Category: dc voting rights

We are all change agents

Last night, Tamara participated in a protest for D.C. voting rights as a private District citizen. Below, she writes about how her experience gave her a new perspective on her job.

By Tamara Copeland, President (@WRAGprez)
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

Yesterday I was arrested for protesting the lack of voting rights for Americans like me who happen to live in the District of Columbia. A reporter asked me why I chose to do so at this time. After reflecting for a moment, I told him how affected I had been by watching the thousands of people in countries around the world being celebrated by US leaders as they protested for their rights. Yet here in the Nation’s Capital, 600,000 American citizens do not have the same rights as people in Idaho, Georgia, Virginia or Oregon.

This really isn’t a D.C. issue, it is an issue grounded in the number one American value: fairness. It simply is not fair that Americans living in the District of Columbia do not have representation in the United States Congress and that Congress controls the funds of the District. These are realities for only one group of American citizens: the residents of the District of Columbia.

So why am I sharing this personal experience with my colleagues in philanthropy? Beyond Dollars. For me, the Beyond Dollars message is really about power, the power that you as philanthropists have that goes beyond your investment of grants, but it’s really about the power that we all hold – individually and collectively – to be a part of the change that we want to see.

I posted the picture above on my Facebook page with the caption “LGW ’04 classmates protest lack of D.C. voting rights; 4 arrested.” The post was quickly picked up by friends and friends-of-friends. More people understand the situation in the District because of one small action that I took. Change is incremental and we can all play a part in changing something that is important to us.

Yesterday, I took a small step for the change that I think is important. I hope you will realize your power and take that step for the change that you want to see.

Demand the Vote! [News, 1.29]

D.C. voting rights no longer a bad joke (WaPo, 1/29)

Let Them Into the House (Slate, 1/28)

DC Vote’s Open Letter to President Obama, January 2009

…and finally, “DEMAND THE VOTE,” a song by Joe L. Da Vessel in collaboration with band Melodic, commissioned by DC Vote. Not bad! If you want to see Eleanor Holmes Norton throw her hands in the air, and wave them as if to indicate that she does not care, please to be clicking.

News [9/17] Take action for D.C. voting rights!

Marylanders and Virginians: E-mail or call your Senators and tell them to end taxation without representation in the District. Washingtonians–ask friends or family in the states to do the same. The U.S. Senate will vote tomorrow on whether the D.C. voting rights bill can advance. Without 60 votes, “the legislation will probably stall for months.” (WaPo, 9/17)

The Washington Area Women’s Foundation’s Marjorie Sims speaks out on WAMU (Women’s Foundation Blog, 9/6)

The Prince William United Way kicked off its 2007-08 campaign on Friday, setting a goal of raising $1 million. (PotomacNews, 9/16)

Bloomberg: Philanthropy Is His Next Job (AP, 9/16)

[D.C.] City, Buyers Reach Deal on Southeast Hospital (WaPo, 9/17)

Linking former prison inmates with doctors from neighborhood health centers – D.C. Councilmember David Catania: “With the support of groups such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the District, which is the first major city to adopt this approach, could serve as a national model for inmate health care.” (WaPo, 9/16)

The Jack Kent Cooke’s Foundation’s “Achievement Trap” report is still making waves, cited this morning in’s “Defining Achievement Downward.”

An update from DC Vote:

From: Ilir Zherka
Date: June 13, 2007
Subject: 9-1 Victory Today in Senate Committee!

I’ve just returned from Capitol Hill and wanted to share the good news: the DC Voting Rights Act passed out of committee on a 9 to 1 vote, with the support of all three of our Republican targets: Senators Collins, Coleman and Voinovich.

Counting Senators Hatch and Bennett from Utah, five Republicans have now committed to supporting the bill and several others are leaning towards support. This gives the DC Voting Rights Act great momentum and a fighting chance to overcome a filibuster.

This has been an amazing three months for supporters of DC voting rights.  The Voting Rights March in April was the largest public demonstration ever on a DC issue despite horrible weather.  DC Vote completed a public awareness campaign that aired ads, PSAs and interviews in 82 markets nationally.  And a strong coalition effort helped propel the DC Voting Rights Act through five committee hearings and three votes in the House and Senate.  We’re now just one floor vote in the Senate from taking our case to the White House.

Although some of the president’s advisors are recommending a veto, we believe the White House ultimately will not oppose a popular bipartisan bill to expand democracy.

Thanks to Washington Grantmakers for your support in helping us get to this remarkably hopeful moment.


Ilir Zherka
Executive Director
DC Vote

Wednesday, March 21 – In the News…

Taking ‘College Guide’ National (Inside Higher Ed, 3/21)
Inside Higher Ed has a story we noted briefly last week: The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation [WG member] will expand its innovative college access program after a successful pilot in Virginia.

[VA] Tax Policy Might Mean Smaller Teacher Raises (WaPo, 3/21)
Prince William County School Board Chairman says more funds are needed to remain competitive.

*** Washington Grantmakers members are invited to a
 Regional Budgets Briefing on March 27. ***

Freddie Mac Expands Hoops for the Homeless(R) (PRInside, 3/21)
Freddie Mac teams up with Wizards all-star Gilbert Arenas, Arenas’ Zero Two Hero Foundation, and Magic Johnson for June 9 event.

[VA] Arlington approves plan for affordable housing (WaPo, 3/21)

Bush advised to issue veto if bill passes (WaPo, 3/21)
The real story here may live in the article’s last line: “Some Republicans… fear the bill could benefit Democrats politically by providing a precedent [for] two Senate seats for the District.”

Air-quality plan drafted by Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments [WG member] (Gazette, 3/21)
Plan available online here.

Officials Ease Medicaid Rules for Babies (AP, 3/20)
And some good news for a Wednesday morning: Last year Medicaid officials began denying automatic eligibility for newborns delivered under emergency Medicaid. It now appears that this policy will be reversed.

A March for DC Voting Rights: April 16

On this D.C. Emancipation Day, DC Vote will spearhead a Voting Rights March to the Capitol, the movement’s largest demonstration to date. DC Vote has put out a call for District organizations to close their offices on April 16 so that employees may attend the march.

Last week, several Washington Grantmakers members hosted a briefing on voting rights advocacy. Through contributions from the Washington Grantmakers’ funding community, DC Vote has been able to mobilize and gain tremendous support. The organization has been featured in more than 1000 media pieces and is a hot topic on local and national political blogs.

According to DC Vote Executive Director Ilir Zherka, a vote for D.C. has never been closer to reality. Zherka outlined the need for continued support as the process carries forward. The White House has recently expressed its opposition to voting rights for the District, and even if the bill passes, the District will still lack Senate representation. Zherka stressed that DC Vote’s mission will not be complete until DC is fairly and fully represented in Congress.

Funders heard from two local nonprofit grantees of WG members, DC Action for Children and PreventionWorks!, about the ways in which having a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives would improve their capacities to affect change in the region. As DC Appleseed’s Walter Smith noted, if the District gains a House vote, it will be the “first step towards bringing true democracy to DC.”

Friday, March 16 – In the News…

GWU Awards Nine District Seniors Full Scholarships (WaPo, 3/16)
The awards celebrate student achievement in the face of terrible odds: “Most D.C. public school students don’t graduate from high school, and less than 10 percent graduate from college.” (Area philanthropists and stakeholders are working to double those numbers.)

Md. Moves to Tie Teens’ Truancy to Licenses (WaPo, 3/16)
No school attendance? No car keys. 

D.C. Vote Bill Sent to House Floor (WaPo, 3/16)
The bill may be gaining momentum, with two previously undecided Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee voting in favor. 

[DC] Schiraldi brings Shakespeare to Oak Hill (WaPo, 3/15)
If you missed it, read yesterday’s fantastic article on theater at Oak Hill, the District’s juvenile detention center. Washington Grantmakers’ members fund the Folger Shakespeare Library, which provided costumes and support for Oak Hill’s troop, and have supported several of Vincent Schiraldi’s other reforms, including a work training/GED program at the Earth Conservation Corps for kids leaving Oak Hill.

Thursday, March 15 – In the News…

CORRECTION: Yesterday’s article on rebranding referred to the Montgomery County Community Foundation in Indiana, and not to the Washington Grantmakers member in Maryland. My apologies for the confusion. -Nick

Managing executive transitions in nonprofits (Alexandria Connection, 3/15)
The columnist quotes Julie Rogers, President of the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation [WG member], and mentions Annie E. Casey Foundation [WG member] grantee Transition Guides. (According to a 2006 study from the Meyer Foundation and and CompassPoint Nonprofit Services, “three out of four nonprofit executive directors say they are likely to leave their jobs within the next five years.”)

“Legality of D.C. Seat in Congress Debated” (WaPo, 3/15)
As the bill heads towards the House Judiciary Committee, legislators continue to debate its constitutionality. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments [WG member] has voted to support the bill.

Wednesday, March 14 – In the News…

[DC] Committee Endorses Bill for D.C. Voting Rights (WaPo, 3/14)
…but opponents call it unconstitutional. In an editorial, the WaPo argues: Let the courts debate constitutionality. “[Constitutionality] should not be an excuse for Congress to continue to deny a basic right to more than half a million people.”

[MD] Montgomery County Community Foundation [WG member] rebrands (Paper24-7, 3/14) – [Wrong Montgomery County. Sorry about that. -ng]

Study: Charitable contributions enhance revenue growth for corporations (UT Dallas, 3/14)

Verizon Foundation [WG member] launches event to encourage women to discover engineering and technology (PRNewswire, 3/14)

World’s third-richest man mocks Gates, Buffett for “going around like Santa Claus.”  (AP, 3/13)

U.S. Congress holds hearing on arts funding (AP, 3/13)
“Part of the rationale for the federal cuts in the 1990s was that private funding could fill the void. But the share of philanthropy being directed to arts organizations also has declined since 1992…”

‘No Child’ Target Is Called Out of Reach (WaPo, 3/14)
Is a 100 percent success rate realistic? Congress has questions, but the U.S. Deputy Education Secretary says: “Stay the course.”

[VA] Loudoun joins Fairfax and Arlington in defying ‘No Child’ requirements for English learners (WaPo, 3/14)

Thursday, March 8 – In the News…

“Tiger Woods Is Building A Washington Foundation” (WaPo, 3/8)
twfound2.jpgThe Washington area Tiger Woods Learning Center will teach children about career options. The Post calls this “a long-term philanthropic commitment that will tie [Woods] to this area for years to come.” The Tiger Woods Foundation opened its first center in Anaheim last year. Funds from a new Washington area PGA Tour event, the AT&T National, will benefit the foundation.

Hoyer: House will vote on bill this month (WaPo, 3/8)
Responding to the Majority Leader’s announcement, Ilir Zherka of DC Vote says: “We’re thrilled . . . it’s great to see all the pieces fall into place.” The bill is expected to pass in the House, but Senate prospects are less certain.

Washington Grantmakers’
members are invited to a
Special Briefing on DC Voting Rights,
Weds., March 14.

EBay’s Founder Selects Philanthropy Director (NYTimes, 3/8)
Founder Pierre Omidyar explains how public policy can affect his network’s investments, and stresses the importance of engaging “all of the actors participating in a system.” Phil Buchanan of C.E.P.: “[Public policy is] a hot topic among foundation leaders and donors, and more and more people are embracing it as a tool for change.”