Black Enterprise magazine has named Washington, D.C., the second-best city in the nation for African Americans to live in. In its July edition, the magazine credited Mayor Anthony A. Williams for creating "a renaissance of sorts" in the nation's capital.
The magazine's annual listing of the "10 Best Cities for African Americans" said that despite a high cost of living, the District ranks particularly high in business opportunities for black residents and the potential for ambitious people to make money.
The listing was based on the responses of 4,000 people who participated in an interactive survey on the Internet, according to the magazine. They were asked to nominate cities and rank them based on 21 "quality-of-life" factors.
The magazine then looked at each city's unemployment rate among blacks, the number of black-owned businesses, the rate of homeownership, average new home prices and the graduation rates of high school and college students.
Overall, Atlanta ranked as the best place for African Americans. The District was followed by Dallas; Nashville; Houston; Charlotte; Birmingham; Memphis; Columbus, Ohio; and Baltimore.
The District also ranked second in the magazine's 2001 listing. At that time, Houston ranked first and Atlanta came in third.
The magazine cites Washington as having the most-educated and highest-paid black population, as well as the highest cost of living among the 10 cities. At 7.6 percent, the District has the second-lowest unemployment rate.
"We are excited about the ranking," Williams said in a statement released by his office. "The District of Columbia has always been a place where African Americans have prospered. Opportunities in government service and national and international nonprofit organizations continue to attract African Americans to our city."
Williams added that his administration is taking several steps to expand entertainment, retail, hospitality and high-tech job opportunities in the D.C. region.
"It is our overall vision to make the District a better place to live for all of us," he said.
Demanding a Voice
At the Democratic National Convention in Boston last week, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton used the podium to remind Democrats and the nation that District residents still don't have a real voice in the national democracy.
"There are 39 Americans at this great convention who appear no different from other delegates. But they are different," Norton said in a speech on the convention's final night.
"Fellow Americans, you will lose your voting representation in Congress and many of your citizenship rights if you decide to live in the capital of the free world," Norton continued. "In the America of your nation's capital, we cannot spend our own local funds until Congress says so, and our local laws can be nullified against our democratic will."
Norton said that while the District doesn't have voting rights in Congress, residents are still expected to pay federal taxes, defend the country and "die in the nation's wars."
That point was emphasized at Boston Harbor, where members of the D.C. delegation tossed teabags into the water in a modern re-creation of the original no-taxation-without-representation Boston Tea Party.
In addition to her role as the District's advocate for voting representation in Congress, Norton served in Boston as a sort of living piece of history. She and other members of the D.C. delegation were present in 1964 in Atlantic City when Fannie Lou Hamer and members of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party tried to integrate the Mississippi delegation.
Last week in Boston, Northeastern University highlighted Hamer's group at a forum and luncheon convened to honor civil rights legends.
"We have come a long way," said Amanda Hatcher Lyon, the alternate national committeewoman and former head of the D.C. Democratic State Committee, who was a protester in Atlantic City with Hamer.
The 2004 convention, by contrast, was marked by cordiality.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe came to the District's tea party, where he danced with Norton to the sounds of EU. Beforehand, he said the Democratic Party had responded to each of the District's demands for recognition of its second-class status.
"I promised Eleanor that she could speak during this convention and that she could show the video [about the District's status]. Everything that they have asked I have honored," McAuliffe said.
Despite a rocky start, Norton, too, seemed satisfied.
"We can count on the party of Martin Luther King Jr. and Fannie Lou Hamer to be the party of equal rights and voting rights," she said. "We can count on John Kerry and John Edwards to lead the fight for equal voting representation in our Congress for the people of the District of Columbia."
Still, some D.C. delegates were privately upset that Norton is pushing for representation in Congress rather than D.C. statehood. She addressed their concerns in her speech: "One day, the nation's capital will have equal rights to democratic self-government as the 51st state. Until then, right now, no American should be paying taxes without representation."