Being a fellow Howard University Bison, fellow educator, and both initiated in our respective sororities during the Spring Semester of 1990 (#WeAreSpring90), it was with much excitement when I saw that Rev Wendy Hamilton was a candidate for the U. S. House of Representatives. She officially launched her Congressional Campaign 2022, Saturday, January 30, 2021 at Lincoln Park in Washington, D.C.
I had an opportunity to speak with her and learn more about her love of Washington D.C. and the motivation to run for Congress.
SHP: You have recently announced that you are running for Congress in 2022. What is the inspiration and motivation behind your desire to run?
WH: Yes, I did publicly decide to run for Congress back in December 2020, for the position of DC delegate to the United States House of Representatives for 2022! The inspiration for my decision really came over the course of last summer as I watched our civil rights leaders begin to pass away including the Honorable John Lewis, the historic CT Vivian and others. I started feeling like our leaders who had forged so much progress particularly in the area of civil rights and human rights and voting rights were making their transition and there was a need to make sure that their work continued. Particularly at a time when we had an administration in the White House that seemed hostile to those rights and hell bent on reversing them. So much of the progress we have made as a country was being threatened, questioned, canceled and rolled back so quickly.
I felt a deep desire to want to participate in protecting that from happening. Social justice is a passion of mine and as an ordained minister the call to participate in public service for me is an extension of ministry. Looking out for the poor, the oppressed, calling out injustice and inequality, taking care of the least of these, aligned spiritually with my desire to run for office. It just made sense.
SHP: You earned a Bachelors and Masters’ degree from Howard University. Graduates and alumni of Howard University, globally, have expressed great pride with the historic election of Vice President , Kamala Harris, also a graduate of Howard. Do you feel with the recent media attention on Stacey Abrahams, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, and Senator Raphael Warnock, all who are graduates of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), changed how HBCUs are now being perceived?
WH: HU, you know! Yes, I am a proud graduate of Howard University here in Washington DC and it was so nice I graduated twice, that’s what I like to say! But I am blessed beyond measure to have come to Howard University and I absolutely believe that the recent highlighted successes of HBCU graduates like VP Harris, Stacey Abrams, Mayor Bottoms and Senator Warnock do reinforce for the public what we graduates of HBCUs have always known, that we are on par with any world class university education one would compare us to. And that’s not an exaggeration. It has been proven time and time again, and it requires very little research to discover the amount of creativity, innovation, mettle and excellence that pour forth from our nations historically black colleges and universities. Of course when more prominent HBCU grads are featured and elevated in the public, it generates more publicity about our rich educational resources and also spurs donations. Most recently billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, donated over $4 billion of her personal money to HBCUs all over the country. This is the type of reward that HBCUs have earned and deserve.
SHP: You are originally from southern Ohio, but have made Washington DC home. What do you attribute to you staying after completing your education at Howard University?
WH: Yes I was born and raised in southern Ohio, in a small town called Portsmouth along the Ohio River about 90 miles south of Columbus.
Small town but good place to experience childhood while growing up. When I applied to Howard it was based on the recommendation of a guidance counselor during my junior year in high school, who had looked at my list of preferred colleges and didn’t see any HBCUs on it.
And that was only because HBCUs were not really talked about unfortunately in midwestern Ohio as options. The little that I did know had come from Ebony magazine stories that I’d read. There used to be an issue every year the featured the homecoming queens of all the Black colleges and I are used to marvel at those photos every time it came out
I couldn’t believe that there were this many black women being crowned queens. It just was a beautiful sight to see growing up so I ended up applying to Howard and a few other HBCUs but ultimately when I got the acceptance back from Howard it was my mother who said that’s the one go there because it’s closest to Ohio. The others I had applied for like Spelman in Atlanta and I think Grambling in Louisiana and Florida A&M, my mother said no to because she felt they were too far away. She said, I don’t fly and I can’t drive that far so Howard it was. I accepted the offer and arrived in the fall of 1986 as a 17-year-old freshman sight unseen. We had not come to Washington prior to my enrolling, we had not done a campus visit, so the only images I had of Howard again were from magazines or pictures.
You might imagine then, there was a bit of culture shock when we pulled up on Georgia Avenue and turned into the campus of Howard University. I myself was completely wide-eyed and excited, my brother was with me, I have a brother that’s a couple of years younger than me, and he and I were just so excited to see D.C and Howard. My mom, on the other hand was not too sure. She was a nervous wreck. In all honesty we had not seen this many people and certainly not this many people of color in one setting in our lives. It was beautiful and it was overwhelming and exciting. My father was fine, he calmed my mom down enough for her to be willing to let me stay at Howard.
That first year became one of the most transformative of my life, I felt like I was catching up on so much about myself as a woman, as a black woman. I tried to immerse myself in whatever I could to play cultural catch-up and through that I knew that I wanted to remain at Howard and stay in the area of Washington DC after graduation. I didn’t even go home my first summer after freshman year. I found myself a job at the National Zoo and told my mom I’m not coming home. I found myself a room to rent bought my first car and became a de facto resident of D.C .
That’s why I call Washington DC my adult home because this is where I developed. Though I was born in Ohio and raised there until I was 17, my adult life and much of who I have become as a woman to this day has been shaped by my life here in Washington DC.
SHP: One of your key issues identified is DC Statehood. Former Presidents, Bill Clinton (1993) and Barack Obama (2014) endorsed statehood for the District of Columbia during their presidency. A group of Senate Democrats led by Senator Tom Carper have reintroduced legislation to give Washington, D.C. statehood. The bill was first introduced in 2013. In order for Washington D.C. to become a state, Democrats will need a minimum of 10 Republicans to support this effort.
Please share why you feel it is important that the District of Columbia becomes our nation's 51st state.
WH: There are a whole host of reasons why I believe DC Statehood is essential, critical and important to not only we DC residents but the entire country. On a personal level, I feel It’s disrespectful and borderline discriminatory to suggest that over 700,000 people in a city are not capable of making our own decisions in our best interests and governing ourselves accordingly by denying representation in Congress. We need Statehood! The enfranchisement of DC voters reinforces the ideals that we have set forward in our Constitution about equal representation in our Nation and justice for all. Granting DC Statehood helps us remain true to who we say that we are and honors our founding principles. In that regard, it’s important to everyone.
On a more local level, it’s also not safe or wise, from a national security perspective to prevent DC statehood. That fact was demonstrated very publicly during the events of January 6th, when an insurrection at the Capitol found DC residents being exposed to potential dangers and unable to request the reinforcement from the National Guard without getting permission from the Federal government. In fact, Mayor Bowser had requested National Guard coverage in the days leading up to January 6th and was denied. Then, on that actual day, it took quite a bit of time to get to the right person to approve the request. Ultimately, I believe the Secretary of the Army wound up approving the National Guard , but by that time the capital was completely under siege.
So from that perspective, DC not being its own state became an issue in the public consciousness in a way that it had not in many years. Mayor Bowser called upon President Joe Biden to include DC Statehood on his first 100 days agenda. And we are closer to Statehood than we’ve ever been of course with the bill that passed in the House historically in June. But as you point out, the Senate is a different story. And yes in a perfect constitutional process the bill for Statehood in the Senate would require 10 Republican senators to sign on.
There are however other approaches that are being considered at this time including, the possibility of abolishing the filibuster so that statehood can be voted upon by simple majority, or through a carveout process that would maintain the filibuster while simply voting on DC Statehood as a singular issue, ect..so there are conversations happening around making DC Statehood a reality and I believe that we can do it because now more than ever, it’s the right thing to do.
SHP: What would you like voters to know about you?
WH: I think the thing that I want voters most to know most about me is that I love this city. I love Washington DC. It truly is my adult home and I love everything about it . I love the culture, I love the people, the music, the families, the culture and the diversity of experiences you can have. I went to Howard, but I also worked at the Safeway over on Columbia Road. I worked at a shoe store on Georgia Ave and as a Chaplain at Georgetown Hospital. I’ve worked work with families from all over the city through DC Public Schools and so I have served children from all 8 wards.
I’ve got friends, connections and family ties here, sororities, I’ve joined, organizations I’m a part of and I was ordained here. It’s all of these collective experiences combined that make me feel that I could articulate the voice of DC residents in an authentic way and from a place of genuine connection the city. My primary message to voters is yes DC Statehood but also DC Statehood and beyond.