Sign up for our free newsletter
LL missed this little nugget in his morning roundup. Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry was up in Philadelphia this weekend to help Nation of Islam Leader Louis Farrakhan celebrate the 16th anniversary of the Million Man March.
From the Philly Inquirer:
Before Farrakhan took the stage, the crowd applauded Marion Barry, former mayor of Washington, who said he was honored to have helped clear the way for the inaugural gathering in 1995.
“It does matter who’s the mayor of the town,” he said. “This black man stood up and gave the entire town to the march. . . . When you get power, use it for our people.”
Barry recalled that the National Park Service had initially estimated the crowd that year at fewer than the one million that organizers had billed it to be. “I knew it was a lie,” said Barry, whose mayoral tenure was marred when he was caught using crack cocaine and who is now a member of Washington’s City Council. “So I got up in a helicopter and I looked and I discovered that white men can’t count either.”
There’s no mention in the archives that LL could find of Barry actually getting into a helicopter to refute the park service’s figures, but there is evidence of potential joke theft.
From the National Association of Black Journalists Journal January 31, 1996 edition:
Many media outlets relied on the National Parks Service for its numbers,which estimated attendance at 400,000. Organizers said that attendance was as high 2 million and that the government undercounted because of racial bias.
“We learned from the movies that white men can’t jump,” said [Ajamu] Webster of Mansas City. “Now we know from the march that white men can’t count.”
And Farrakhan himself used the same line at rally celebrating the Million Man March’s first anniversary in 1996.
For more on sometimes rocky relationship between Farrakhan and Barry, see Mike DeBonis‘ blog post.