A D.C. native on why D.C. statehood matters

My name is Jamal and I’m a native Washingtonian, born and raised in Southeast D.C., Ward 8.

Growing up in D.C., my community was the epitome of the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child.” The block was like an extended family. If you were still in the playground when the streetlights came on, you could bet on your neighbors calling out to you to go home before it got too dark.

Looking back, I realize that one of the reasons we were so tight knit and advocates in our own right was because we had no one else we could rely on, especially in the halls of government. We, the mostly Black and Brown residents of D.C., have no voting representation in Congress. We have no senators and our representative can’t vote on legislation on the floor of the House. We can elect our own mayor and city council, but with Congress’ oversized authority in D.C. matters, their hands are tied by the votes of electeds like Ted Cruz or Josh Hawley who represent states thousands of miles away.

That’s why it’s so important for Washington, D.C. to become a state. Without statehood, me and the 712,000 other residents of the district are kept from our full voting rights.

Since 2014, I’ve been organizing with 51 for 51, a movement for D.C. statehood founded on the belief that we can’t let the entrenched systems of government block us from building a true democracy.

In the federal government, there were no senators or voting representatives who could consistently fight for me and my community. With President Obama in office, I was inspired to advocate for the Affordable Care Act, something that I knew my mother and other uninsured Washingtonians sorely needed. But when organizations told me to call my senators, there was no number to dial. That’s when I knew my advocacy ended at the Mayor’s Office and I had to fight for statehood, to make sure the voices of my community were actively heard in Congress.

When most people think of Washington, D.C., they think of the monuments, the Capitol, and the politicians. It’s hard for them to picture 712,000 people living, working, and raising families here. But I see our lives and our struggles every single day and how much we suffer from the lack of representation in our federal government.

Black Washingtonians were some of the hardest hit by COVID, yet weren’t given all the resources we needed. When it came to COVID relief funding last month, D.C. was classified by Congress as a territory, meaning we received millions of dollars less than the states. During the pandemic, so many Black owned businesses here weren’t able to get the loans they needed. And when the Capitol was under siege from white supremacists in January, our mayor had to wait on presidential approval (from the president who incited the insurrection!) before the National Guard was deployed.

That’s just the past few months. Imagine 200 years worth of consistent denials, inequities, and disenfranchisement, targeted at a population the majority of which are Black and Brown Americans.

If you care about our democracy, if you care about the right to have a say in the issues that matter most to us — racial justice, reproductive justice, affordable housing, gun control, and voting rights — then you MUST care about D.C. statehood. It’s not about politics. It’s about putting people first. We have to live up to the true creed of our countrys’ founding: that we are the “Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave.”

Will you be brave with me and fight for our democracy?

Our needs matter. Our lives matter. Our voices matter. Call your senators and help make that the reality by making Washington, D.C. the 51st state.

Thanks for standing for statehood.