The Mayor-for-Life, At Least

The Mayor-for-Life, At Least November 23, 2014

Marion Barry, RIP.

Look, Barry started out as a civil-rights organizer throwing block parties in the hood, and ended as an advocate for people coming out of prison. In between he presided over a decade and a half in which DC suffered disproportionately from the violence which swept through all US cities in the ’80s and ’90s. I know it started before we even had “home rule” (ish) and everybody else’s city also suffered and hey, at least he didn’t declare a state of emergency and try to call out the National Guard like some mayors. But he’s gotta take responsibility for some of the blood.

That said, Marion Barry chose DC. He chose Ward 8. He became a man of DC, one of us, when not a lot of people would’ve borne that banner with pride. He’s one of ours.

Matt Labash’s obit:

…Barry commanded the stage as if we’d all been assembled for him all along. He complained about how confusing it was to find the place in the city he’d presided over for four terms. He made some cracks about me “being nosy.” He had the crowd—mostly conservative-leaning white people who’ve probably pilloried him hundreds of times both privately and in public—eating out of his hand like he was feeding them bacon-wrapped catnip.

From there, he adjourned to Tucker’s kitchen, where he received well-wishers, kissed a long line of women (he was always kissing women), and proceeded to sign a huge stack of my books, as if he’d written them. I didn’t begrudge him this. Not only did it liberate me to head to the bar. But in a way, he had written it. For it was men like him that the book depended on—those who are not quite in control of their own appetites, who live a little bit larger, so we don’t have to.


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