New Thrust to Decolonize U.S. Territories

Co-founders Adi Martinex-Roman and Neil Weare launched the territorial-rights group Right To Democracy Wednesday. (Screenshot of livefeed)

There’s no one way to upend American colonialism but it starts with making America aware of its colonialism problem, said advocates from Right to Democracy at a launch event Wednesday.

All 3.6 million people in the five U.S. territories have their unique experiences with colonization and the new non-partisan, non-profit pledged to make diversity its strength, said Adi Martinex-Roman, co-founder of the Washington, D.C.-based group.

“Definitely building common ground, we want to be able to work collectively with people in the different territories,” Martinex-Roman said. “There should be no colonies in the United States.”

The group’s agenda includes undoing the so-called Insular Cases, a series of court rulings used for territorial relations — that are broadly seen as rooted in overt racism. This is the set of rules that bars voting in federal elections and puts the citizenship of people born in the territories in the hands of Congress, not the Constitution, amongst other legal and cultural otherings.

Right To Democracy co-founder Neil Weare is also president and founder of the Washington, D.C.-based citizenship advocacy non-profit Equally American, which has represented American Samoan John Fitisemanu in his struggle for full citizenship, among other cases.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Fitisemanu’s case in October 2022 and again a month later.

“It became clear,” Weare said, “one of the central problems is that the United States does not even recognize that it has colonies or colonial problems to begin with. And how can you solve a problem if you don’t even recognize it exists in the first place?”

Former V.I. Delegate to Congress Donna Christian-Christensen is on the group’s advisory board. Nesha Christian-Hendrickson, the Virgin Islands Labor Department’s assistant commissioner and legal counsel, sits on Right To Democracy’s board of directors.

“The right to democracy means to me, the right to be able to vote, the right to be able to choose, the right to be treated similarly to all Americans,” Christian-Hendrickson said at the virtual launch event.

Board members Charlie Ala’ilima of American Samoa and Vanessa Williams of Guam, both attorneys, spoke as well.

Right to Democracy would engage all three branches of federal government, pledging to not “play politics” while making decolonization a mainstream issue that demands action, Martinex-Roman said