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Remarks on DC Statehood at Full Democracy Champions Luncheon

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In honor of Emancipation Day, DC's Mayor Muriel Bowser hosted a Full Democracy Champions Luncheon. Below are remarks from LWV's Kelly McFarland Stratman on DC Statehood.

I am Kelly McFarland Stratman, interim co-CEO of the League of Women Voters. Thank you, Mayor Bowser, for bringing us together AND for your unwavering commitment to statehood for the people of the District of Columbia.

I am deeply honored to be with you today as we unite in solidarity to commemorate Emancipation Day. I am in awe of the advocates and activists in this room. And at the same time, I am angry — frustrated that we have to keep having the fight — that fundamental rights remain out of reach for DC residents.

Shannon Augustus, Kelly McFarland Stratman, and Anne Anderson at Emancipation Day Luncheon

The author with LWVUS Press Secretary Shannon Augustus and LWVDC's Anne Anderson

I want to acknowledge the work of those we have seen or heard from today as well as so many others who tirelessly take up the fight day in and day out. I think of Anne Anderson, a leader of the League of Women Voters of the District of Columbia, who has been in this fight for almost 50 years. I think of my own mother-in-law, who shares a story of her early activism — of marching in support of statehood with my sister-in-law in a stroller more than 55 years ago when they lived in Woodley Park.

We must continue to build on that passion and commitment because we know that DC statehood is critical for our nation’s democracy. It’s critical for our community, and it is critical for every individual who calls the District their home today and for the generations that will call the Washington Douglass Commonwealth their home in the future.

The League of Women Voters has supported DC statehood and autonomy for over 80 years. 80 years. That’s a lifetime. That’s multiple generations. And that is just the tip of this injustice.

With a population that is mostly people of color, the denial of this full autonomy is a racial justice issue.

Our local League, the LWV of DC has been on the front lines of the fight,  spearheading the mobilization of our 500,000 members and supporters across the country. We are actively working to make statehood a reality by engaging throughout DC from Anacostia to Brookland — working with the Mayor and with so many of you. And this year, with the generous support of the Mayor’s office, we are excited that LWVDC will be leading the “Youth Voices for DC Statehood” initiative that provides DC youth with the opportunity to share their powerful stories in their own voices. We are also in communities in every state, working with local and state governments to elevate this fight.

As we know, for far too long, DC residents have had Congress meddle in their affairs. This lack of autonomy undermines the principles of our democracy and equal citizenship.

In our office, we often use the expression, “sometimes you need to call a thing a thing.” With a population that is mostly people of color, the denial of this full autonomy is a racial justice issue. It parallels the scourge of racial inequities in our democracy, from voter suppression and gerrymandered districts to the most deeply rooted (and baked into our Constitution): the Electoral College.

Now I know that it isn’t the centerpiece of today’s gathering, but given that is a gathering on Emancipation Day, I feel compelled to mention the Electoral College, which was adopted as a “consensus second choice” and as a compromise for southern enslavers who wanted to take advantage of the Black population’s ineligibility to vote and increase their own power in elections.

In short, it was a compromise to appease slave owners, and it must go.

The democracy that we aspire to is a democracy where each and every person votes directly for the president.

Where each and every person has voting representation in Congress.

Where each and every voter can cast a ballot and have that ballot count.

The people of DC deserve the same rights of self-government and full voting representation in Congress as all other citizens of this country.

That is what a true democracy looks like – a democracy that is powered by the people, for the people, ALL the people.

The people of DC deserve the same rights of self-government and full voting representation in Congress as all other citizens of this country. And we must call on our elected officials to prioritize and center DC statehood as a critical issue for our nation.

Very simply, Congress must pass HR51, the Washington DC Admission Act.

DC Statehood Hearing

So, as we leave here today, I urge each of you to activate your networks. First, we need to thank Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton for her leadership.

Then, tell your family and friends in other states WHY DC statehood is a requirement for our nation’s democracy.

And tell them what they can do:

  • They can contact their members of Congress to support HR51 and urge their networks to do the same; and
  • They can connect with their local League of Women Voters to join the chorus of activists standing in solidarity with the people of DC.

It is time for us to make a bold stand for democracy by supporting DC Statehood. It’s time to eradicate this injustice. There cannot be another generation without their full rights. We must admit the Washington Douglass Commonwealth into the Union.

Thank you.

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