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Transcript: This Juneteenth, Washington, D.C. residents say there's no freedom without statehood

The full episode transcript for This Juneteenth, Washington, D.C. residents say there’s no freedom without statehood..

Transcript

Into America

DC Votes Yes

Archival Recording: The rally on the other side of the Capitol.

Archival Recording: Happenin' right now?

Archival Recording: Yeah.

Trymaine Lee: I'm in Washington D.C., takin' a lift with 22-year-old Jamal Holtz. As we wind through the city, symbols of freedom and democracy are everywhere. There's the Lincoln Memorial, the MLK monument. And you can actually see the Capitol dome in the rearview mirror. Jamal's tellin' me about a rally across town.

Jamal Holtz: The bunch of people talkin' about statehood, and makin' sure that it gets added to us one. So.

Lee: Jamal grew up in southeast D.C., with dreams of being an FBI agent. Now he's got his eyes set on politics. And he looks the part. It's hot in D.C., and I mean sticky, humid hot. But Jamal is sharp in a crisp, blue suit and tie. He hopes to be mayor one day, or maybe even governor. But there's no governor seat to run for. Because the District of Columbia isn't a state. Jamal is fighting to change that.

Holtz: The nation's Capitol is shrunken down to just a monument, the White House, and the Capitol. So all of the federal buildings and stuff down here and everything outside of that would be the Douglass Commonwealth, the state. So it'll be separate--

Lee: The Douglass Commonwealth. That's what a growing coalition of statehood activists like Jamal wanna name D.C. if they win their fight to make it America's 51st state. The name would honor Frederick Douglass, the abolitionist who lived in Washington while fighting for freedom and justice for Black Americans.

D.C. is home to 700,000 people, nearly half of whom are Black. And despite living within arm's reach of all the power and prestige at the seat of national government, residents have no vote in the House of Representatives, no vote in the Senate, and never have. Today, Washingtonians are closer than ever to achieving their goal of D.C. statehood. But the outcome is anything but certain--

Holtz: Let me let me make it quick.

Lee: My conversation with Jamal catches the attention of our Lyft driver.

Driver: Okay, I'm sorry.

Holtz: No. You're good. What's up?

Driver: Let us become a state. What do we have, resources we got to generate money for the state?

Holtz: Yeah. I mean, we'll get more resources and generate more money. It's actually projected that we'll get $6 billion more dollars.

Lee: This is what Jamal does. (BACKGROUND VOICE) He makes his case for D.C. statehood no matter where he is.

Driver: I've been around here since '56. So, you know, hope to see it happen, and occur, you know? And I hope it comes out, you know?

Holtz: It's gonna happen. We just need people to continue to educate and talk about it, and talkin' about the importance of it. Because we're losin' out every day, the days that we aren't bein' a state.

Lee: Yeah, so I have a question for you. Obviously, we're talkin' to these gentlemen about statehood. And you said as a citizen, have you thought much about statehood as an issue? Like, have you?

Driver:

Yeah, I agree with it. It should be a state. It should be a state. Wilson Building?

Holtz: Yes, sir.

Holtz: Thank you, sir. Have a good day.

Lee: We get out at the John A. Wilson Building, located on Pennsylvania Avenue, not far from the White House, and about two miles from Capitol Hill.

Holtz: I brought us here to City Hall, the John A. Wilson Buildin', because it symbolizes a local optimism. And I say that--

Lee: The John Wilson Building is D.C.'s City Hall. And it's one of the few places where locals can go to be heard.

Holtz: So comin' out of this buildin', and lookin' at the Capitol, and seein' that I don't have voting representation, that there's no onus to D.C. residents. Those places don't represent us. But this is the buildin' that does.

Lee: Hold on one second. We stop for a minute as one of those loud open-air double decker sight-seeing buses grinds past. Who knows where it's going. But wherever it's headed, the tourists don't stop here. And for Jamal, that's kinda the point.

Holtz: So I've never taken the big rush (?) tour. But I'm not even sure how much they mention. These (BACKGROUND VOICE) kinda places, the buses might just pass and not even. Yeah, folks just ride past it thinkin' it's a federal buildin', when really, it's the home of disenfranchisement.

Lee: The home of disenfranchisement. Now, D.C. has a congressperson, but it's in name only. For the last three decades, that's been Eleanor Holmes Norton, who was elected in 1990. Norton can serve on committees, speak on the House floor and sponsor legislation.

But she can't vote, not even on legislation that she sponsors. And D.C. also has what are called shadow delegates, one in the House and two in the Senate. But they have even less power than Congresswoman Norton. They don't get to vote either. And mostly, they're role is to push for D.C. statehood.

Holtz: The shadow senators' offices, just like other senators have a office in the Capitol, their office is in the basement of City Hall. When we--

Lee: There's not even, like, just an office somewhere on the Hill somewhere? You're in the basement of City Hall?

Holtz: They're in the basement of City Hall. And the only thing that the shadow representative get access to is the cafeteria (LAUGH) in the Capitol. Right--

Lee: I hate to laugh. I hate to laugh, but that's terrible.

Holtz: It's terrible. This is where the work happens. And this is where the wants and needs of D.C. residents happen. And that has to be reflected, and can't just sit in the shadows of democracy.

Lee: How does it feel being a shadow? And what do you think it will take to pull the District of Columbia out of the shadows?

Holtz: Yeah, I mean, it feels like bein' a second class citizen. It feels like new Jim Crow. It feels like slave mentality, all the things that it felt like to be oppressed.

Lee: I'm Trymaine Lee. And this is Into America. In just a few days, we'll mark Juneteenth, when the last enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, finally got word of their freedom in 1865, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. But even before federal emancipation, D.C. was actually among the first cities to end slavery.

And yet, under the shadow of the nation's capitol lies a shadow government. And for Jamal and the hundreds of thousands of D.C. residents like him, true democracy and freedom in America is still out of reach. Today, we take a look at the fight for D.C. statehood, the fight for full citizenship and freedom that Washingtonians have been waging for generations.

Anise Jenkins: It's the last plantation. That's what we call it. That's how it feels.

Lee: We're at the porch. We got fans. Got cicadas.

George Derek Musgrove: Yes.

Lee: It's amazing. (LAUGH) George Derek Musgrove teaches U.S. history at University of Maryland, Baltimore County. We hung out for a while on his front porch in northwest D.C., where he lives with his wife and kids. And this summer, with a whole gang of cicadas too.

Musgrove: And I love the city.

Lee: Derek is the coauthor of Chocolate City, a history of race and democracy in the nation's capitol. He was born in Connecticut, grew up in Baltimore, and has been in D.C. since the mid '90s. Do you remember when you first fell in love with D.C.?

Musgrove: Oh God, yeah. (LAUGH) Absolutely yes. I was in high school. And I went to Howard University. And I had never seen--

Lee: That was it?

Musgrove: --such a remarkable, you know, sort of mosaic of African descended humanity from all across, you know, Jamaica and Georgia and Ghana. And just these wonderful people, all of whom were brilliant, right? And who were challenging me, and who were forcing me to think differently about the world and about the United States.

And then I think the second time I fell in love with D.C., for those folks who remember D.C. in the 1990s, they'll know what I'm talking about. Was I went to the Ritz nightclub down on E Street. It used to be across from the FBI headquarters. And it was one of the best nightclubs I've ever been to in my life. They had go-go on the top floor, house music on the floor below that.

Lee: People in D.C. love their go-go.

Musgrove: Oh my goodness, yes, yes. (LAUGH) Yes--

Lee: Backyard Band, and--

Musgrove: Yes. Yes.

Lee: There's a sense of Blackness that courses through D.C. that is rare. I mean, you have Philly, which is a very Black city. You have a bunch of Black cities. But there's somethin' about D.C., where the cultural fabric is just so beautifully Black.

Musgrove: Well, and again, we have to remember that D.C. has a lot of firsts when it comes to African American history. In the 1890s, it had the largest Black population of any American city in the country. 90,000 African Americans. It was also one of the most affluent.

So it was understood as the capitol of Black America. In the 1950s, it became the first majority Black city in these United States of America. And in 1978, it was the first city in America to elect a former Black power activist into its mayor's office, in the form of Marion Barry.

Lee: Derek says that to understand how D.C. became Chocolate City, you have to look at the city's long, complicated relationship with the federal government, and with slavery.

Musgrove: The national capitol is situated on the Potomac, primarily to protect slavery, at least symbolically protect slavery. A lot of the Southern members of congress, when they were heading their Philadelphia when the Capitol was there, had the problem of not being able to bring their slaves or their slaves potentially escaping while they were there. George Washington literally had that problem, right?

Lee: And so in 1790, Washington D.C. was founded, established by the Constitution to replace the northern capitol of Philadelphia. And questions of statehood and representation weren't part of the conversation back then.

Musgrove: Probably about the first 70 years of the city's history, nobody was talkin' about statehood. And the main reason is that D.C. residents didn't want to antagonize members of Congress. 'Cause they were worried that members of Congress would move the capitol, principally to St. Louis, which was always at the top of the list as the--

Lee: But that sounds crazy. (LAUGH)

Musgrove: As you--

Lee: The Capitol of the United States bein' St. Louis. That sounds wild. Even though slavery was a part of the design of choosing D.C. as the nation's capitol, attitudes about it were mixed. Then the war shifted everything.

Musgrove: During the Civil War, Congress was regularly intervening in the city's politics. So in 1862, Congress intervened in the district, and effectively said, "We're gonna end slavery in the District of Columbia." And so all of a sudden, D.C. is this little island of freedom between these two huge, slave-holding states.

Lee: Geography reminder here. D.C. is smack dab between Virginia and Maryland.

Musgrove: Well, what happens? People on the plantations in those two states flood into the district. 30,000 of them between 1861 and 1865. That gives us a 30% Black population in this district that basically never goes down below that number. And it builds up until you get this 90,000 population in the 1890s. It's the largest urban Black population in the country. And the federal government is, in fact, funding some of the institutions that will become the cornerstone of Black life in the district.

Lee: The federal government created Freedman's Hospital, which later became Howard University Hospital. And Howard University, the place we now know as the Mecca, was founded to educate the newly freed people coming into D.C. All of this attracted more Black residents to the area.

Musgrove: So it's tricky. I mean, if you don't have this weird relationship between the federal government and the district, you end up really not getting some of the developments that give you the Chocolate City of the 1970s through the 1990s.

Lee: But, of course, it's also the federal government that has kept D.C. residents from enjoying full freedom when it comes to local autonomy and voting rights. Derek told me that this stems, in part at least, from a line in the Constitution.

Musgrove: Article 1 Section 8 Clause 17. "Congress will have the power of exclusive legislation over the national capitol, not to exceed ten miles square."

Lee: James Madison argued that the point of having a special district was to prevent any one state from holding too much sway over the national government. So even though it's not a state, D.C. is treated like one in more than 500 federal laws.

People here pay more in federal taxes than residents in 22 states. But they have no representation, leaving D.C. subject to the will of Congress. D.C. residents can elect a local government, consisting of a mayor and council. But the laws they pass have to be reviewed by Congress, and can be overturned. And when D.C.'s mayor and city council plan the city budget, they have to hand-deliver the budget to Congress. Like, walk it over and hand them (LAUGH) a pile of papers, just for approval.

Musgrove: We have people ruling over us who tax us, who recruit us into the military to fight in U.S. wars. But we have no say in the halls of Congress, where most of the major decisions about our national life are made. And so we are deficient citizens.

Lee: And sometimes, Derek told me, Congress will step in in the name of trying to help, only to cause more harm along the way. Like in 1988, when D.C.'s murder rate had spiked, surpassing every other U.S. city.

Musgrove: And Congress reacted. The trick is, though, that they reacted in a manner that ignored the democratically expressed will of the citizens of the District of Columbia. And so, you know, tough on crime activists in Congress, tough on crime members of Congress said, "You know what we're gonna do? We're gonna force the city to hire 1,500 new officers, because the city's out of control."

And look, the city had a problem. And the city wanted help. It didn't necessarily want that help in that way at that moment. And so the city said, "We cannot train these officers." And that 1,500 officers who were hired in 1989, 1990, 1991 became some of the most dangerous officers to walk the streets in the history of the District of Columbia. And so a couple years after Congress forced us to hire them, the district became the national leader in the country of officers shooting citizens.

Lee: Direct correlation. It.

Musgrove: It's a direct correlation. And it was a nightmare.

Lee: But what about the cons? What are the reasons why people would be against, and so, you know, vociferous in the pushback against statehood?

Musgrove: The one big one is that it would be more expensive. We would have to take on a lot of responsibilities that are currently taken on by the federal government. So, for instance, all of our prisoners, people who have been convicted of felonies, go into the federal system.

If we were a state, we'd have to build a state prison. And we would then pull our prisoners back into that state prison. I actually think that's a good thing. Because then D.C. leaders would actually have control of the rehabilitation process, and could sort of manage it from arrest all the way to release.

Lee: Some people also argue that D.C. is too small to be a state. But with more than 700,000 residents, it's actually bigger than Vermont and Wyoming.

Musgrove: There's nobody in Jackson Hole, Wyoming who worries about what people in ward three in D.C. care about what they do. But we care. We care what folks in Jackson Hole think. Because if Liz Cheney or Ron Johnson or some of the other folks from their delegation want something to happen in D.C., and they can reach into the budget process and make it happen, we have to live with it.

Lee: In the 2016 referendum, nearly 80% of district residents said they wanted D.C. to become a state. Activists imagine the Douglass Commonwealth working somethin' like this.

Musgrove: Congress has the right of exclusive legislation over the nation's capitol. Fine. But let's reduce the federal district down to the area of the Mall of the White House and the Capitol. And then the people who live here in the neighborhoods of Washington D.C., teachers, firefighters, those people can in fact have voting representation in Congress.

Lee: That's exactly the idea Jamal brought up on our ride over to City Hall. Essentially, you just make the district smaller. Congress would still have control over the Capitol and the White House and a few federal buildings. But they wouldn't have control over the residential areas.

Musgrove: If we're so fortunate to become statehood, it would be a plurality Black state. It would probably put forward Black political leadership that would represent national Black interests in a way that no state ever has in American history, outside of Reconstruction.

Lee: After the break, we dig into D.C.'s long road to freedom with Jamal Holtz, who hopes his generation will finally achieve what Chocolate City has been dreaming of for a long time. And we'll hear from one of the people he's looked up to for guidance, Anise Jenkins, a veteran in this fight for statehood.

Jenkins: I was very proud of living, coming from D.C. And I lost that pride when I found out that D.C. could not control its own destiny.

Lee: We'll be right back.

Lee: D.C. delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who remember, does not have a vote in Congress, has introduced a bill for statehood in every Congress since 1992.

Jenkins: The residents of the District of Columbia are still not free. They will not be free until they become the 51st state.

Lee: In January of this year, Congresswoman Norton brought statehood forward again, introducing HR-51, the D.C. Admission Act, to make the Douglass Commonwealth the 51st state. This time around, support for the bill was louder than it's ever been.

Archival Recording: As the House Committee once again takes up the issue of D.C. statehood, there are several rallies planned today across the district to voice their support for the issue.

Lee: Over the past few months, thousands of D.C. residents have ramped up the marching, lobbying and calling on Congress to release its stronghold over the city. There's new energy around a very old fight.

Jenkins: I'm a native Washingtonian. I was born here.

Lee: Anise Jenkins is 71 years old. And she's been at this for a minute.

Jenkins: What I was born into was a Black city. We didn't need people to tell us how to run it.

Lee: Miss Jenkins has long, grey locks. And when I met up with her in D.C., she was wearing a bright red shirt that said, "Ambassador for Statehood," and a hat that said, "Free D.C." She became active not long after the House voted on statehood for the first time. That was in 1993. Here's Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton speaking on the House floor just before that vote.

Eleanor Holmes Norton: Mr. Speaker, we do not pretend that the district will win statehood today. However, we are very encouraged by the number of members who have told the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, or a colleague during the whip count, or me personally that they will vote for the rule and/or for final passage. The number who have committed to vote for statehood itself is impressive.

Lee: The bill didn't pass. Only one Republican voted for it. And the Democrats were split. At the time, Dems were trying to win over white, working class voters, and wanted to distance themselves from activists pushing for statehood as a racial justice issue. The following year in 1994, the city went bankrupt. So Congress implemented a financial control board, which meant that it was actively managing the city's finances even more closely than it had before.

Jenkins: I never got involved in it until that day, that the control board took over D.C. I didn't understand that they had the right to do that. That was a shock to me.

Lee: At the time, Miss Jenkins was involved with Act Up, a group that worked to combat the AIDS crisis in D.C.

Jenkins: We were leading the country in the rate of HIV/AIDS. And clean needle exchange would have reduced the rate of HIV/AIDS. Because people wouldn't be passing dirty needles around.

Lee: So in 1996, the D.C. city council passed a law that approved clean needle exchange in the city. But members of the control board didn't like the idea of the nation's capitol giving out needles for drug use.

Jenkins: The Congress took our rights to have clean needle exchange. The Congress stopped it because they didn't care. They didn't care if D.C. residents were dying of HIV/AIDS, and passing dirty needles around. They didn't care.

Lee: Miss Jenkins even lost a friend to the epidemic. For her, this debate over statehood was about more than just a vote in Congress. This was about life and death. And it fueled her activism. In 1998, Miss Jenkins formed Stand Up for Democracy in D.C., a small group of like-minded, pro-statehood activists who wanted to wrestle control of the city's affairs away from the federal government.

Jenkins: I remember meeting John Lewis. And I said, "How are we gonna get it?" He said, "You are too quiet."

Lee: Too quiet? You gotta make some noise, huh--

Jenkins: Yeah. He said, "You are too quiet." He knew what he was talkin' about. He was with--

Lee: The late Congressman John Lewis was a supporter of D.C. statehood. And he urged Miss Jenkins to make some good trouble.

Jenkins: We have to take--

Lee: We visited the U.S. Capitol Building. Miss Jenkins, you actually took the fight into the Capitol. Tell us about what happened.

Jenkins: Well, every time there was a vote on something that I felt D.C. residents should have, I got up in the gallery and said, "D.C. votes yes. D.C. votes no."

Lee: Being the voice of the people. Literally, took the voice of the people inside--

Jenkins: Yes. I took the voice of the people inside. So they can hear it. So they know what we wanted.

Lee: Of course, that didn't really fly.

Jenkins: And they drug me up the steps. This was the Capitol Hill Police. They drug me up the steps. They put those ties that cut into your arms on my wrists. And it hurts.

Lee: Miss Jenkins has been arrested nine times fighting for D.C. statehood. For many of those years, it was a lonely fight. But not so much anymore.

Holtz: But I always used to see Anise at, like, community events with the Free D.C. gear on, and I was, like, "Who is this woman, right?"

Lee: Statehood activist Jamal Holtz, who we met earlier, is almost 50 years younger than Anise Jenkins, armed with very different tools and tactics. But they share a common goal. The three of us stood together near the Capitol steps last week. Two generations in the fight for full citizenship.

Jenkins: I've seen him at some of the sign waving protests. And he's encouraged me. I really like to see the youth out there.

Lee: Miss Jenkins, how has the fight for statehood evolved over the years? I mean, 'cause you've been at this for a long time. Because the young buck here, (LAUGH) the young buck. But you're an OG in this fight. And I wonder how it's evolved over the years.

Jenkins: That's what I call myself, an OG. I just feel that the youth is carrying the banner. The youth is carrying on the legacy.

Holtz: I honor people like Anise, and all of our folks much elder than me who paved the way for young people like myself to be a part of this fight. But I also found it very unfortunate that I'm still a part of this fight.

Lee: After a while, we left the Capitol to cool off and finish our conversation inside. Jamal, how were you drawn to the fight for statehood?

Holtz: The fight for statehood, for me is personal. In 2014, there was revisions bein' made to the Affordable Care Act. And for a family like mine, who do not have health insurance and opportunity to walk into the hospital and get basic services and treatment, the Affordable Care Act, and the provisions would allow my mom, and even myself to be fully covered, and not have to worry about the burden of health insurance.

And in that time, Barack Obama's call to action was, "Call your senator. Call your representative and tell them to support the Affordable Care Act." And we saw government shut down, and we saw political divide in those conversations. And for families like mine, and for families all across Washington D.C. who needed that, we couldn't go to the Hill, and live up to that call to action.

Lee: So in 2019, aware that his activism was limited to City Hall, Jamal co-founded 51 for 51, along with other young activists, like Ty Hobson Powell (PH), featured in this promo video from last year.

Ty Hobson-powell: Seems like every other day, someone is sayin', "Call your representative. Call your senator." That's a great idea in theory. But I can't do any of that. Because I don't have s--"

Holtz: You'll be amazed at how much you go across the country, where people not know that D.C. isn't a state. It was all about education for us.

Lee: Part of the strategy of 51 for 51 was to make the case to voters in other states, as well as politicians on the national stage for why statehood mattered. They used the 2020 presidential election as their starting point.

Holtz: Going to places like South Carolina, Iowa, followin' presidential candidates, and goin' up to them and say, "Do you support D.C. statehood? And do you support over 51 votes in the Senate?" (LAUGH)

So we traveled all the way from D.C. We do not have a vote in Congress. And we never have.

Archival Recording: Yeah. I know--

Holtz: And so what we're coming to you is like we've done with so many other presidential candidates. And what we wanted to know was will you support D.C. statehood and 51 states--

Archival Recording: I've told you guys yes.

Holtz: With 51 votes in the Senate, though, right--

Archival Recording: Yes. Yes--

Holtz: In that message, for us it was if people like Mitch McConnell can affirm two Supreme Court Justices, three Supreme Court Justices, with 51 votes in the Senate, then why can't you do the same for democracy?

Lee: What Jamal is referring to here is the filibuster, the decades old tool of the minority party used to block legislation unless there are 60 votes to get around it. In 2017, after Trump took office with a slim majority in the Senate, Mitch McConnell and other Republicans elected to eliminate the filibuster when it came to confirming Supreme Court Justices.

Which is how they were able to confirm Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Comey Barrett. And that's where the name 51 for 51 comes from. The group's argument is that if 51 votes are enough to confirm a Supreme Court Justice, that should be all it takes to make D.C. the 51st state.

Holtz: We got the endorsement of over 19 presidential candidates, includin' our current President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. And that ultimately helped us move the needle a lot nationally.

Lee: I mentioned earlier that a vast majority of D.C. residents are in favor of statehood. And national support is growing too. Clear majorities of voters in urban and suburban areas support making D.C. a state. And about half of voters in rural America also support the cause.

That's according to a February 2021 poll from the Data for Progress Think Tank, and the progressive advocacy coalition Democracy for All. But, of course, there's still plenty of opposition. In 2019, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell warned Fox News viewers that D.C. statehood would amount to socialism.

Mitch Mcconnell: And by the way, you may have mentioned this on your show. But they plan to make the District of Columbia a state. That'd give them two new Democratic senators. So this is full bore socialism on the march in the House.

Lee: For many in Republican leadership, D.C. statehood is seen as a partisan power grab. And given how D.C. has voted recently, it's not a stretch to envision that statehood might actually mean more Democratic representation in Congress. Thanks to the 23rd Amendment just ratified in 1961, residents here can vote in the presidential election. And in 2020, Biden won 92% of D.C.'s vote.

Holtz: The Constitution doesn't say your political party should define your voting rights. So I see the fight for D.C. statehood as a fight to live up to our American dream, to be the land of the free and the home of the brave, and ensure that people who live in Washington D.C., who are majority Black and brown, who look like people like myself, get a opportunity of havin' a vote in their democracy.

Lee: In April, the House of Representatives approved HR-51, to make the nation's capitol the 51st state. The vote was 216 to 208, and fell along party lines.

Nancy Pelosi: By voting for D.C. statehood, the House of Representatives reaffirms this truth, that all deserve a voice in our democracy. To hear--

Lee: Democrats recognize that in 2021, D.C. statehood would benefit the party nationally. Dems could get more representation in Congress, more support for their judicial nominees. And given that this is still Chocolate City, more leaders to fight for national Black interests.

And so after passin' the House, D.C. statehood is now in the hands of the Senate. The Senate Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing next week. But the Senate has never taken up a floor vote on statehood. And it's not clear when or if they will this time around.

No Republicans have voiced support for it. And without bipartisan backing, the only other option is to change the filibuster rules, and make sure every Democrat is on board. There's so much at stake. People here in D.C., the ones struggling for statehood, are surrounded every single day by historic buildings and monuments, commemorating America's gradual march towards freedom. And they're reminded every day that some of that freedom is out of reach.

Miss Jenkins, Jamal, talk to me about we are celebrating Juneteenth, right? A celebration of freedom. Is there any freedom for Black Washingtonians without representation in Congress?

Jenkins: Well, D.C. was the first place to emancipate the enslaved. That was April 16th, 1862. We say D.C. was first free, but last free.

Holtz: We celebrate Junteenth. And we celebrate days like our Fourth of July that talked about independence. But however, like, none of those holidays really live true to people in Washington D.C. This is a stain on our democracy. This is a stain on our Constitution. In order for us to reach full liberation, it means givin' D.C. residents, who are majority Black and brown, their right to vote.

Lee: Now, you're a young lion comin' up in the fight for statehood. But you're sittin' next to an OG in this fight. What would you ask her?

Holtz: If I had a question to ask, I think there's those moments where there's so much enthusiasm and momentum in the fight, you think you're closer to it. And you think it's about to happen now. Were there moments for you where you felt, like, hopeless that it wasn't never gonna happen and you wanted to just gte out of it?

Jenkins: I would say no. I've never wanted to give up the fight. I think it's possible. And the fact that we as Black people, and me as a Black woman is not restrained by the injustice that this country imposes on Black people makes me hopeful. So I'm not discouraged.

Holtz: Just gotta keep fightin', and keep pushin'--

Lee: Fighting.

Jenkins: Yes. Keep fighting--

Holtz: Yeah. Keep that foot on the gas. (LAUGH)

Lee: Before we go, I wanted to just take the time to say thank you all for sharing your summer memories and photos after last week's episode on Sag Harbor. (LAUGH) They were incredible and amazing. And I'm glad you took the time to spend. And if you missed the episode, check it out in our show feed.

And as always, don't hesitate to get in touch. Tweet me at Trymaine Lee, or write us at Into America@NBCUNI.com. that was IntoAmerica@NBC, and the letters UNI.com. Into America is produced by Isabel Angel, Allison Bailey, Byson Barnes (PH), Aaron Dalton, Max Jacobs and Aisha Turner.

Original music is by Hannis Brown. Our executive producer is Ellen Frankman. Special thanks this week to Stephanie Cargill (PH), Bryan Iacomb (PH), Charles Olmstead (PH), and Jeff Pope (PH) for the help in the field. I'm Trymaine Lee. Happy Juneteenth. We'll see you next Thursday.