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Friday, February 25, 2011

Congresswoman Norton Unveils Post Office In Honor of Civil Rights Activist

This week Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Mayor Vincent Gray celebrated Black History Month with the renaming of D.C.’s Historic Post Office at 2 Massachusetts Ave NE in honor of the late Dr. Dorothy I. Height.

Norton, whose bill to rename the post office was signed by President Obama at an Oval Office ceremony in December, was also joined by former U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman, civil rights leaders, family members of Dr. Height, and a room full of residents from the city and region. Norton noted that the building is not only a post office but also the home of the Smithsonian National Postal Museum and said, “It is especially fitting that the name of an icon for social justice should adorn one of Washington’s most iconic buildings.”

Norton called Dr. Height a mentor of millions and noted her leadership on D.C. voting rights and equality for D.C. residents. “District residents, who are now in the midst of protesting undemocratic actions in Congress that trample on the District’s right to self-government, are acting in the Dorothy Height tradition of standing up against unjust action,” Norton said.

Congresswoman Norton on the effort to get H.R. 6118 passed:

"It takes too long to get most bills through the House and Senate, but H.R. 6118, “To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 2 Massachusetts Avenue, NE, in Washington, D.C., as the ‘Dorothy I. Height Post Office,’” passed both houses in record time. My colleagues in the House and Senate may argue about closing the government down or raising the debt limit, but both sides of the aisle knew better than to delay a bill to name a federal building in Washington, DC for Dr. Dorothy I. Height.

Dorothy lived to receive every high honor her country can give. However, today’s honor is different from her Congressional Gold Medal or her Presidential Medal of Freedom. Today’s commemoration is a visible honor for all to see, as Dr. Height becomes the first African American woman whose name graces a federal building in the nation’s capital. This extraordinary building is not simply any post office. This historic building is a part of the Smithsonian and also houses the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, the repository of the postal history of our country visited by millions of Americans every year. It is especially fitting that the name of an icon for social justice should adorn one of Washington’s most iconic buildings.

Dorothy Height was my friend and a mentor, but many in this room and millions of Americans also claim her as a mentor. They identified with the straight line she walked for human rights. She was a mentor to millions because she accommodated no division in the human family. For Dorothy, the word human rights meant what it said, not the rights for some but not for the newest group seeking rights. She made herself a bridge between the civil rights and the women’s rights movement, for example. As women became inspired by the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and began their movement, Dorothy Height led by example to allay the confusion among some African-Americans about the new movement. Black women, in particular, quickly understood that if they had two strikes against them, it made no sense to allow either to remain.

How fortunate our country is that Dr. Height lived the longest and most productive life as a leader to help our country throw off so much injustice for so many Americans. Dorothy was intent on putting every bit of her long life to good use. She insisted on a life of activism. Shortly before her death at 98, she entered Howard University Hospital under protest because of pending speaking engagements.

Yet, for all of her national and international acclaim, Dorothy Height, a national human rights leader, made herself local too, “I’m your constituent now, Eleanor,” she would tell me, leaving me with the only appropriate reply that I, of course, had always been her constituent in the movements she led. Dorothy took equal rights for the District of Columbia seriously and often spoke about the necessity for voting rights and for equal treatment for the people of the District. District residents, who are now in the midst of protesting undemocratic actions in Congress that trample on the District’s right to self-government, are acting in the Dorothy Height tradition of standing up against unjust action.

Dorothy’s devotion to the District’s cause and to the cause of equality everywhere gave our city a natural way to commemorate Black History Month this year. We who live in the District of Columbia were fortunate to live with the historic presence of Dorothy Height, as friendly as she was dignified. This month, the residents of this city are proud to join the nation in commemorating the naming one of our most historic places for one of America’s most historic women, Dr. Dorothy I. Height."

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Congresswoman Norton's next bill she plans to get passed hopes to help prevent a government shutdown.

“We have submitted a bill to both House and Senate leaders to allow the District to spend its local taxpayer-raised funds if the federal government shuts down on March 4. We are sure there is no congressional intention to close down the District’s local government because of congressional disagreement over the federal budget. In fact, most Members are completely unaware that the District would have to close if the federal government closes. We are also looking into other ways that the District might remain open in the event of a federal government shutdown. This is not the District’s fight, and there is nothing the District could do to resolve a disagreement over federal spending.”

Other

Norton to hold an IRS Tax Information Fair Offering Free Electronic Filing for Rapid Refund, and Other Services Saturday, February 26, 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Washington Convention Center. At the event Robin Westbrook, a local taxpayer advocate, will provide information on taxpayer advocate services and how residents can best resolve issues with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by working directly the IRS.

A resident and another IRS official will also speak. More than 120 tax professionals from the IRS and the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue will provide free tax preparation to District residents. This service is offered to D.C. residents who file basic tax returns. There will be 40 tax preparation stations available to expedite electronic filing.

“The number of D.C. residents who attend the tax fair each year continues to grow with more than 500 in attendance last year,” said Norton. “During this economic downturn residents continue to seek ways to save their money, including giving less money to the IRS and getting more money from the federal government itself. The tax fair is often a proverbial goldmine for residents, and it’s free.”

Tax fair participants will be advised if they qualify for the First-time Homebuyer Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, Child & Dependent Care Tax Credits, and Hope and Lifetime Learning Educational Credit. Financial services will also be offered to those seeking housing and mortgage counseling and credit counseling. Testing for HIV/AIDS will be available, as at all Norton events.

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