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Norton Says the King Memorial Dedication Calls D.C. to Finish King's Unfinished Freedom Work Here E-mail

http://www.norton.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2249&Itemid=88

Norton Says the King Memorial Dedication Calls D.C. to Finish King's Unfinished Freedom Work Here

August 10, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC -- Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), who was a staff member of the March on Washington, today spoke at the city's kickoff of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial dedication and urged residents to use the memorial dedication to dedicate themselves, "the last to be free, to their own freedom."  She said that she "went south as a Washingtonian" but our own city "stands alone, singled out without a vote."  It would be "simply unthinkable," Norton said, "to dedicate the King Memorial on the 48thAnniversary of the March on Washington without asking the nation to dedicate itself not only to what King stood for, but also to what his life continues to stand for today."

Norton's full statement follows.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton's King Memorial Statement

My deepest thanks to Mayor Vincent Gray, Dr. Henry E. Johnson, Sr., who is President and CEO of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Foundation, and Reverend Willie Wilson, the National Director of the National Action Network March on Washington.  I especially thank Mayor Gray as we dedicate the memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for leading us to dedicate ourselves as residents of the District of Columbia, the last to be free, to our own freedom.  There is simply no better way for District of Columbia residents or for America itself to celebrate our country's achievements toward full equality on August 28th than to recognize that what Dr. King's life has done for our country must also be done for the residents of the nation's capital.

The memorial dedication will lead Americans to measure how much our country has achieved since the 1963 March on Washington--more than I dared predict during the first part of that summer when, as a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Council (SNCC) worker in the Delta town of Greenwood, Mississippi and in the second part of that summer, on the staff of the March on Washington under the great Bayard Rustin, the organizer of the march.  I did not imagine as I stood in the Memorial near the Lincoln statue that King's "I Have a Dream" speech would galvanize all that the sit-ins, the marches, the voter registration drives and the jailings had been doing for the 10 years since the Montgomery bus boycott.  Yet, the very next year, Congress passed the first of the great trilogy of civil rights acts, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which central theme was jobs, establishing the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Title VII of the Act, where it was my great privilege to administer just 14 years later.  On August 28th, I will join millions of Americans, especially my friends from SNCC and the civil rights movement, in their pride that throughout the south, where King did his signature work, African Americans voted in such large numbers that they sent members to the House of Representatives from Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and the state I remember most, Mississippi.

I went south as a Washingtonian, but today my own city, the District of Columbia, stands alone, singled out without a vote and without the most elementary of rights.  We are taxed but we are stateless, denied representation in the Congress which, nevertheless, insists that we the citizens of this city obey its laws and tax our residents to fund the national government.  Our residents are among the heroic buried at Arlington National Cemetery, but unlike the other casualties, must be counted as having given their lives without a vote in the Congress that sent them to war.  We have a Mayor and City Council who, just a few months ago, felt compelled to take up the King example of civil disobedience for the most basic right to spend their own hard earned taxes as they see fit.

Today, once again, Mayor Gray is leading our city and our country not only to attend the historic Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial dedication, but to also dedicate ourselves to King's ideals and to his goals. For we who are citizens of this city and for those who come to celebrate, there is an inescapable way to enhance the commemoration of this historic memorial dedication.  It is simply unthinkable that our country would dedicate the King memorial on August 28th, the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington, without also dedicating itself to freedom now and statehood for the District of Columbia.  Once again, I thank Mayor Gray, Dr. Johnson and Reverend Wilkins for ensuring that the memorial dedication continues to exemplify not only what King stood for, but also for what his life continues to stand for today.

 
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