sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

November 23, 2014

mayor no more
posted by soe 4:10 am

Marion Barry has died.

The feisty, unapologetic, larger-than-life Barry may have been dubbed “Mayor for Life” facetiously by D.C.’s City Paper, but he made the designation his own and wore it like a mantle. Never was he without an opinion about the city or about how something affected it.

His entire career was devoted to helping people, first at SNCC (where he served as its first chairman), then through the non-profit he co-founded, and finally through the city political machine, where he served on the Board of Education, in the Council (where he was shot in the line of duty), and as mayor. And he did many good things for people and for the District over the years.

However, it cannot be said that Barry lacked pride in what he accomplished or in himself. As with many people (particularly men) in power, he seemed to feel himself above the law — and a victim to it when it took him down. Certainly it can be argued that his own addictions made him slower to react as drugs became a growing problem in the urban landscape.

His misdeeds and personal failings will paint how the nation remembers him. And it isn’t wrong for those things to be counted in a final tally.

Yet, I understand how he continued to be elected to the council to represent Ward 8, something that outraged and confused many of my peers as we moved in from elsewhere with our own desires to see and help D.C. move forward with its urban renewal. In an area of the city where poverty, unemployment, illness, and past mistakes haunt a large percentage of its residents, I can see how they would have seen Barry as continuing to represent and champion their views. When they — or their kids — needed jobs, or a turkey to put on their tables at Thanksgiving, Barry came through for them, or at least seemed to make an effort at a time when the case could be made that their needs were considered far below people in wealthier sections of town.

Say what you will about him (and people will say plenty in the coming days), I really believe Barry cared about his constituents — and they about him.

May he rest in peace.

I should not be allowed to write just before bed because I misspelled Marion Barry’s name as Marion Berry when I first published this and awoke realizing the mistake I’d made. My apologies for the error.

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