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While the March on Washington taking place on Aug. 28 will focus on informing Americans about voter suppression measures throughout the country, District leaders and activists don’t want it to be forgotten that residents of the nation’s capital are also disenfranchised.
“We definitely want D.C. statehood to be a part of the main event,” Bo Shuff, the executive director of DC Vote, a D.C. statehood advocacy group, said. “We want to continue to educate the people about the voter suppression that is taking place in the District of Columbia.
“We pay taxes and fight in America’s wars but we don’t have full voting representation in the House of Representatives and no votes in the Senate. We want the people at the march and those who are viewing and listening to it to understand our plight.”
The National Action Network, led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, and Martin Luther King III, coordinated the march that will address 48 states enacting or mulling laws designed to frustrate and turn off people from voting. However, D.C. statehood activists, like Shuff, and District political leaders want the speakers at the event at the Mall to address their cause, too.
Statehood Supporters Speak Out
Oye Owolewa serves as the District’s shadow representative to the U.S. Congress. In that capacity, he lobbies Congress on why the District should become the 51st state.
Owolewa said the speakers at the main event should talk about D.C. statehood.
“With voting rights under attack across the country, it only makes sense for the speakers to talk about the voter suppression taking place in the very city they are marching in,” Owolewa said. “It should and will be a central theme to the march. The most important thing is to keep the conversation going about statehood. We have to keep engaging senators but also governors and other elected officials about D.C.’s situation.”
Owolewa said he will serve as a speaker for an adjunct rally to the main event dealing primarily with D.C. statehood. Other issues, such as climate change and racial and economic equity will also be discussed at the adjunct rally.
Charles Wilson, chairman of the D.C. Democratic Party, said he and party members will participate in the main event.
“We will march to the National Mall as an organization,” Wilson said. “Our ward and affiliate organizations will participate also. We are participating in this march because this is about voting rights. The residents of D.C. have no voting representation in the Congress and the Senate and that needs to change.”
Anise Jenkins, executive director for Stand Up! for Democracy in DC, said she understands that D.C. statehood will be addressed by some of the speakers at the main event, though she doesn’t know whether Sharpton will speak about it.
“I would like for him to say that there are voting rights violations taking place in the nation’s capital,” Jenkins said. “Really, there is no bigger voting violation taking place in the nation than what is happening here. He should talk about how residents here pay taxes and have no representation.”