Marion Barry: Rest In Peace

I was saddened to hear about the passing of Marion Barry this weekend.  Marion was the Mayor of the District of Columbia while I was a student at Howard University.  He was an ardent supporter of Civil Rights for African Americans whose personal struggles were also a part of his legend.  He affectionately earned the term Mayor for Life.  He was currently serving as a City Councilman when he died of natural causes.  He had just checked out of Howard University Hospital before he passed.

Marion Barry had his share of personal troubles to go along with his public accomplishments.  He was famously caught on camera inhaling from a crack pipe after meeting a woman in a hotel room.  He has been interviewed about his supposed drug use but would never submit to a urinalysis.  He was at the helm as DC suffered through a crack and love boat epidemic.  He always engendered a sense of civic pride in his supporters.  Currently, DC is undergoing a major building boom.  Also, the term Chocolate City seems to be a misnomer as the population has changed drastically.

I respect any leader who cut his or her teeth during the 1960's.  Some of the liberties that I take for granted were paid for with the blood of many fearless civil rights activists.  Marion Barry was the first Chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.  He was also an advocate for home rule for the District of Columbia.  I did not know that he was shot during an uprising of Hanafi Muslims in DC.  His breadth of participation in DC politics should be the basis for an undergraduate course on community organizing.  

He was an excellent orator.  I might put him a step below Jesse Jackson but on par with Walter Fauntroy.
Reminiscing about Marion Barry makes me also think of the Junk Yard Band.  These young guys could mesmerize a crowd in DC with buckets and pans.  Marion Barry represented the mighty and the street corner musicians.  As he has transitioned at 78 years of age, I wish his Family comfort in knowing that he was a leader who overcame personal struggles to leave an indelible imprint in American history.

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