Local leaders joined Black Voters Matter for a rally on the National Mall to push for D.C. statehood and voter rights.
“We had unprecedented numbers and turn out for this last election,” said Kawanza Billy, the civic engagement chair for the Greater Washington Urban League. “And we saw the importance and the power of getting people who look like us, and who also understand the Black agenda, in seats to move things forward.
As part of her work for the organization, which focuses on Prince George’s and Montgomery counties in Maryland, Billy helps people learn how to get in touch with their local, state and federal representatives.
She said now, more than ever, is the time to learn, given 17 states have passed laws that restrict access to voting this year alone, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
Mayor Muriel Bowser spoke about D.C.’s need for autonomy at the event.
“Our congresswoman doesn’t have a final vote, and we do not have two senators to speak for us in matters of war and peace and in matters about the Supreme Court, for the American Rescue Plan that we were excluded from to the tune of $755,000,000.”
The mayor also referenced the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol by saying, “What about having the president of the United States control your National Guard?”
Bowser finished her speech by speaking about her family’s legacy in the District.
“I refuse to give up 200 years of my birth legacy because 100 people refuse to do the right thing,” Bowser said.
D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton attended as well, and she pushed those in attendance to get out and vote and spoke about the Senate filibustering the “For the People Act,” which was a bill in Congress that would have expanded voting rights.
“We must defy history so that we can make sure that the residents of the nation’s capital here in the shadow of the Capitol itself have the same rights as every other American,” Norton said.
Norton finished with saying, “make Black lives matter and make the Black vote matter.”