“We are not the sum of our worst moment” — Katy Parson
In the wee hours of the morning yesterday, the world lost one of its many heroes, Marion Barry, Jr. Barry came to national prominence as mayor of the nation’s capital. The first prominent civil rights activist to become chief executive of a major American city, Barry was a savvy politician. After moving from Mississippi to Washington, DC in 1965 to manage it’s local Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee office, he became heavily involved in coordinating peaceful street demonstrations as well as a boycott to protest bus fare increases. At the time, over half of the population of Washington D.C. was black, and they had no political representation. Barry wanted to change that. He made an immediate impact in the community organizing a “mancott” of the bus system when the owner decided to raise prices from 20 to 25 cents and serving as the leader of the Free D.C. Movement.
One of his biggest accomplishments was increasing jobs for blacks. He spearheaded the Department of Labor-funded program, Pride, Inc., to provide job training to unemployed black men and assisted in the placement of African Americans in thousands of middle- and upper-level management positions in the city government that in previous generations had been reserved for whites.
Barry was also instrumental in the aftermath of the 1968 Washington, D.C. riots, organizing a program of free food distribution for poor black residents whose homes and neighborhoods had been destroyed during the riots.
In 1990, Barry was arrested on drug charges in a sting by the FBI and DC police. His conviction months later would become front page news around the world. He completed a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program and served six months in a federal prison. But he didn’t let the setback derail him. He used the experience to his political advantage in his improbable comeback bid for elected office. Barry was one of the most influential local politicians of his generation, dominating Washington, DC’s political landscape in the last quarter of the 20th century, also serving for 15 years on the DC Council, whose Ward 8 seat he held until his death.
Sadly, it’s become common practice for media outlets to attempt to diminish the legacy of our heroes by highlighting their mistakes. TMZ’s headline announcing the death of Barry was disrespectful, so much so that I won’t rehash it here. In the words of Katy Parson, “We are not the sum of our worst moment”. Marion Barry uplifted our city during some of it’s most challenging times. We showed our appreciation by crowning him “Mayor For Life”. His life was a summation of what mattered most to him, the enrichment to blacks and service to humanity.
We are in support of the petition to have TMZ remove the distasteful headline. If you are too, click here to sign the petition.