Thursday, 18 December 2014 02:59

Passing of Acie Byrd, Jr.

Written by Anise Jenkins | FreeDC.org

I first met Acie Byrd, Jr. when I joined what was then just a group of  people who were organizing out of outrage against the stripping of the  powers of the local government by the United States Congress in July of  1997; basically in retribution to the re-election of Mayor Marion  Barry.

I had joined a protest and was arrested with a few members of  the group and later attended a meeting in Georgetown in the basement of  what I learned was the local chapter of Jesse Jackson's Rainbow  Coalition where Acie Byrd, and others were just deciding on a name for  the organization:  Stand Up! for Democracy in DC Coalition.  The room  was packed with individuals (both  many of whom represented churches, unions,  grassroots organizations and Acie Byrd, Jr. who introduced himself as  President or Chair of the Atomic Veterans.  Acie was a leader in what  became the strategic planning committee and forcefully (always  forcefully) gave his guidance and input on the organizational structure, the by-laws and the activities of the new coalition.  They built it from the ground up!

Meetings were  held weekly at the National Council of Negro Women where Dr. Dorothy Height gave her blessing and support to the coalition and our activities.  Weekly  rallies and marches were also held usually marching to the US Capitol or the meeting place of the congressionaly appointed Financial Control Board to confront both about what Acie their assumption of "the mantle of a colonial master".  Acie worked tirelessly and sometimes cantankerously; particularly closely with Mary Jane DeFrank who was the Executive Director of the  ACLU - National Capital Area, and Bette hoover of the American Friends  Committee (Quakers).  Acie also provided the all-important logistical  support and the securing of permits for most of our early rallies, including a huge rally in 1997 at the reflecting pool. He organized annual programs at the Naval Memorial for DC Veterans always emphasizing these veterans should not be denied the democracy for which they sacrificed so much.  He merged his commitment to DC Statehood and disabled Veterans issues and  helped produce annual Veterans Day programs on WPFW; Acie along with Mark Richards was an early supporter of  renovating the DC War Memorial  He also  served as a very active plaintiff in the  landmark DC self-determination lawsuit - Adams v. Clinton (later Adams  v. Bush) which became known as "Twenty Citizens"; filed and fought by the late George LaRoche.

Acie was instrumental in providing mentorship and guidance on strategic questions and helped  make sure that Stand Up! for Democracy in DC never wavered on the question of  DC Statehood; he helped hold steady our refusal to accept or consider anything less when others were compromising.  His theory of critical thinking and analysis helped us stay on track.  Although he did not attend meetings in later years, he continued to be involved with Stand Up! through his suggestions and recommendations, usually through me.  He never lost his belief in DC Statehood or his insistence on what he called "Full DC Statehood" as the only acceptable way to achieve full citizenship for DC residents.

Acie was a true Souljah for peace and justice until the very end.

Read 329 times Last modified on Thursday, 31 December 2015 03:04

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