“Marion Barry gave opportunity to Washington, D.C.” — Mayor Muriel Bowser
Marion Barry Jr. made a lot of Blacks rich. As the second mayor of the District of Columbia from 1979 to 1991, and again as the fourth mayor from 1995 to 1999, he was different from today’s professional black politician — Barry’s legacy is that of a charismatic voice for the voiceless.
His detractors attempted to tear him down, but Marion Barry was a mayor with racial conscious and purpose that set the bar for government officials toward Blacks’ economic development.
Most Whites don’t understand our loyalty to The Man. But Barry had great impact on marginalized communities. He was a “national symbol of self-governance for urban blacks.”
Barry ultimately became a professional politician. He left politics for few years, then ran for city council and won in 2005, serving until his death in 2014. But he remained an urban visionary, providing jobs for youth and business to blighted areas. His years as mayor are inspiration to Blacks.
As National Black Chamber of Commerce President Harry Alford once pointed out, Barry was astute enough to recognize opportunities that Black-owned businesses could perform contractually for cities and create employment opportunities for the Black residents.
Economic development is the cornerstone for everything — yet toward that objective, Barry would not rate Blacks’ contemporary behavior high. We don’t spend with our people like we should, nor have we forged our organizations and efforts toward Black-owned businesses, banks and homeowners.
We can’t continue to be silos. The most important need now among African Americans is less talk and more strategic collective actions.
William Reed is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America” and available for projects via Busxchng@his.com.