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Jvaughna Cobb, 19, grew up on the same Anacostia block where Marion Barry lived and says the mayor-for-life gave both her and her mother their first jobs.
“He’s such a friendly neighbor,” Cobb says of Barry, the former mayor and Ward 8 councilmember who passed away around midnight Saturday at the age of 78 . “And that’s why it hurts so much that he’s gone.”
Lifelong Anacostia resident Evette Tinch, 44, says she still has a cherished photograph of Barry holding her as a baby.
“When he became mayor, what he said he was going to do, he did it for us,” Tinch says.
And Hector Rodriguez, who worked in Barry’s cabinet when he was mayor in the nineties, credits Barry with giving him his first D.C. government job as well.
“I’m from the Latino community, and guess what?” Rodriguez asked the group. “Marion Barry gave me a job too.”
These comments echoed those of the 100 or so residents—-mostly Ward 8 residents—-that gathered in the streets of Anacostia for an informal memorial service Sunday night to celebrate Barry’s life and thank him for his service to their community. The residents met outside Barry’s house on the 1200 block of Talbert Street SE and marched together to the Big Chair sculpture nearby on Anacostia’s busy strip of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.
“He did more for the good of the whole than he did for himself,” said activist and pastor E. Gail Holness. “We don’t want to hear anything negative,” repeatedly telling the crowd that “Marion rode this thing called life til the wheels fell off.”
As they marched, residents chanted “rest in peace, Marion Barry,” “we love Marion Barry,” and “D.C. mayor-for-life.” Many of those in attendance were Ward 8 activists and community leaders—-people who say they were inspired by Barry to get involved in the community. At-large Councilmember David Grosso was the only member of the D.C. Council in attendance for the vigils outside Barry’s house and at the Big Chair .
“I think Marion has created a lot of capable leaders, and it’s going to be up to all of us to stand up and live up to his legacy,” says Charles Wilson, a commissioner on the Anacostia Advisory Neighborhood Commission.
At the Big Chair, about a dozen more speakers spoke about Barry and what he stood for as a politician. They talked about continuing Barry’s missions of empowering young black D.C. residents, particularly amid a fast-gentrifying city. At one point, the group of mostly black residents raised their clenched fists.
“All these newcomers coming in and take what’s ours,” said one 22-year-old D.C. resident who called on the other residents to continue Barry’s fights.
They sang songs and let out two doves in front of the sculpture. Some of the participants then continued on to the United Medical Center, where Barry passed away, and let out a dove there. The vigil ended at Imagine Public Southeast Charter School, where they watched a pre-recorded interview with Barry and Oprah Winfrey.
Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser spoke there around 9 p.m.
“We’re in great spirits, we know he no longer has to suffer,” Dennis Harvey, Barry’s godson, told me. “We are sending away a great man.”
See videos and photos from the vigil below:
Mayor for life chants at Marion Barry vigil in Anacostia https://t.co/989oqMMAJ1— Perry Stein (@PerryStein) November 23, 2014
Celebrating Marion Barry in song in Anacostia https://t.co/1GLIcrE1bd— Perry Stein (@PerryStein) November 24, 2014
More Marion Barry chanting https://t.co/JBCnHWXNmu— Perry Stein (@PerryStein) November 24, 2014
This Ward 8 resident took this picture late last night with Marion at Uniontown Bar and Grill pic.twitter.com/qHhBpXn3xY— Perry Stein (@PerryStein) November 23, 2014
Prints of this Chuck Brown and Marion Barry painting by Oliver Johnson going for $200. pic.twitter.com/krGBSu2IAw— Perry Stein (@PerryStein) November 23, 2014
Photo Perry Stein