This week, let’s talk about Marion Barry, D.C.’s “Mayor for Life,” and how his four terms as mayor affected gentrification in the city.
Firsthand knowledge of Mr. Barry and his legacy is where I will begin. I got to know him personally, appointed by him to coordinate his last inaugural parade, where I worked closely with the first lady Cora Masters Barry. He and his late son Christopher rode on a float in the annual Georgia Avenue Day Parade each year where I served as executive director. He attended the annual Georgia Avenue Day black-tie gala as well.
During his last election campaign for mayor, my company hosted a meet-and-greet for him at our offices on Georgia Avenue. Other businesses along the upper Georgia Avenue corridor agreed to host him as well. And during his final months, he agreed to be a guest on my Radio One talk show for Black History Month.
The show aired live in February 2014, nine months prior to his death. It was my goal to give him his flowers while he lived, and it was a lively discussion!
During the interview, Barry was honored for the good he did while serving as mayor of the District of Columbia. Therefore, we will talk in this column about the good that Barry did and how his work had a major impact on D.C. gentrification today, starting with his youth summer jobs program, which has helped tens of thousands of city high school students find work.
Barry spoke of his displeasure regarding D.C. gentrification.
“White people are taking over this city,” he said. “I would keep people in D.C. I would do all I can to help people get jobs, expand the summer jobs program to ten weeks, challenge the white business community to hire more Black people. I would make education a priority, students are dropping out of school in record numbers.”
Let’s take a look at some other achievements that happened during his four terms: rebuilt D.C.’s downtown with an aggressive economic development program; created senior programs and senior buildings; was a catalyst for thousands of jobs for welfare recipients; helped ex-offenders back into society; improved transportation system. He also fought for home rule for D.C. he traveled widely to other states and countries to spread the word about benefits of visiting the District of Columbia, helping to increase commerce to the city in the process.
Not to mention, the Frank D. Reeves Center, opened in 1986 on a section of U Street blighted by the 1968 riots, was the genius idea of Barry. The building was designed by the late Paul Devrouax, a Black architect and friend of mine.
As Philippians 4:8 KJV states: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Lyndia Grant is a speaker/writer living in the D.C. area. Her radio show, “Think on These Things,” airs Fridays at 6 p.m. on 1340 AM (WYCB), a Radio One station. To reach Grant, visit her website, www.lyndiagrantshow.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 240-602-6295. Follow her on Twitter @LyndiaGrant and on Facebook.