Forward by Southwester Staff

Not only was April the first full month of spring (or autumn depending on your hemisphere), it’s also National Poetry Month. This year in the District, in honor of DC statehood getting national attention and passing the House for the first time in history, Ward 6 Democrats sponsored their inaugural “Words Matter” poetry contest. 

Poets were asked to reflect on the question “What does DC statehood mean to you?” Originally, only two poets came forward but then there were two more to make four. From haiku to eclectic freeverse to focused freeverse to historical prose in verse, four artists added their voices to DC Statehood. 

“In the spirit of recognizing that all words do matter…it makes sense to me if we had four first-place prizes,” said Katie Irish of Ward 6 Democrats. Each of the poets received a $25 prize. 

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Three DC Haiku

Remark: Dakotas
two Senators, one Rep each.
Query: Why not us?

Feds like our taxes.
Representation lacking.
Let our people go!

Statehood will release
DC’s soul. Nation needs our
durable spirit.

By Jill Strachan & Jane Hoffman

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One More Would Be 51

Statehood, oh statehood, what could it mean?
A fish from an ocean or an apple from a tree?
Although statehood cannot be those two things, 
Statehood is 50 things, and 50 things equal 50 states.

DC can be as loving as Virginia and as tasty as Maryland’s crab cakes.
DC, DC. What is not to like?
Cherry blossoms, mumbo sauce this is where they make the laws.

Washington, DC is the best thing a state could possibly be. 
Come and see because it’s important to me.

By: Drew Avery Muie 

Age: 9
School: Payne Elementary School
Grade: 3rd Grade

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The State of My Statehood

Like unfinished wood, the District of Columbia can survive indoors or outside of
the House.
We prefer to be on the inside, to be included.
We prefer to vote and have it count.
It isn’t a question of politics.
It is answering the question of politics with basic fairness,
Solving issues that taught us civics.
Statehood means being seen in America, being heard in America and,
Growing with Americans.
Simply put, it is Freedom, Equity, Honor, and Respect.
Acquiring these truths is and has been a self-evident uphill battle and often,
an unlikely climb up the ladder through the rings of Congress.
Nevertheless, those like me in the ‘hoods named after Barracks for Marines, Yards
needed for the Navy, Hills with no Caps, Triangles with many corners and all
things George;
We’ve remained Diligent, Empowered, Long-Suffering Tax-Paying Citizens.
It is because we have hope.
It is because we are diligently waiting for the door to open.
I am patiently waiting for the state of my hood to one day be 51 shades of
statehood good.
And we will continue to make down payments on policies, elections and decisions
without representation until we have proper documents which will transcend
evolution.
Statehood for me is like a big blockbuster movie set to premiere on Independence
Day, the whole world can stream it, watching it from handheld flat screens.

It is our next Emancipation Day, our newest April 16th, 1862.
It is the result of merging just action with the right vision to leave behind a country
better than the one we were given.

By Tori Collins

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WHAT DC STATEHOOD MEANS TO ME long living in ward six, 

where my eyes long
to look up and see that 51st star fly on flags saluted by our city’s soldiers who are – even in battle – from full representation barred, even as with pride and love of this country risked their lives. Maimed. Taken prisoner. Died.

where my ears long 
to celebrate statehood one sultry summer night from the Barracks stands. Marine band playing Sousa marches chosen mere blocks away from where composed. Now I hear Duke Ellington’s voice in mood indigo blue tell Congress what it must do: “Our democracy don’t mean a thing if statehood don’t swing, Doo-ah. Doo-ah. Doo-ah.”  

where my nose longs
to smell burning sage signal a symbol of statehood turning a page for Chief Powhatan whose spirit’s known to still trace space in Botanic Garden, sacred from past time there spent, mere speck of his territory once vast. Pained uncontained from portraits installed on Rotunda’s walls nearby; Native peoples cast as passive, daughter Pocahontas depicted stripped of her name. Shameful images intended to perpetuate policies of removal indefensible. Rightly resisted as reprehensible. Rebutted by starkly opposite actions and transactions of Natives, thousands then living right here. Statehood approval under that same roof belated pointedly indirect proof; or at least a start with art’s symbolic removal.

where my mouth longs
to erase sour stinging taste of Constitution embraced to justify opposition. Masks tight-fisted control over our city many claim their rightful role, unrepentant of a largely colonialism racist remnant. Shirley Chisholm wisely warns: surely statehood’s no swift solution. Segregation stains remain in our city’s prolonged economic inequity. Affordable housing’s geographic misallocation, uneven education, basic needs of Wards 7 and 8 unheeded. Educator, first African-American woman in Congress, first woman and first African-American presidential candidate, perfect inspiration to articulate our Resolution: “That 51st be the state first to make those ideals real for its citizens – each and every one.”

where my feet long
to celebrate statehood touching Cedar Hills grounds, stunning view down the Anacostia from once home of Frederick Douglass. Might we adopt his words powerful and insightful for our statehood fight? “No American now has a skin too dark to call Washington his home, and no American has a skin so White as to deny us our rights.”

Sense. 
Long has DC statehood made sense. 
Long the wait. Long. Long. Long. Long. Long.

We’ve waited long enough.

By Kathleen O’Reilly

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