Strength From My Grandmother

sweet-kissesI’m on my way to Chicago today on behalf of the DC League of Women Voters to start building national support for D.C. statehood by meeting with LWV-Illinois board members. I thought I’d be going there under very different circumstances. I thought I’d be meeting with women celebrating the election of a daughter of Illinois as president who happened to also support D.C. statehood.

I am torn. In my head this is the right thing to do, we need to spend time building a national network of supporters to make this a reality. My heart aches however and I am gutted. My faith in America & Americans is shaky. We just elected a bigoted misogynist who very well could be a threat to civil rights and civil liberties to all Americans. How can I stay positive? How?

Last night I realized that I need to draw on my past and our nation’s collective past to get through this trip. In the 1950s my grandmother moved the Lexington, Virginia from New York City. At the time Virginia had a poll tax and was an entrenched Jim Crow state. State repression of black Americans wasn’t just talked about it was the law of the land.

My grandmother joined the League of Women Voters and worked to help end the poll tax in Virginia. She believed the right to vote was sacred and an attack on it anywhere was a threat to all of us everywhere.

I never got to talk with her in details about D.C. statehood but I have a feeling were she still alive today she’d be gutted too by this election but proud of what I’m doing. I became involved as a statehood activist so that my children would have equal democratic rights but I realize today that I’m also doing for people like my grandmother, Mary Capito, who worked against a violent oppressive system so that her friends and neighbors had equal rights and a guaranteed right to vote.

I can do this. If they could stand up to and organize against an oppressive state enforced injustice so can we, so can I.

My heart was not in this journey until I thought about what my grandmother and others worked for. They succeeded and so will we.

Josh Burch


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