The overwhelming majority of District residents told members of the D.C. Council at a hearing of the Committee of the Whole on Dec. 13 that they wanted Good Hope Road SE in Ward 8 to be renamed in honor of late Mayor and Council member Marion S. Barry.

D.C. Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8) has authored a bill — the Marion Barry Avenue Designation Act of 2022 — which calls for Good Hope Road to be renamed officially in honor of Barry. 

Officially renaming means that as of the time White’s bill becomes law, the road will take on Barry’s name in city documents and maps, businesses and residences will be encouraged to change their identifications and business materials. 

White’s bill has one co-sponsor, Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At-Large) and has been co-introduced by Council members Robert White (D-At-Large), Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7), Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1), Janeese Lewis George (D-Ward 4), Christina Henderson (I-At-Large), Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2) and Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5).

White said the hearing “was a formality,” but the public needed to be heard. D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson presided over the virtual hearing that had 141 people scheduled to testify.

“Some are attending this hearing for the bill, some are not,” White said. “It is our due diligence to hear from the public. Marion Barry was a political giant in Washington, D.C. He did a lot for a lot of people. He was a transformational figure. Renaming Good Hope Road in his honor is the least we can do to remember his legacy.”

Good Hope Road runs east to west in the northern section of Ward 8 and intersects Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE near its western terminus. The road runs a mile and a half and consists largely of small businesses, single-family houses, apartment buildings, carryout food establishments, vacant storefronts and a branch of the District’s library system.

White and his community allies have worked since 2019 to get the avenue renamed in honor of Barry. They have collected names on a petition and secured the support of neighboring advisory neighborhood commissions and civic associations.

The Rev. Willie Wilson, senior pastor emeritus at Union Temple Baptist Church in Ward 8, has become one of the strongest voices for Barry Avenue.

“I lend my voice to the grand chorus to confirm the resolution changing Good Hope Road to Marion Barry Avenue,” Wilson said at the hearing. “I am shocked, insulted and disgusted that someone would oppose this resolution.”

Ward 8C advisory neighborhood commission chairman Salim Adofo, who has declared his candidacy for the Ward 8 Council seat in 2024, talked about Barry’s work as the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and his eventual career as a District politician.

“I urge the Council to pass this legislation,” Adofo said.

Aristotle Theresa, a Ward 8 attorney, viewed the changing of the name of the avenue as a logical move.

“Marion Barry Avenue has to be in Ward 8 and nowhere else in the city,” he said. “Barry was one of our own. Our heroes are to be celebrated in our community.”

Ward 8 advisory neighborhood commissioner Jamila White said she supports the renaming, with conditions.

“We need about a $10 million investment in the avenue from the city,” she said. “Good Hope Road is one of the most neglected streets in the District. We need the money to bring economic development to the Good Hope area. It will help house the unhoused and help bring drug services to those that need it.”

Jeannette L. Mobley, a Ward 5 political activist and president of the city’s chapter of the Democratic club for women, read a statement from former D.C. City Administrator Michael Rogers, who serves as the chairman of the task force naming public spaces and buildings in honor of Barry. Mobley said the task force recommended Good Hope Road be renamed in Barry’s honor.

Mobley also got the chance to voice her feelings about the renaming.

“Marion Barry is due this honor,” she said. “He was transformative. Because of Marion Barry, downtown has been revitalized and now you have Gallery Place that is doing very well.”

Graylin Presbury serves as the president of the Fairlawn Citizens Association. In what can be considered a reversal, Presbury said his organization, who once opposed the renaming, withdrew its opposition to it.

While the overwhelming majority of people who testified supported the name change, Barbara Cooper, a housing activist in Ward 8 opposed it.

“I am against renaming Good Hope Road,” she said. “We live on Good Hope Road. You don’t live here. If the name is changed, we have to change everything like our IDs and the mail. Instead of changing Good Hope Road, why don’t you change Mississippi Avenue, Alabama Avenue or Texas Avenue where Black people are being killed?”

Mendelson said people have until Dec. 23 at 5 p.m. to leave comments with the committee staff on the renaming. White said he understands that he will have to re-introduce the bill in the next Council Period, which begins on Jan. 2, 2023.

“Next year, we need to have a hearing on this bill,” he said. “We can go ahead and vote it into law.”

James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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