D.C. Statehood Concert Series goes around the World
At our recent D.C. Statehood Concert Series, held during Congressional Black Caucus Week-end, among the several brilliant artists, we presented dancers and costumes from Thailand. These artists underscored and emphasized the fact that every human being on this planet, residing in a nation with a representative government, enjoys political standing and sovereignty, except those who happen to reside in Washington, D.C. Political standing in this context is equal participation and voting representation in a nation’s governing body. Equal representation for equal numbers of people is a fundamental goal of America’s Democracy. Sovereignty is “Supreme dominion, authority, or rule,” independence, the notion about which this Nation fought a war to achieve. Political standing in America grows out of the Seventeenth Amendment, providing for the popular election of senators; as well as from Article I of the Constitution. The absence of equal representation for the people of Washington, D.C. in the United States Senate and our cloistered presence in the House of Representatives contradicts the essence of American democracy. At a time when America seeks to export democracy throughout the world, this is a glaring contradiction between our espoused beliefs and actual treatment of 630,000 of our citizens. It is a contradiction that empowers America’s detractors and weakens its proponents. It is a violation of basic civil rights that should and can no longer stand. In fact, many federal nations that extend the rights of representation to the residents of the capital have molded their governments after our own. Yet, on this basic issue of representation, they have taken the lead and surpassed the United States. On December 30, 2003, the Organization of American States' (OAS) Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued Report Numbered 98/03 in Case 11.204 --- Statehood Solidarity Committee v. United States. That report reads in part: ‘The Commission hereby concludes that the State is responsible for violations of the Petitioners' rights under Articles II and XX of the American Declaration by denying them an effective opportunity to participate in their federal legislature...”, and recommended to the United States that it “[p]rovide the Petitioners with an effective remedy, which includes adopting the legislative or other measures necessary to guarantee to the Petitioners the effective right to participate, directly or through freely chosen representatives and in general conditions of equality, in their national legislature.” Moreover, the Organization for Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), both the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODHIR) and the Parliamentary Assembly called on the Congress of the United States to adopt such legislation as may be necessary to grant the residents of Washington, D.C. equal voting rights in their national legislature in accordance with its human dimension commitments.