Marion Barry at DNC Conventions: Not Usually Dull
For those of you who don't follow Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry's Twitter account, the former mayor-for-life or his designated tweeter has been tweeting up a storm today from the Democratic National Convention in support of D.C. statehood, voting rights, and/or budget autonomy.
"I see you tweeting for equality! Can a tweet turn into a revolution for freedom in DC? What power does a tweet have? Twitter=true democracy," is a sample tweet.
For Barry, this is an exceedingly old message. In 1960, college student Barry took a cross-country train trip to the DNC in Los Angeles as a newly minted civil rights advocate. At that convention he asked that the Democrats to "provide self-government to the voteless residents in our nation's capital," according to an account in the book Dream City. The book details how Barry's presentation to the party's platform committee led to his first mention in the national press, a New York Post story that called him a "college boy."
It was the start of long history between Barry and the DNC conventions. Barry says he's been a delegate at the conventions since 1972. A search through the archives show that Barry's been making news at the conventions since 1980. Herewith a quick breakdown of what the clips say.
1980: A Post article from the 1980 convention in New York portrays Barry as a loafer at the convention who had miffed members of the city's delegation by his hands off approach to pushing for D.C. voting rights.
During the past three days here, other big city mayors and other ambitious black politicians have basked in the national limelight or jousted to dance at its edges. But Barry has been enjoying a family vacation with his wife, mother and son — "taking it easy," he says —often in his 14th floor suite inthe Roosevelt Hotel far from the maddening political crowd.
1984: At the 1984 convention in San Francisco, which Barry tells LL was his favorite, the mayor had a major star turn when he nominated Jesse Jackson as the Democrats' pick. Barry got a primetime speaking slot on national television, but he says it almost wasn't meant to be. Barry says there was some big-name jousting going on for who would get to give the speech nominating Jackson. Three hours before the scheduled speech, Barry says Jackson told him "Homeboy, I want you to do it."
Barry says it was one of the hardest speeches he had to give, in part because the stage set up made it impossible to see anyone in the crowd. The headline of a Post story on the convention reads "Barry a Winner at Convention." The article says that Barry "at last achieved the high political profile he has craved for so long."
1992: In '92, Barry was no longer mayor and had recently been released from prison on drug charges. Both the Post and the Washington Times remarked that Barry's appreance on the convention floor in New York caused some handwringing among the city's delegates. "Members of Congress and the national press are watching, and we've worked hard to try to change the city's image and he still has a lot of baggage," one delegate told the Post. The paper reported that Barry "stood out on the convention floor in white, two-piece African garb with traditional African trimming." The Times reported that Barry spent much of his time signing autographs.
1996: Barry was back in office as a fourth-term mayor during the '96 convention in Chicago. The Post noted that Barry threw an over-the-top reception to promote the city. Barry "drew heavy political fire for hosting a similar party at the Republican National Convention earlier this month. Critics pointed to the District's dire financial problems and branded the events as inappropriate," the Post reported.
2000: Out of office, Barry showed up at the 2000 convention in Los Angeles where he told an AP reporter that "It's really good to be here without having any major responsibilities." The Post noted that Barry was enjoying "fancy parties" and asked Barry about his thoughts Joe Lieberman, the vice-presidential pick. "Joe has been a friend to the District. I would have preferred a black person, but he's a good choice."
2004: LL couldn't find any stories mentioning Barry from John Kerryfest 2004 in Boston!
2008: There's really only one story worth reading about Barry's experience at the 2008 convention. You can find it here.
2012: The Examiner reports that Barry is a big hit with Democratic delegates from Alaska, who are staying at the same hotel at the D.C. delegation. Barry tells BuzzFeed that Republicans "offer no hope, no direction that's particularly helpful to us, particularly African Americans." He tells LL that he ought to start charging people to have their picture taken with him, there have been so many requests. "I'm very popular, you know that [LL]. I'm not just popular in D.C., I'm popular all over America."
Photo by Joeff Davis