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Marion Barry‘s memorial week comes to an end Saturday with the mayor-for-life’s funeral. Judging by an event on the Wilson Building’s front steps this afternoon, though, there’s enough energy behind Barry’s mourning for many more weeks of tributes.
One woman belted out a Barry-tailored song that praised him as “a human being so true he could live like a king,” while other mourners touched their hands over an empty casket draped in kente cloth. After reading a Post story about Barry’s 1969 scuffle with police over a parking ticket, ex-offender activist Yango Sawyer declared that Barry was “one of the baddest men in the universe.”
In what LL is taking as an inadvertent homage to Barry’s heated-up rhetorical style, rally emcee Al-Malik Farrakhan urged disadvantaged Washingtonians to develop a political agenda and stop behaving like “faggots” and “females.” At-large Councilmember Vincent Orange, who wants to see the University of the District of Columbia named after Barry, did not look thrilled to be standing next to Farrakhan.
Disgraced ex-Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr., who’s still serving time in a D.C.-area halfway house, made an appearance to heavy applause from the crowd of three or four dozen.
The Ward 5 councilmember-turned-felon rebounded, praising Barry son Christopher Barry for writing to him during Thomas’ Alabama incarceration. Thomas urged the crowd to focus on Christopher Barry as his father’s only “living seed.” (Indeed, the group took up a collection for the younger Barry).
“It’s our time to warm ourselves and wrap ourselves against the seed that’s left,” Thomas said. “This is the one living seed that we know that Marion Barry has here. So it’s incumbent upon us as a community, as a village to continue to raise this young man up.”
Less than an hour after the rally, the D.C. Board of Elections certified the Ward 8 seat’s vacancy and scheduled the special election to replace Barry for April 28. Christopher Barry, wearing a new T-shirt that depicted his father’s face on a postage stamp, said it was too early to talk about his own political plans.
Correction: Farrakhan said his group took donations from Harry Thomas Sr., not Harry Thomas Jr. as this post originally stated.
Photo by Will Sommer