains that statehood matters because D.C.’s current status means it’s controlled by Congress. Residents can elect a mayor and city council, but Congress oversees the city’s budget and can block laws it disapproves of. Residents can’t dictate their own affairs.

One activist working to change this is 22-year-old Jamal Holtz, who grew up in southeast D.C. He’s one of the co-founders of 51 for 51, a group of young people fighting for statehood. People often refer to him D.C.’s “future governor.” One of the people he looks up to is 71-year-old Anise Jenkins. Anise is the founder of Stand Up! for Democracy in DC (Free DC). She’s been fighting for D.C. statehood since the 1990s – before Jamal was born. Anise has been arrested nine times as she’s protested for statehood, and she’s excited to see Jamal’s generation carrying on the fight.

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Read 1028 times Last modified on Thursday, 06 January 2022 21:54

Into America - DC Votes Yes