Four men for whom D.C. Council member Trayon White has expressed high esteem and often quotes in speeches or while kicking it with young people in his beloved Ward 8 include Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Marion Barry and William O. Lockridge.
When White was in high school, he wrote an article for this publication about the influence Dr. King had on his young life. He studied Dr. King and learned that the civil rights leader was a well-educated man of faith who stayed in constant study. He admired him for speaking truth to power, just like the other men who inspired him over the years.
He has expressed a deeper understanding of Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned for 27 years on conspiracy charges brought against him for challenging the racist apartheid system in South Africa. White often quotes Mandela in his speeches to his constituents in Ward Eight as a way of teaching about leadership.
And then there’s his predecessor on the school board, William O. Lockridge, who was known for challenging his colleagues and other local leaders for reinforcing the inequities in public education funding and resources for the students attending Ward 8 schools – a problem that still exists today. White was often counseled by Lockridge before his untimely death in 2011, and he stays connected to people in Ward 8 much like he observed Lockridge did during his tenure on the school board.
Lastly, Mayor for Life and former Ward 8 Council member Marion Barry, whose seat White now holds, is often referred to as one of Barry’s protégés, who is credited for speaking out on behalf of the District’s poorest residents. White reminds folks that he is not Marion Barry but he believes his calling is to do what Barry did for the least of these and more.
It is unquestionable that White reads, studies history and tests his interpretation of ideas on his followers. And, as we saw recently and he was forced to realize, his assumptions are not always correct. In fact, some may consider them ludicrous.
What White espoused last week in a recent social media post and in a meeting with city leaders about who controls the climate, insulted many and raised questions about his possible anti-Semitic views. Former supporters, including several of his colleagues on the DC City Council and others, hit him back across his knees after which White has fallen to ask for forgiveness. White is a vociferous reader but his views may come from questionable and controversial sources. Until his views are shared, they will go unchallenged.
White called this a great learning lesson for him. And we suggest that it’s only the beginning of a lifetime of experiences he will have learning about history, culture, politics, race and identity. We commend him for being a lifelong learner. However, we strongly encourage him to learn the even greater lesson of discernment.