Like many of you, my heart has been heavy with grief. Words are insufficient to convey my despair for our future together when over and over again, we see that some people are valued over others, while others are counted merely as bodies.
And still, I have tremendous hope for our future together as people across the country are uniting in the most American of activities — speaking out against injustice.
We live in a racist society with a brutal violent history toward Black people, with every generation finding more and more ways to express and maintain white supremacy. The pandemic has only highlighted the health inequities that are a result of this shameful history and present, and I don’t think any of us have been surprised that Black people are more likely to contract COVID, and more likely to die when they do.
Racism is deeply American — from our founding fathers to our current life. Terrorism against Black people is America’s constant companion. In recent years technology has allowed us to capture some of acts of violence toward and murders of Black people, but we know that the racism doesn’t turn off just because it’s not recorded. What makes America great isn’t the amplification of our shameful hate or unearned privilege — it’s the amplification of the relentless belief that we can redefine what it means to be American.
That’s why I’m so proud to work for Mayor Bowser. Her response to the president’s suppression of first amendment activities was painting Black Lives Matter on the street that leads to the White House. Black Lives Matter Plaza is right in front of the White House, so tourists and the president are confronted directly with what we mean when we say D.C. Values.
As we continue to move safely towards reopening, the Mayor has challenged all of us to use this as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a more equitable, resilient and vibrant city. Part of this includes the construction of two new, state-of-the-art hospitals to improve health care and address inequalities in health outcomes for District residents.
Even as we’re facing significant budget deficits, the Mayor has prioritized building a new $306 million hospital at St. Elizabeths East, expected to open in the fall of 2024, and the construction of a $69 million health services complex at St. Elizabeths that is expected to open in the fall of 2023. Two new urgent care centers in Wards 7 and 8 will open in the fall of 2021 and the spring of 2022.
We know that no one action will end the systemic racism and inequalities embedded within our society, just like no one action created and sustains it. But individual actions and the actions we take as a community do matter. If you haven’t completed the 2020 Census, please take the time to be counted. The census is just another way of saying that you matter — and that our city matters.
I’m grateful to be a part of this community with you and to have a Mayor who is a staunch defender of our D.C. values. As the Mayor has said, together we’ll build a better America. We’ll fight for D.C. statehood. We’ll demand justice for George Floyd and every Black person who has been killed by an unjust and unfair system. Together, we’ll make it clear to our nation and to the world: Black Lives Matter. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Independence Day than that!
For the latest information on the District Government’s response to COVID-19 (Coronavirus), please visit coronavirus.dc.gov.