Longtime District of Columbia activists can attest that the battle for expanded rights for the federal city can be a heartbreaking one, ticking off the times when prospects for victories evaporated just as they appeared within reach.
But Kimberly Perry, the incoming executive director of the prominent advocacy organization DC Vote, thinks the time is finally right for a win.
“Somebody said to me, ‘This issue hasn’t been solved in 227 years. What makes you think it will happen now?’” Perry recalled. “But I think it will. I think the momentum is strong. I think DC Vote and advocates across the city have done a really good job elevating the issue.
“Statehood and voting rights are in our near future,” she said, without equivocation.
Perry, set to take the organization’s reins on April 10, is a veteran fundraiser, campaign organizer and lobbyist, focusing much of her past advocacy efforts on the health and well-being of children.
She is the founder of D.C. Hunger Solutions, where she worked with District officials to help ensure that needy children were fed healthful meals at city schools. Most recently, she oversaw a domestic children’s health initiative at the William J. Clinton Foundation.
The DC Vote statement announcing her appointment noted her recognition on local, national and international platforms, and it said she’d bring her track record of success in harnessing the energy of individuals from diverse communities toward accomplishing a common goal to the cause of D.C. autonomy.
In a recent interview with CQ Roll Call, Perry agreed that her background has prepared her for her new role.
“I’ve spent my career mobilizing regular people — moms and dads and people who work with kids, whether they’re teachers or camp counselors, to find their voice,” she said.
She also said her history with the D.C. voting rights movement — as a longtime District resident and frequent DC Vote volunteer — makes the job a good fit as well.
And while she’s a Los Angeles native, she calls Washington her home.
“The substance is here. I feel like the excitement is here. I like the energy of the city. The culture, the language, the diversity and the issues. It is the center of idealism at its best and worst. And so that’s exciting, and it keeps the energy high,” Perry said. “I feel constantly intellectually challenged about what’s happening in our country and our world. I feel like a global citizen here. I don’t always feel that in other places.”
Perry is assuming the organization’s helm at a time when the winds seem to be blowing in a positive direction for the city she loves.
In January, President Barack Obama outfitted his fleet of vehicles with “Taxation Without Representation” license plates, and the administration has since that time issued a pair of statements reiterating the White House’s support for District voting rights and statehood.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.