D.C. residents can die in combat but have no say in Congress

3023119698_39848762a5

Left, Right, Left, Right, Left, Right, Left.

You can march off to battle,

But steer clear of the polls.

Fight for us, die for us

but don’t forget your role.

— from “The New Cadence” by Estilito Diaz

Unlike previous rallies in support of D.C. voting rights, the one today in front of the U.S. Capitol was different. There was a sense that the fight to give the District of Columbia a seat in Congress might be gaining momentum. As people all over the country are saying, it’s a new day.

It doesn’t hurt that the D.C. Voting Rights Act has supporters in high places. President-elect Barack Obama has indicated he’ll support the act, D.C.’s Delegate to the House of Representatives, Eleanor Holmes Norton, told the supporters gathered for the Veteran’s Day rally.

“He told me he will sign the bill,” Norton said. “It’s up to us to get him a bill to sign.”

The rally was organized by D.C. Vote and co-sponsored by: AFL-CIO, Alliance of Justice, American Jewish Committee, Anacostia Coordinating Council, Common Cause, Friends of the Earth, Greater Washington Urban League, Public Citizen, Unite HERE Local 25, USAction, Women’s National Democratic Club, ROOTS and the National Capitol Region of Veterans and Military Families for Progress.

Speakers included D.C. military veterans who spoke about serving in defense of the country while being denied full representation before Congress at home. Michigan poet Estilito Diaz also gave a stirring recital of his poem, “The New Cadence,” which he wrote the day before.

Some people in the activist community say with the shift in political power, the District should seek more than a single seat in Congress. Some say it’s time to push for full statehood or at least two full seats in the House.

Angela Canterbury, director of advocacy for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, says activists should focus on achieving the first step of creating a Congressional district for D.C.

“We now have a golden political opportunity to pass a bill we’ve been trying to get passed for years,” she said. “Let’s get our seat at the table then we can turn to other, bigger goals.”

You can show your support for D.C. residents and the D.C. Voting Rights Act by writing your member of Congress.

3022295427_9df70316023022296697_c3d519d8d3

Photos by Joe Newman.