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Thursday, 24 September 2020 15:07

This Is The New Generation Of D.C. Statehood Advocates

Written by Mikaela Lefrak and Tyrone Turner | WAMU 88.5 FM
Leaders of the new generation of D.C.’s statehood movement. Leaders of the new generation of D.C.’s statehood movement. Tyrone Turner / WAMU

This story is brought to you by 51st, a six-part podcast series about Washingtonians’ fight for representation.

Residents of Washington, D.C., have been advocating for more representation for generations. But the push for full statehood is now getting more attention than ever before, in part due to the diligent work of a new generation of activists.

In the late 1990s, “D.C. statehood was not on anybody’s lips,” says Anise Jenkins, 71, one of the grandmothers of the statehood movement. “We were kind of ridiculed for it.

Now Jenkins sees her city buzzing with an unprecedented level of energy around statehood. The House of Representatives passed H.R. 51 this summer — the first time a chamber of Congress has ever passed legislation making D.C. the 51st state. And the Democratic National Party made statehood part of its 2020 party platform. The District’s government even commissioned 51 statehood murals in honor of H.R. 51.

But statehood is still far from a sure thing. Even if Democrats take control of the Senate and White House in November, a new law making D.C. a state will face legal challenges. For one, conservative constitutional scholars like Roger Pilon, a director at the Cato Institute for Constitutional Studies, argue Congress doesn’t have the constitutional authority to grant D.C. statehood.

A majority of Americans reject the idea of D.C. statehood. A Gallup poll last year found that 64% of people said they opposed making the District the 51st state, and 8% had no opinion on the matter.

That’s where D.C.’s cadre of young advocates come in. Many of them have made it their mission to educate Americans outside the District about statehood. They travel to swing states to meet with presidential candidates and voters. They organize lobbying days for young advocates in different parts of the country to meet with their representatives and senators. And they speak at national events like the March on Washington about the importance of statehood.

Above all, they argue that D.C. statehood is inextricably intertwined with other values worth fighting for: Racial justice, gun control, health care access, prison reform and, of course, the right to vote.

Meet some of the young advocates and hear what motivates them.

Jamari O’Neal, 21
Demi Stratmon, 22
Ty Hobson-Powell, 25
Noah Wills, 24
Jamal Holtz, 22

This story orginally appeared on DCist.com.

Read 771 times Last modified on Tuesday, 01 June 2021 19:09