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Last night the D.C. Democratic State Committee had its big Kennedys-King fundraising dinner at the Hinckley Hilton. The at $175-a-ticket event is a chance for D.C. pols and the party faithful to rub shoulders with random bigwigs like South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn and former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, as well as to eat, drink, pretend that everyone in the local party likes each other. They were also able to silently bid on microdermabrasion cream.
It was also an opportunity to hand out awards and give speeches. D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson gave Mayor Vince Gray the “DC Home Rule Award” and said the mayor “really has done so much to try to increase the consciousness of the citizens across the country as well as in the District” about D.C.’s second-class status in Congress.
The embattled mayor, the target of a federal investigation that everyone seems to be talking about lately, opened his acceptance speech with a joke: “I know what the real question is here tonight and I’m going to answer it for you, um, the game just started about five minutes ago.”
Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser won the award for legislator of the year and former mayor for life Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry won the Dr. Martin Luther King lifetime achievement award. In presenting that award, Councilmember Vincent Orange reminded the audience that Barry lives his life according to Jesus’ teachings.
“Now when we bring up the honorable Marion Barry, we already know he feeds the hungry, we already know he clothes the naked, we already know he heals the sick,” said Orange.
Barry said that “growing up poor, never would I have thought I would be standing here tonight.” He continued:
I accept this award but I’m disturbed by something here. Washington, our nation’s capital, is a tale of two cities. The very, very poor, 40 percent of our citizens are not at the poverty line but below the poverty line. We have the very affluent and very very poor. We have two wards in our city. Ward 8, 98 percent African-American and proud of it. But in 2012, we shouldn’t have any more that’s 98% of anything. Ward 7, 90 percent African-American. Yet on another side of the river, one ward 90 percent white. In 2012, we shouldn’t have a tale of two cities.
Sudip Bhattacharya contributed to this report.