A Washington, D.C. political activist who identifies with the Black Autonomy Movement hopes to end the gentrification of Black neighborhoods in the D.C. area with a new ballot initiative called The African American Autonomy Act.
Addison Sarter, a former at-large Washington, D.C. City Council candidate, is expected to propose the new ballot initiative within the next three months.
Committed to fixing the affordable housing crisis, Sarter said he is “advocating for reparations for the past 400 years of slavery, terrorism, and apartheid that Black Americans have faced and still face today.”
The African American Autonomy Act of 2021 calls for the preservation of predominantly African American regions of Washington, D.C. as “historically African-American autonomous regions.”
“I would like for this initiative to end the gentrification of Black neighborhoods in D.C.,” Sarter said in a statement to Fox News.
Here are three things to know about the Black Autonomy Act in DC.
1. The Neighborhoods
According to the proposed initiative, the D.C. areas targeted for autonomy include East of the Anacostia River; the Langdon Park/Brentwood area in Northeast DC; and Colonial Village and Shepherd Park in Northwest DC. Langdon Park and Brentwood. All would be combined into one autonomous region as would Colonial Village and Shepherd Park.
“These African American autonomous regions would be turned into their own cities,” according to the proposed initiative, which Sarter laid out in a blog on Medium.
The Langdon Park/Brentwood area is “75 percent African American and has a population of 10,000 people,” Sarter wrote.
East of the Anacostia River is “90 percent African American and has been systematically isolated/segregated from the rest of DC due to the 295 highway,” Sarter added. “East of the Anacostia River has a population of over 140,000 people.”
Other predominantly African American neighborhoods would be eligible to be designated African American autonomous regions as well.
They would have their own mayors and city councilmembers, operating separately and free from control by the present D.C. government.
R.J@RonJack1500 tweeted, “Would love for this to really happen nationwide.”
2. Does international law back the act?
Sarter says he has international law on his side. He wrote, “International law/ the United Nations, states that African Americans have the right to establish autonomous regions. (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, Article 4, pg. 8. and Article 5, pg. 9).”
In general, autonomous regions within a country are regions that have a degree of independence, have control over their affairs, and have the freedom to make decisions independent of external oversight.
“African Americans have the right to have autonomous regions because we are indigenous people,” he wrote. He cited the United Nations definition of indigenous people as: “the descendants of those who inhabited a country or a geographical region at the time when people of different cultures or ethnic origins arrived. The new arrivals later became dominant through conquest, occupation, settlement or other means.”
Indigenous people from Africa, Sarter wrote, “were exiled to America during the Atlantic Slave Trade. Therefore these indigenous people known as African Americans have the right to autonomy in America.”
Some on Twitter likened autonomous African American regions to segregation.
“Ah, segregation. I seem to remember our country fighting against that a few decades ago,” Daigotsu Elenti @ScarletElenti tweeted.
“Reverse segregation,” tweeted Cheval John, Social Media Professional @chevd80.
3. Legal hurdle?
Martin Austermuhle, a reporter and editor at D.C. NPR station WAMU885, tweeted that he had doubts the African American Autonomy Act will make it onto a ballot.
“Now, beyond the usual challenges of collecting tens of thousands of signatures for any ballot initiative, this one could potentially violate portions of the Home Rule Act — which means it couldn’t get on the ballot to begin with.”
Under the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, which was passed on Dec. 24, 1973, certain congressional powers of the District of Columbia were transferred to the local government.
The Black autonomy initiative brought out nay-sayers and detractors, but there was also plenty of excitement and support for it.
“This has about as much of a chance happening as me being crowned the queen of England,” POTUS PhD Sárkány Magyar tweeted @Sarkany_Magyar.
“What would be the plan for mixed race families? like my brother, his wife and children that are in Anacostia?” Trinket tweeted @cmdbruce.
“I am 100% for this,” Stuck in the Middle tweeted @StucknDaMid. “I love our country but it needs to be broken for us to appreciate it again.”
“I support it! Would like some of that where I live!” Randall Warren; Myrrh & Frankincense tweeted @Randall60306211.
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