In D.C., Flag Day gets more political

Friday is Flag Day, one of the more nominal holidays on the calendar. But that hasn’t stopped a new generation of Washingtonians from turning June 14 into a chance to celebrate the battle for D.C. statehood. For many, Flag Day has become a de facto political protest day, if only symbolically.


(Lavanya Ramanathan/The Washington Post)

For instance, for the last three years a group called Let Us Vote D.C. has held events at Dupont Circle, in which people gather and show off their  D.C. flags, tattoos (above) and T-shirts with the design based on George Washington’s family crest. In the past, some have brought bed sheet-sized signs fit for a D.C. United game, replete with the red and white logo that has come to symbolize this city.

That’s not to mention the cottage industry of businesses now using the flag as a primary logo, a phenomenon I happen to love. Indeed, everyone from beer companies (3 Stars, D.C. Brau) to Roller Derby supply shops (Department of Skate) use it as at least a part of their emblem.

This year, D.C. native Joshua Burch, a local government worker, has launched his own cause for statehood awareness, set for Flag Day. Except this one isn’t in the flesh, it’s an Internet-only movement. The group, Neighbors United for DC Statehood came about after last year’s Brookland Community Picnic, where the civic association made the flag a central part of the event. Kids made flags and took pictures with an oversized flag that had the three stars cut out for people to fit their heads in and take pictures.

And though the ceremonial celebrations don’t necessarily mean much for the overall cause, Burch thinks they can be significant nonetheless. “Given the 200 and some odd years of history we’ve had in the District, I think when you say statehood a lot of people — even some people who have been in the struggle a long time — sort of roll their eyes and go ‘oh man, that’s a pipe dream,’” Burch, 35, said.

“That’s one of the things, where people always say ‘we’re not doing it, it’s never going to happen,’ well, if we’re not doing anything, of course it’s not going to happen,” he added. “I think the symbolic stuff like what we’re doing on Flag Day is important to raise awareness, but we also have to do the very quiet and methodical work that it’s going to take to educate a generation of Hill staffers that have never discussed statehood. The last time a statehood bill was seriously considered was 1993. Most of the folks we’ve met with, they were five- or six-years-old [then.]”

His group’s Web site features people taking photos with their D.C. flags on their front porches. The plan is for those people to change their Facebook and Twitter profile pics as well, to get some buzz. “It doesn’t matter whether you were born and raised here, or you moved here last week, as soon as you fill out your voter registration card, we are all treated equally. And that’s unequally, and it’s the one cause that should bring us all together,” Burch said.


(Clinton Yates/The Washington Post)

For all these noble efforts, the best flag twist I’ve seen so far comes from Lino Stracuzzi (in the above photo). I met him at the Emancipation Day parade in April, where he was sitting on Pennsylvania Avenue holding his prize possession. “This flag is actually a little bit different than other flags. If you look at it, the 51st star is 1/3rd bigger, to symbolize the District of Columbia. It’s to celebrate our fight to become our 51st state,” Stracuzzi, a Ward 8 resident said. “[I] asked the Mayor to use his executive power to make this our new District of Columbia flag. By doing so this flag will hang in all the city buildings around the city, plus [the] Nationals’ stadium, on top of RFK [Stadium], Verizon Center where the Caps and the Wizards are. This way we’ll get more of a talking point out of it.”

Flag Day might not do much to move people in the halls of Congress, but it is a fun way to remember who we are, celebrate civic pride and remind everyone that, yes, we are effectively living as a colony of the United States.

Clinton Yates is a D.C. native and an online columnist. When he's not covering the city, pop culture or listening to music, he watches sports. A lot of them.
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Tom Jackman · June 14, 2013