Loose Lips

Marion Barry at DNC Conventions: Not Usually Dull

The View from the D.C. Delegation's Seats at the DNC

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

  • Lino Stracuzzi

    You go Barry!! you the 1! you the man!!!! DC love you!!!

  • loser

    Yes, DC Love You!!! You are a roll model for all DC men and boys. Just like that 2008 Convention Leadership you showed: 'Suck my dick, bitch. If you ain't, step aside, get out my room.' This is my city leadership - current councilman. Any surprise our problems in this city are so basic? And small boys in DC today are taught to look up to him, taught to cover for him. It is very common when asked for young black men in DC to state that Marion Barry never did anything wrong, never hurt anyone but himself, because he was setup. This is the opposite of leadership, the opposite of a role model. He hurts young people in DC every day that he does not correct this misconception, not to mention all the harm he has cause DC families by driving city services into the ground, most notably the school system. But according to him, it was all Mayor Kelly's fault. What a loser. Can take responsibility for anything and fix it himself. Blame anyone else to make himself look better. He is DEFINITELY old enough to know better. Just not wise enough to be respectable.

  • Shepherd Park Ward 4 Resident

    Marion Barry is not a role model for black boys and men. He's an embarrassment to the District for getting got smoking crack on national television in the Vista Hotel. This is how most of the world will remember Marion Barry, after his death. D.C. will never get Statehood. It's a federal city and it's the Nations Capital for all U.S. citizens. If Marion Barry want Statehood, he can always move back to his native Mississippi.

  • Shepherd Park Ward 4 Resident

    Correction: getting caught smoking crack

  • Shepherd Park Ward 4 Resident

    This is an interesting article by Robert McCartney in the Washington Post. Racial political calculation lurks behind Democrats disrespect for the District. Mr.McCartney is on point.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/racial-political-calculation-lurks-behind-democrats-disrespect-for-dc/2012/09/05/d99ff39c-f78e-11e1-8253-3f495ae70650_story.html

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  • tony

    Marion Barry is the man. He is the best black politician black folks in this city have ever had. And this sentiment manifested intself every time Barry ran for city-wide office. He won every black ward in the city.

    It's clear Mr. Barry is well respected by the majority of the black folks in this city and he will always be. The man took care of his own and for this white folks and some uncle toms dislike him.

    Bar ry! Bar ry! Bar ry! Barr ry!

  • Daddy Grace Fish Sandwich

    Tony, your comment is not true. I know many college educated black professionals living in Wards 1, 2, 3, & 4 that would not vote for Marion Barry today citywide. Unfortunately, Marion Barry's biggest fan club are the uneducated ghetto blacks living in Ward 8 that continue to vote him into office.

  • tony

    @Daddy Grace Fish Sandwich, writes: Unfortunately, Marion Barry's biggest fan club are the uneducated ghetto blacks living in Ward 8 that continue to vote him into office.

    This is the biggest misconception about the great Marion Barry. The fact is that Barry was elected to city-wide office time and time again by winning the support of the black middle class. Thats a fact.

    In fact, Mr. Barry most loyal supporters are black middle class folks. Remember Mr. Barry beat John Ray by winning the black middle clas vote. And he won the black working class vote which you and the whites refers to as "uneducated ghetto blacks."

    Mr. Barry did more for black folks than any other politician in this city. Prior to becoming Mayor, blacks received less than 10 percent of city contracts;however, as a result of Barry administration, blacks received more than 50% of the city contracts. Prior to the Barry era, blacks were no to be found in the key government positions;as a result, of Barry administration assumed positions as department heads and other prominent positions. But for Marion Barry tons of black folks in this city would never had received the opportunities they did.

    People like Mr. Johnson of BET owe his success in part to Mr. Barry. Real Estae bigwig Peebles owe his success in part to Mr. Barry. And countless other black professionals who there success in part to Mr. Barry.

  • Memere

    Amen, Tony. And he was the best manager of the government the city has ever had.

  • tony

    COORECTION :Mr. Barry did more for black folks than any other politician in this city. Prior to becoming Mayor, blacks received less than 10 percent of city contracts;however, as a result of Barry administration, blacks received more than 50% of the city contracts. Prior to the Barry era, blacks were nowhere to be found in key government positions;as a result, of the Barry's administration, blacks assumed positions as department heads and other prominent positions. But for Marion Barry tons of black folks in this city would never had received the opportunities they did.

    People like Mr. Johnson of BET owe his success in part to Mr. Barry. Real Estae bigwig Peebles owe his success in part to Mr. Barry. And countless of other black professionals owe there success in part to Mr. Barry.

  • mizluvsco

    SAY SO!, tony: And what's more, most of the "uneducated ghetto blacks" (Fish speaks of), who got jobs under the Barry Administration still have them and have become parents of EDUCATED ghetto black children. Some doctors, lawyers, legislators, celebrities, etc.

    Fish, don't you work in the kitchen at The House of Prayer? Glad you do because every now and then I just got to have me one a dem good ole 'church' meals. But slim, you need to keep fryin' dat fish and stop trying to poll eduated blacks in 1,2,3 and 4. The people Barry have behind him are a hidden majority. They just sit back and watch people like you who drink the media kool-aid and then go to the polls and vote him back in again and again, and again, and again......you know the drill.

    JUST LIKE THEY'RE GOING TO DO WITH VINCE GRAY IF HE DECIDES HE WANTS ANOTHER BITE OF THE APPLE.

    Even if you don't fry fish for a living (which is an honorable profession), you are a disgrace to your race... IF YOU'RE BLACK.

    Especially the way you malign those poor church ladies on Alabama Avenue.

  • Daddy Grace Fish Sandwich

    Yes, I am black, however, if Marion Barry ran for citywide office, most educated blacks in Wards 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 will not vote for this crack smoking Mayor. Amen and Amen.

  • Daddy Grace Fish Sandwich

    Correction: If Marion Barry ran for citywide office in 2012. Gray can hang it up, he will not get re-elected. He already look like one of AMC's 'Walking Dead'. hehe

  • http://www.torchblazers.blogspot.com lioneagle

    Hi -

    @Daddy Grace

    Your name here speaks volumes about your character.

    Wasn't Daddy Grace a pimp faking to be a man of GOD?

  • seDCdude

    Daddy DISGRACE u need to bury ur head and ur computer!!

    The Honorable Mayor 4 Life Mr Marion Barry is and will always be a Role Model for blacks and all people for that matter.....

    NEVER quit...no matter what! Smile and work harder in the face of adversity!

    Pick yo'self up and dust off when u fall! U r NOT the mistake u make, own it, correct it and NEVER look back!

    Fight the powers that be and do it UR way!

    It'sa BLACK thang....couple of U wouldn't understand!!

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