The desire to see the District become the 51st state in the union has been a passion for Anise Jenkins, a native of the city who has worked quietly to see her fellow residents become full American citizens.
“D.C. residents pay federal taxes and are obligated to serve in the military when called to do so and yet we don’t have a full vote in the U.S. House of Representatives and no representation in the U.S. Senate and that’s not fair,” Jenkins, who serves as the executive director of Stand Up! For Democracy in DC, a pro-statehood organization. “We want to be able to run our city without the interference of the Congress in our local budget and local laws. I will not tolerate D.C. being a congressional plantation and the residents of this city as political slaves.”
While D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton has been noted for her efforts to push a D.C. statehood bill through the U.S. Congress, grassroots leaders such as Jenkins has spent years educating people and political leaders about D.C. statehood.
Jenkins, a graduate of Western High School and Howard University, said she got involved in the movement for D.C. statehood due to the imposition of the District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority, known colloquially as the control board, by the U.S. Congress in 1995 because of the District government’s huge deficits. The control board had the authority to overrule the mayor and the D.C. Council in its decision-making and by 1997, Jenkins had enough.
“I met with a group of people who were ministers, activists, Howard University and UDC students to protest non-District elected people taking over D.C.,” she said. “We first met in the basement of the Rainbow/Push Coalition offices and later at the headquarters of the National Council of Negro Women. Dr. Dorothy Height, the chair and president emerita of the NCNW, supported us fully.”
Jenkins said she has been arrested on behalf of statehood nine times.
“I did that to protest our rights as American citizens,” she said.
In addition, Jenkins contributed to the effort to oust Sen. Lauch Faircloth (R-N.C.), who orchestrated the effort to create the control board and publicly “acted as D.C.’s overseer,” she said.
“Many Black people in D.C. have relatives in North Carolina,” she said. “In 1998, we needed to get him out of office so some of us in the movement went down to North Carolina and educated people on what he was doing in D.C. We were glad when he was defeated that year for reelection.”
Since the defeat of Faircloth, Jenkins has participated in and led many demonstrations and teach-ins on statehood. She and her allies have lobbied members and staffers of Congress on statehood.
With the statehood bill set for hearings in the House and strong consideration in the Senate, Jenkins said she will continue the fight until her hometown becomes a whole part of the union.
“We have to fight for our liberation,” she said. “We will keep fighting nonviolently until we achieve statehood.”