Photo of speakers at the podium to dedicate the Marion Barry statue. A giant printed banner of a photograph of Barry hangs in the background.
Ken Martin

When I was growing up, my grandmother spoke very highly about Mr. Marion Barry. I was puzzled and always wondered why. He once came to visit us at our house on Delefield Place NW. There was a signed picture of him on the wall you saw as soon as you entered our house.

Barry was a positive force for our communities. His thoughts, rules and regulations still help them. He worked for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a leading civil rights group, and was involved in fund-raising and protests about bus fare increases. Barry also founded Pride, Inc., a group to help unemployed black men find work. After all this, Barry was shot near his heart by radical Black Muslims who attacked the Wilson Building and took hostages.

He gained his political chutzpah by taking risks and working hard. Of course he had his faults, the most public of which were using drugs and hanging with prostitutes. His reputation plummeted after those incidents. Hey, no one’s perfect! But somehow he got his mojo back, so that by the time he left us, he was once more a respected politician and community leader.