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Iraq the one with over 40 years of public service. He's the politician of the people. D.C. council member Marion Barry next evening exchange.
I am Kojo Nandi the U.S. border council member Marion Barry has been a social activist and politician for over 40 years. He served on the school board and the first elected city council from 1978 to 1990 Barry was elected as mayor of the District of Columbia for three consecutive terms after serving time in prison for a misdemeanor charge. Marion Barry was successful in his bid for city council. Then in 1994 in an unprecedented show of support by district resident Marion Barry was elected to a fourth term as mayor. After battling prostate cancer Marion Barry is still the choice of the people as he continues to represent one of the poorest and most underserved wards of the city. Ward 8 but under his leadership the ward is experiencing new development. Today we have the man who some call the mayor for life. Welcome Marion Barry. Thank you. You know we took this mare for life thing very seriously until Madame Tussaud's came along and decided that you would be in the wax
museum of Madame Tussaud's. What's a kid from if the bee in the Mississippi doing in Madame Tussaud's and how important is that to what God has blessed me with not a talent a lot of skills and a compassion for the people and a good memory and just a good thing to serve. And I was servant spirit and I think the selection and go and answer Reagan and Denzel Washington and Adam Berry Oprah Winfrey syndicates if you work hard people get paid now. The people of Washington and that in that survey I would say were the election that you didn't know about I don't know anything about it was going on on the streets of Washington. Reckon that that long history of service and did that and that they didn't fall for that. But the negative press thing they go on it's ever cetera. So to me as a weight on it it really was great on and since I'm going to be Abraham Lincoln and George watching and.
And you're committed and in the Bush years and it's sad but you know. You know but took my math and I hate that term because me and the City Paper study usenet so can your companies and city papers you know basically. Thought about Papa Doc in Haiti which go Presidential I didn't want to come Taisha But the more I hear the way I like it I think it has more to do with how people feel about you than anything else but a lot of those people who responded to that circuit know Marion Barry in Washington D.C. They do not know the Marion Barry that preceded your Washington D.C. experience so I'd like to spend a little time talking about that you were born as I said in the other being the Mississippi son of sharecroppers is where you you buy you couldn't see a chap couldn't you pick cotton and you got how much can you pick you know better who want a dollar a year to the good. And that's what went on in my family for a long time I was eight years of
age my mother said. You know I can't take this anymore. Good Daddy. My five of them agree with that. My grandmother's live in Chicago sent her some money. Found it took it and she finally get out anyway. And with my sister you got out of the bin the Mississipi and sometime in your you you discovered math and science what was it that made you want to have a career in science but I don't know exactly except when I was in high school I went to athletic or high school if you want a football player a basketball player. What track star and say Were you sort of like you know you over here on the SAT. And you can get to pretty women you know he's got to step up so I was in and I was in this thing is the football players and they shoot rubber bands at Mr. Scott and I attitudes have to stop this stuff. I get when I learn something. Now it's taken a chemistry course and I just said it you know I just I cannot take it out or want and it just so I had a facility for it and a good memory had a start and in a coma and I
got into and then also when I got into. Who have Twitter here. I think my going to hide something by kind of like a lot of kids didn't know that families had to go to a small back out and tell them what got it and I majored in chemistry and I look around and I was too poor to even think about being a doctor or lawyer or dentist or that kind of affection in Dad's days black people could do maybe doctor lawyer dentist you know direct a preacher teacher social work and I thought you could do and one being knows I would be a research scientist and I was good at it and you went out and got a masters degree masculine Fisk University and he got his way and it's been three years you written see only only all black only only blacks do it and all the national census out of four five out of them on the back of the University of Tennessee and I get tatted just awful. Is that where your social activism began at the University of Tennessee. Studies Fisk my second year. Jim Lawson who is a
devoted just goo student at band of blacks came over to this could die and Nash and John too would sing and dance better but not off yet so composed to start teaching about it. It's you know it's how we get get going into it I didn't know they might not. I remember you telling me a story one time many years ago about the University of Tennessee and it had something to do with the football field of the football knowing you would either have demonstrated what was that everything around the universe or saying it everything and not go to segregated so we started a movement and you wrecked NC has always had it had a heck of a football team and could be nationally televised and so so my colleagues salute when we take a big bat at it rolled it up and you're going to feel as you have yours. You may know people Millot they would literally kill about this so but want crazy. Who had a picket as sad as sad to say and then you see UTSA didn't discriminate. You mentioned John the sun when people write and read the history of the civil rights movement in
this country. They know that John Lewis is now a congressman they know that John Lewis got beaten up a lot of times and they know that John Lewis was a Spaniard. With stick the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee right. And in the history of the civil rights movement it's not very a very prominent and significant place. What a lot of people may not realize is that you were the first chairman now the student body might have been. How did that come about it went to went to back to King asked us to come to to write an Oscar nominee a poem 960 I had daddy of taking us on his wing making us a part of a COSC you know as you use the vision of the NAACP and other organizations and they named I don't make a who's this just outstanding activists and social activists etc.. Did you form your own organization. You know you know and be on with you though folks about this that you know you want to be revolutionary like most revolution started young people and so and Natura group we tell you the biggest in the bad is we have more
people there. We had been demonstrating the most been arrested the most. The head of Ana with Julian Bond and some others and a king and so natural people that you know to do it and we've just been running totally meant my first campaign probably. Which sort of causes me to think of this and that is now that you are a senior political member in the District of Columbia then you look at young people and remember yourself at 18 19 years old. Is there something you can see in their eyes that can help you to connect with young people do you see yourself in some of those oh I love young people you know I have a 27 you know song. So he keeps me sort of relevant to what's going on the language and lifestyle. You know Chris for Barry who's done a great job done his paint company etc. He needs some work too so we have to talk about it in a way that I see very young people that you know three four five years ago that I as a bright and you know it was like to
conquer the world. But by the time it's a third rate the current going down in their lives in most instances you know with low income people. And so what has happened makes me want to work even harder to raise division and to give them an opportunity in the world to succeed in them have the sting. Now I'm not going to believe in that I'm very bashful about math and I was very shocked. Really I couldn't really hear it. I had low self-esteem and unlike myself who have been a family without about ogic of pant after my mother's death my father and so on. I could have been a fan with those kind of traits but I would came it too a lot of hard work and self discipline in the IT AFTER you came to Washington D.C. You founded pride Incorporated which was intended to reach out and help precisely the same campaign where young people are those who have to know where it's at to bring him into something so you can be the very best you can be you can do anything good that you want to do if you want to believe it. If the mind
can conceive it believe it if I can achieve it. So that's been my philosophy you know we did some a job just not in that best program because every young person who wants a summer job My family get me a fan to do the same thing. I mean we didn't do it. Cut program bath to search. We now have that going on of course the first elected position was on the school board. You were President of the school board and you decided to run at large for the first elected city council on the Home Rule here in 1974. You want to sit on that city council the most vote had the most votes on that and that city council you and another well-known activist Judge Moore. At Large see some that a city councilor or Julius Hobson All of you who have been activists before had we had a really active a city council and then during your tenure on the D.C. City Council one day you were stepping out of an elevator in the city council
building district building as it was then called and you along with a colleague of mine Maurice Williams on the bridge you are already cut shut. Talk about that mice to make 1877 around 12:30 1:00 o'clock. I was coming from. Declared Tom when it was joyous to them alive. Coming from a CONUS Club luncheon or something and walked into the Wilson Building is distributed in every other way and everyone having a security at the end was going to walk up the elevator and shots rang out. Now here right here move in chess stumble into the council chamber and then it's really interesting because I was sitting up so much watching that down as a no no no I'm but if I were and I had my go on and I said no. Now I'm going to write here and I was afraid to agree that we're not to breathe. So but some heroic police officers came across came in force on the floor and the shattering event grassland everywhere. You know
a security person like you and God has blessed me and saved me that but it hit me right above my heart. It only went on about this for you know ordinarily double OT buckshot there was which you cured it with and that's why I think the idea of being in the District of Columbia that day was taken over by a group then known as The high enough the Muslims who are upset that they didn't feel that justice was done in their own family was killed in the house on 16th Street but I remember seeing a picture of you in the hospital while you were ill and when I saw John Hechinger Jr. at your bedside in the hospital I said to myself oh it must be true. This guy really is going to be right. And from there I mean our truck. I WILL DO IT DO IT THEN take you to keep me about this year and said you're doing to this a man this too serious now I think we stood a moment here and is saying that have we now have security downtown and possibility of something happening but if he got it in with me then you ran from me
or you ran against the incumbent. Walter Washington you ran against that then chair of the city council Starling Tucker and most people thought that you were the dark horse in that race so to speak. I was underdog you were the other the communists or you were supposed to give me any chance at all and we ran a vibrant campaign and had a good campaign manager who Damas Ivanhoe Donaldson and there are those who observe the Washington Post endorse you three times. Before the election and you won that election with a majority of the vote and you won that election with the support of the predominantly white well what three voters in that election that put together this coalition now look at him politically. I tried to connect where where boats are and I knew that water washing would have what I call the traditional black middle class and the doctors and lawyers and their preachers and teachers said a class as his constituency he was one of them. And Joe would have sort of a more moderate people etc. etc.. That's a WHERE CAN I GO GET SOME boat.
So I went to where we have people who have been working for and went to arts and culture of people who had left I took all the left outs. If you've been left out of the game there's been community. If you've been left out I want you and me strange enough cocoa to go I had to support but appreciating it. And if ever. The last was that yeah I mean I mean I've been kicking them you know but I can work and we can put together a coalition. We went to a good brain campaign. We outwork him out you know. My slogan with a bomb in a stump in a water wash in and that coat on you know I'm good it three days since that happened and then went on for three terms. He went on to three terms as mayor and your old cynic colleague Frank Sinatra who later joined you under city council told me that what you created was the berry revolution and you mentioned before being a revolutionary before you came on to the city council and what he described as the berry revolution what some people say
created Prince George's County as we know today was the fact that you change. Contract it the way it had been done before you came into office in Washington DC and not allowed African-Americans to get in on it. Was that a significant part of the battle with the I sadly that that you can use political power to get economic power as have all other groups in this country would have Boston then averaged as you go to Chicago to Tang's interposed in there but they used political power to get economic power and so I said I have the political power I have the support of the council to change the contract in dollars. When I came in office only 3 percent of all the money was going to African-American people and I you know and I know in 1990 47 percent. And so I got gym coach and myself we decided to co-sponsor that council and then when I became a Ashton it and pushed it and it made a big difference I made so many millionaires like me and had around which is good.
Nothing wrong with money but they also enjoyed other African-Americans and also a disability which is not known a lot about I employed a lot of qualified black professionals. To hope to households making a one and some down out of it would move to the Gold Coast movie a move there and to live a life that America wants you to be and in a sense your supporters also feel that that revolution created for you some very powerful enemies who are in part responsible for the problems you encountered later. You're sure of that. Absolutely. But some who were in government and primarily in the media I mean Washington Post who is my friend and 86 turned just on 80 degrees and they were so critical of me about everything involving me because that you know I'm going to keep them out of business. Then obviously those who have power as Frederick Douglass say it and 18 and something they may they won't give it up without a struggle. You
know if you got that 10 million dollar program come up here and make a pot of other people to share in it well they go fight that you know it's easy to support integration of libraries and schools in as serviceable any time I take that money and share it. That that's not going to happen without a fight but I'm not going to give up hope no enemies but you also created a lot of powerful support in the city among everyday residents in part because of the youth unemployment youth employment program that you mentioned earlier but you promised a job to every teenager in the city. And did you know what magic works what we think about that code you know when I grew up I would pool you know I I just had to have hand me down clothes and everything else. I carry a newspaper book want to pay even a paper bag groceries. So rag said so bought in thing of value to do legally I did so I chopped my
pickup and see if I have a good position I'm not I don't subject our young people here have to skip the kind of lifestyle it put him in a position where they can start thinking about a career. And reminder same time is when I and I now have to mask like you have it in 1900 now we're going to have twenty five thousand young people working in something they want they almost had apoplexy there with them was had a stroke he said we can't do it as a way out if you can't do it half as much you can do it. And it got done we didn't we had a lot of bumps and grant but by nineteen eighty one in various moving average of my 17000 people and politically it worked too because think about it. You get 17000 at least something about pain. Maybe maybe 20000 plants as they did without and be for the people. They get an officer to tell my seventy five thousand people who feel good about what you're doing politically as well as problematically was that's not what my best program we develop in downtown was done you know I talk about it to
Emma hates me for this as if I came in off and so on and then downtown I mean Washington to sleep a southern town. So you ban when you know I mean you know you want to know you better your Bammer you have lower to it but we transfer it is on your watch that the horizon Center came out and that was development. Those are presumably among the reasons why people would vote for you to be in Madame Tussaud's if you were to assess your weaknesses during that period. If you were to assess the mistakes that you made during that period what would they be. Well you know as you know I was I'm there should embody FBI and. They have set me up but I also succumb to alcohol and drugs. Woman I'm now beyond a goddess help me to come pass it knowing that probably in my third turn appointed two men people within my administration and people get tired of guessing that I knew that I should've gotten their butt out that was in the first and second administration and got a fresh team that could be it in the first administration.
There are some other private mistakes I have I went to some club action I'm going to. All due to human frailties in person things but one thing to all of this. No by you my most fierce critics can tell you I never took a bout of them I never took a bat and won't do that. That's one thing and didn't that do and so was a spy he's probably not rich today. Yeah but you know you learn I mean when you take a big city like Washington. I know I've been a mayor before and I try to talk to Hayden about this if they haven't you got to call on those who who know how to do this and get their advice and do the best you can to make the right decision because you get 40 decision today coming at you just like that you know you got to figure out a way how you pride as a citizen I make it because we are city county and state and all these things are coming at you. But do all of that dough. You know we were able to to to rebuild Washington able to balance a budget 10 11 years out. They're able to do
so. Life I've seen is something young men that helped me with what I eat now. The new Woody you know we're booming who then got all these challenges you know with I can so has everything negative at drop by a great highs. Lowest graduation rate you know pregnancy rate is everything negative we're going to turn it around if you go to toward it now you see new housing going up that people can afford. And it's a really good accrete. You say you have a counter housing job so seasonably and how do we get somehow the now know to happen and what will one of out got out of here. Why that means that people have confidence you know house around it but they kind of went over there and you would like people to they think that you and Adrian Fenty have in common is that you both while you were mayor seem to know everybody in the city empty but it was not like that he was he was not the kind who like he was a different kind of business. Kind of individual all together you both. However the city has changed
between the time that you were mayor and the time that Adrian Fenty is me. What advice would you give to him now as near in this changing environment as the changing racial environment and its a changing class environment that you see in a city in which gentrification has changed things for the better for some and for the worse. Don't be afraid to seek out Korda who have been in criminal law you have to believe that there's no job in D.C. government that you came from an a quarter of a black person to do it where you are what are you doing having which had to be vigilant about that. But I understand what happened. People that age and they don't come through the movement I have been back to at Bath by it and don't see it you know they have good hearts. But you got to be vigilant. You got it. Always look out everybody in general. You feel responsible for the clock to be turned back in terms of how the contracting changes that you made in terms of the kinds of problems we now get when I was an agent. If we're not careful it's going to happen. I just never meant to see my mother She's 90 years old Betsy and come to you know I
was I was about to ask you about her but since you told me that your sister had passed I was afraid because I remember when you walked into the studio on the day to announce that you were not going to run for another term as mayor you walked in here with your wife. And your mother and in that studio with us of the time with your sister's only child everywhere. He had never you know me and he said all of my grandmothers coming to the studio didn't care about you. You cared about was that you know now she's been his grandmother was very very she was sort of bound a bit but she's now she uses a walker. But 90 years old you know she can plan but I was right as a mother you know to thank God that you were alive. There's a saying that small potatoes you know compared to where you could be. But you do it you have been an activist you have been a leader and you are a politician whose political career is not yet over. At what point are we going to see a reflection from you in print when you
get this we're going to broadcast kind of we'll work it out what we're going to work and I'm working on it because it's clear that you have a lot to teach my goal probably is to try to get it done. Been examined it has not always been I have pride it's a bit of a mess but the time I have a writer I have a problem about what if absent. We in Washington now come from Mississippi the milkers and do ask who guides you to do what we wish you we're here now the past that first campaign. So all good. Well I'm glad to hear that this is coming. Yeah for my final question look at the movie moving to go to all that when I was there and I'm in it in this election 80 and I decide when we do get but that I better come in 10. You started out as an activist presumably wanted to change the world and you've done a lot to change the society in which you live. But the
difference I guess between being an activist and being a mayor or an elected official is that the activist only desires to serve the mayor or the elected official has power. What's the difference between wanting to serve just to serve and wanting to have and I think being in conflict with the right kind of people. Some people in power go to it and you can get it back to people but that thank God had not happened to me I don't care how much power I get I would never forget about the people watching over working and so broad a net of Africa good set of nets and its individual trait that you have to acquire the Lebombo one server. But one day also have power in order to make you serve better. So you have to be so desirous of servant that I haven't a power to bring about any change. So when have when activists we have put out and I protest power and I'm out of power. We men I have money power to do
that with me I'm a doer. You gotta money power you get the pin power get this lady of influence over what you do and you can get more done as one I thing and once again I stayed outside the system. I could not even. Mere thing that I've done I couldn't the kind of time dropping by you by protests you know I think when I did that just like that because people believed in me but so it is I LOVE IT AND I WILL BE IN IT ALWAYS mad to it because after a while you want to pass you know one another regret I was just thinking my regrets not mishear mistake but I regret I didn't do enough to bring young people with me and it's hard because you don't have twenty six twenty five positions in this town and people are impatient. You know they don't want to wait two years or four years of baggage to secure seven years as mayor Marion Barry founded the Mirror's Youth Leadership Institute and a lot of those young people are leading in a variety of fields. But as Marion Barry himself said
Evening Exchange
Marion Barry Interview
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WHUT (Washington, District of Columbia)
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Episode Description
Marion Barry talks about his childhood in Mississippi and early career before he came to Washington, D.C. At D.C. he created a program called Pride, Inc. and acted as president of the school board. He also talks about being shot in 1977 as well as his achievements and failures as mayor of Washington, D.C.
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Talk Show
Race and Ethnicity
Politics and Government
Copyright 2007, Howard University Television
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Director: Ashby, Wally
Guest: Barry, Marion
Host: Nnamdi, Kojo
Producer: Lindsay-Johnson, Beverly
Producing Organization: WHUT
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WHUT-TV (Howard University Television)
Identifier: HUT00000065001 (WHUT)
Format: video/quicktime
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