Under The Radar - R.I.P Marion Barry


By Francis White 

It's been said that "a hero ain't nothin but a sandwich", a hero could also be based on the point of view of who's telling the story. Former Washington D.C. mayor Marion Barry also known as the "crack head mayor" died a couple days ago but he left a community organizing legacy that most people have absolutely no idea about and flies under our radar detectors. I'm not excusing or condoning the wrong things he did, but I think his life, story, and positive activities are worth taking a look at. My favorite Facebook blogger (who else but Lonnie Barlow) gives a decent mini summary on the former charismatic, and controversial mayor of our nations capital.

"RIP Marion Barry. The former long time activist, organizer, and mayor of DC died recently. He was joked about as the "crack head" mayor but a friend of mine who lives in DC hipped me to the legacy of the great things the man did leading up to and while he was mayor. Before I go further check the HBO documentary "9 Lives of Marion Barry". It's really good and lays out some of what I'm talking about. So I'll give you my brief summary of DC's political, racial, and economic climate. I've also been there 5 times over the last 5 years. For those who don't know DC is in the state of Maryland and Maryland is basically considered a southern state. As I learned from my friend, DC didn't have a local city governing structure until something like the mid-late 1960's-70's. It was and still is the "district of Columbia" you can Google that. They technically didn't exist as a city/state like maybe ‪#‎BuffaloNy‬ or ‪#‎Cleveland‬ etc. This means for a long time they had no mayor or city council like we do. They had no local leadership structure so Congress or the House of Representatives, I'm not sure (Google it), made local governing decisions for the city. This included hiring of cops, firemen, sanitary workers, etc. Often this system never really worked out in the resident's best interests. They didn't have a seat at the table so whatever was flying in power at that time dictated how the people of DC were going to live. So for example if Congress was ran by racist senators like Strom Thurmond that year, DC could expect more racism from the police. Let me add that DC has been percentage wise a predominantly black city. It is home to not only our government which is basically all of it's downtown, but to many black millionaires, and entrepreneurs. I learned that Barry organized years before he became mayor on many different community issues and helped DC get a community benefits agreement written into law that said anything built in DC using public money had to use something like 70% of DC residents. I don't have all the details right now, but I'm told this is huge and really hasn't been duplicated exactly anywhere else. I've been told that this contributes to DC's sizable black middle class."