Aquila Ledbetter, 39, is a D.C. precinct captain and the daughter of Amos V. Ledbetter. She lives in Washington.
Sixty years ago your father wrote a song telling Washingtonians to vote.
Why that year?
Because 1956 was the first year they could vote for the president in the primary election.
You had no idea he’d written this song until you found the article [from a 1956 issue of The Washington Post]?
No. And he was passed away then. My dad was born in 1921, and he passed away 2001. He grew up in segregation. He always talked about the Jim Crow laws, how he was affected in D.C. I think it’s significant that not only was it the first primary election, but a black man, the marginalized one, is fighting for all. I think that’s deep.
And that struggle continues, getting a vote.
That’s one thing in ’56 that D.C. residents, regardless of your race, had in common.
And eight more years till they could vote in the general. How did you know the tune?
My brother remembers it. I read the words to him, and he knew the melody.
You’re going to have to sing it for me.
Oh my gosh! [Laughs.]
It’s beautiful that you found it so long after he was gone. That he sang it and now you’re singing it, but you never sang it together.
He had Alzheimer’s. There are a lot of things he probably would have shared. I knew my dad was a singer. I knew he wrote music.
You’re a precinct captain. You help people vote. How’d that start?
I looked at the picture [from the old Post article] and said, “Look at my dad!” It’s in my blood. He said if you don’t get out there and say nothing, nobody else will for you. That was very important. When you fall, get back up again.
When I played my horn as an elementary school student, I messed up, and I started crying. And he kept taking pictures of me until I started smiling.
Maybe you can sing me one of his songs.
You keep wanting — how am I going to sing here? What am I going to do with you?
It’s my job to make you do things you don’t want to do.
Come on, Washington! You can cast your vote, so register and prove good faith. Don’t be late. Come on, Washington! Victory must be, so register and prove good faith. Don’t be late. Now’s the time for bragging. Not the time for lagging. ...
What do you think voting accomplishes for D.C.?
The voices of the community. I try to bring empowerment to the community, members of Southeast. I feel like for decades and decades, no matter that we’re in the most powerful city in the world, we feel like nobody cares.
If statehood is on the ballot, that’s going be a huge deal.
A good time to have a song.
So you got to sing it more. Time for bragging.
Not the time for lagging.
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