Thursday, December 4, 2014

Marion Barry Jr.: The last Civil Rights crusader Mayor/Councilman of Washington D.C.

Marion Barry Picture Gallery
On November 23, 2014, the last Civil Rights crusader to have served in public service in Washington, D.C. died; Marion Barry Jr. was 78 years old. Even though he was a man plagued by much controversy and scandals this is neither the root nor the heart of his legacy. In order to fully understand the man, one has to look at his past, the motto that he strived to live by, and how he come into public service.

Marion Barry Jr. was born on March 6, 1936 in Itta Bena, Mississippi. His father worked as a sharecropper, but he passed away when Barry was only four. His mother moved the family to Memphis where she remarried and raised nine children. As a young boy Barry took on a multitude of jobs to assist his family one of which was picking cotton.

            As a young man he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1958 from Le Moyne College and in 1960 he received his master’s degree in chemistry from Fisk University. However, it would be his passion for the Civil Rights Movement that was brewing during this time period that would keep him from finishing his doctorate. So instead of finishing his education he put his efforts into the Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee (SNCC), in which he served as its first national chairman. In 1965, he moved to Washington, D.C. to open up a local chapter.  In 1967, Barry – co – founded Pride, Inc. which was a job program for unemployed black men.

            Barry lived by one motto in his life and that motto can be seen throughout his 40 years of public service and it was “always fighting for the people”. Barry’s public service in Washington, D.C. started in 1971, when he was elected to the city’s first school board. Then upon Congress granting D.C. the right to hold its own local elections, Barry won a seat on the D.C City Council in 1974. He was named chairman of the Finance Committee. It was while serving as a member of the Council, Barry decided to spearhead the movement to require that all contracts considered by the District government for services, supplies, and development include a mandatory 35 percent participation for minority owned companies.

            By 1978 he became the second Mayor to ever be elected in DC, serving for three terms until 1990. Among his accomplishments as Mayor of DC: he directed his entire department heads to comply fully with the 35 percent goal of minority participation, significantly increasing the number of contracts awarded to qualified African Americans and Latino businesses; created the District Youth’s Employment Act of 1979 which guaranteed a summer job to every young person who resided in the District regardless of their economic status; and he always advocated for economic inclusion – on the behalf of African Americans, women, Hispanics, Asians, and Pacific Islanders.

            In 1992, Barry returned to DC politics by winning a seat in the City Council and made history in 1994 by winning a landslide victory returning him to the Mayoral seat.  By 1998 Barry had retired from politics, but decided to run for the Ward 8 Council seat in November 2004 and he won.

            Barry has been quoted as saying “everybody in life has something that they get knocked down on. The object lesson here is not that you get knocked down, it is that you get up” Which is what I can say about Barry for no matter how much the media or his political enemies tried to knocked him down he always got back up. This is something that I wish more politicians both learned and applied to their daily lives in public service. The following details are the memorial services schedule for the longest serving public servant for the District of Columbia is as follows:
A. Thursday, December 4 to Friday, December 5, 2014
9:00 a.m.: Brief ceremony to receive Mayor Barry’s casket at the Wilson Building, where his remains will lie in repose for 24 hours.
John A. Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

B. Friday, December 5, 2014
10:00 a.m.: Mayor Barry’s body to travel to one of the churches he regularly attended

3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.: Musical and video tribute celebrating Mayor Barry’s 40 years of public service

6:00 pm – 9:00 p.m.: Community memorial service
Temple of Praise
700 Southern Avenue SE

C. Saturday, December 6, 2014
8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.: Thousands are expected to attend a celebration of Mayor Barry’s life and legacy
Walter E. Washington Convention Center Halls C & D
801 Mount Vernon Place NW
8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.: Viewing
11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.: Memorial Service
Private burial immediately following the service.

Reported by Nadia Johnson



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