DC, National Democratic Leaders Demand Rights for District at National Convention

At a convention center that sits on Charlotte’s historic Martin Luther King Blvd, local and national luminaries gathered for a rally in conjunction with the 2012 Democratic National Committee Convention. Mayor Gray, who led the District of Columbia’s convention delegation, made news for footing his own expenses to attend the Democratic convention, came with a clear mission, he said — to advance the District while also campaigning for the President. “We want to convey that the people of the District of Columbia deserve the same rights as all other Americans,”  said Mayor.  The Mayor described the District’s current status, as “taxation without representation.”  “We need to bring democracy to America.  The best path to do that is clearly, in my opinion, is Barack Obama,” stated Gray. Even though the National Democratic party platform was conspicuously void of a statehood plank, the Mayor pointed out “It [the platform] does mention legislative autonomy and voting rights.”  Further Mayor Gray noted that the Republican national platform included language that would even strip the District of rights, such as limits on gun laws and women’s reproductive health programs. Yet the Mayor stated affirmatively “We want statehood and I would love for the Democratic Platform to take that up and I look forward to working with my Democratic brethren to include that [in future platforms].” Gray’s optimism has won the Mayor, in his opinion, a “warm reception” from other convention delegates including mayors of other cities, even at a time when some in the District have yet to warm up to his administration.  The Mayor believes his “cred” with other convention attendees springs from what he calls an appreciation of the challenges the District has faced and its ability to, nonetheless, achieve successes under his watch.  Gray touts a record low homicide level, progress in education, and a $200 million surplus in the District as some of his achievements. Later that evening, the Mayor and other District leaders, are expected to share the spotlight with other democratic leaders to cast their official votes for Obama as their presidential nominee.  When the Mayor takes the mic, he promises to deliver a simple message “that taxation without representation is one of the principles upon which this nation is founded and its ironic we pay the same taxes in the District of Columbia yet[are] denied the same rights.” Nationally syndicated writer and President Emeritus of North Carolina’s Bennett College Julianne Malveux was also among the other dignitaries in attendance for the Democratic Convention. Malveux said “This convention is exciting…as a Democrat I could not be more proud.  However, I must say that I’ve been disappointed that the District of Columbia has not been treated fairly.  We belong on the platform…The District is one of the most reliable Democratic votes and we deserve to be on the platform.” According to Malveux, she’s been a longtime resident of the District of Columbia and as such, “I feel disenfranchised every time I go to vote.” Malveux’s comments came on the heels of what many called an “electrifying” speech by Michelle Obama during the first night of the Democratic festivities in Charlotte.  “Women, particularly women of color were completely uplifted by the speech,” noted Malveux.  “What would Fannie Lou Mamer have thought,” asked Malveux, reflecting upon the legendary civil rights era leader who protested at the 1964 Democratic Party Convention in order for African American delegates from Mississippi to merely have the right to be seated. “She,” Malveux said of Mrs. Obama “is such a role model for our young women…intelligent, a mother, a wife, a help mate for her husband.” Reverend Jesse Jackson, who himself twice sought the Democrats nomination for President, in 1984 and 1988, reflected on the work yet to be done by his party.  “We are facing amazing levels of poverty and violence,” noted Jackson.  To tackle these problems, Jackson, called on his party to develop a program to focus on “violence, poverty, and urban reconstruction.”  As the former Shadow Senator of the District of Columbia, Jackson lamented that the District, even after four years of an African American President, still lacks statehood and even a statehood plank in the Democratic platform. In the way of advice to Mayor Gray, Jackson, taking a note from his days of community organizing and mobilizing, advised Mayor Gray to “[C]ontinue to protest…Keep the issue visible.” And this advice appears to describe the focus of Mayor Gray and other District leaders who plan to continue pressing for full democracy for the people of the nation’s capital until they are victorious.  District advocates like the Mayor have reason for optimism, pointing to the election of Obama as an example that in America, “anything is possible.” The writer is a lawyer and talk show host in the District of Columbia and can be reached at Talib@talibkarim.com. ##


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