WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi hosted Ward 8 Council member and “Mayor for Life” Marion Barry on his show today, during The Politics Hour. Check out this video clip during which Marion Barry expresses his displeasure with Kojo and Kojo calls Barry a “symbol of racial divisiveness in this city”. Yowza.
Recently, Washingtonian magazine profiled Dr. Frank Kameny, a notable local leader for Gay rights. Over 50 years ago, Kameny, a veteran of World War II who holds a PhD from Harvard, was fired from his astronomy job because of his sexual orientation. According to Wikipedia, he filed “the first civil rights claim based on sexual orientation”. Two things about the extensive profile jumped out at me:
W: Has DC been the center of the gay-rights movement?
FK: I’ve said for many years that San Francisco was looked upon as the center, but DC is very much the success story of the gay movement.
Huh. I just read a post on SFist expressing surprise that D.C.’s Starbucks would offer gender neutral bathrooms before San Francisco’s did.
Earlier this month, I mentioned that Marion Barry’s popularity is something I’d like to explore on DCentric. Half the city loves him, the other half is perplexed and occasionally angry at such affection. If you’d like to learn more about the “Mayor for Life”, you’d do well to get a cup of coffee and set aside some time for a long, but fascinating read from last year’s Weekly Standard. Titled “A Rake’s Progress: Marion Barry bares (almost) all”, it was penned by Matt Labash. I met Labash at a book release party held in his honor; while there, I met Marion Barry. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that he stole the show.
Supporting him, in spite of his struggles–even because of them–is almost a symbolic sacrament. Plus, he does something few other politicians in the District, even the city’s later black mayors, do: He shows up.
That’s exactly my answer, when people ask me to explain the popularity of Barry; he shows up.
“To the victor go the spoils,” Barry tells LL. “We demand more than our fair share because we’ve been neglected for so long, it’s as simple as that.”
Sigh. That’s the sound Almost Mayor Vincent Gray just made when he read that line—because if Gray is going to be successful as leader of his “One City,” he’ll have to convince white residents (especially in neighborhoods west of Rock Creek Park that voted for Adrian Fenty last week) that he’s not a rampaging Visigoth who wants to take their new breadmakers and Subarus and give them away to families living east of the Anacostia River.
Why not an Ostrogoth? Did they not rampage? I kid. Continue reading
One of the larger questions I want to explore on DCentric is, “Why is Marion Barry still so popular?” I know district residents who can rattle off a list of reasons why; I know other residents who are utterly perplexed by the man’s enduring appeal. There are often striking differences between those two groups (here’s one: the former are usually from here or have lived here for quite a long time).
I think it’s an important issue to understand, because the answer to that question involves race, class– and a different way of understanding the district. Don’t believe me? Well, just yesterday some DCers declared that Ward 8 voters’ support for Barry is proof that they aren’t that intelligent. Look at these comments from DCist, under Aaron Morrissey’s “Courtland Milloy vs. The World“:
Marion Barry and his cronies allowed the District to collapse in on itself during his time in office, which saw a skyrocketing crime rate, inept leadership in practically every city agency, and absolutely abysmal public schools. And as a consequence for his putrid leadership, he continues to get elected to the DC Council by the thoughtful residents of Ward 8. [link]
WAMU 88.5′s The Kojo Nnamdi Show and The City Paper collaborated on a poll of registered voters, asking them about the obvious (Mayoral candidates) and the not-so-obvious (“Mayor For Life” Marion Barry).
While a lot of the Twitterati are focusing on Vince Gray’s 50-39 lead over Adrian Fenty, I’d like to highlight this, from the WCP:
One question looked at yet another polarizing figure in D.C. politics: former Mayor Marion Barry, now a Ward 8 councilmember.
- 20 percent said Barry “should be respected as ‘Mayor for Life’ and celebrated as a civil rights hero.”
- 36 percent said Barry “should remain in politics as long as he likes and is re-elected.”
- 32 percent said Barry “should retire gracefully and go away from public life.”
- 7 percent said Barry “should still be in jail.”
5 percent weren’t sure what they thought of him.