Sandra Brown, 50, says this year’s Ward 8 turkey giveaway was a lot quieter than previous ones. There was no singing, no joke-telling, and no shaking. There was no Marion Barry.
The Thanksgiving turkey giveaway was a mainstay of Barry’s tenure as Ward 8 councilmember. And this year was no different. Barry arranged to give out 3,000 turkeys and—for the first time ever this year—40,000 pounds of vegetables to Ward 8 residents. Days before he died, Barry tweeted out a reminder to his constituents to come out Tuesday morning.
Ward 8, don't forget my annual turkey giveaway scheduled for Tues., Nov. 25th at 9am at Union Temple Baptist Church. Ward 8 residents only.— Remembering Barry (@marionbarryjr) November 20, 2014
But, as Brown put it, this year’s long wait in line for a free turkey at Union Temple Baptist Church near the Anacostia Metro station simply wasn’t as fun without Barry.
“It ain’t fun, there’s no joy,” says Brown, who got her first job as a teen through Barry’s youth summer job training program in 1983. “It was more fun with him because he made jokes. Every individual got to shake his hand. He made everyone feel special.”
Some people arrived to the church to receive their turkey as early as 4:30 a.m., forming a line around the church that, by 10 a.m., was two blocks long. Barry’s Council staff started handing out the turkeys and veggies at 9 a.m, checking IDs to ensure that those in line actually lived in Ward 8. Barry’s godson, Dennis Harvey, who was helping to man the line, said he’d seen people with IDs from Maryland, Virginia, and other parts of D.C. trying to get Thanksgiving fixings. Whole Foods and Capital Area Food Bank donated some of the food.
“[Barry’s] just as busy in death as he is in life. He worked so hard to pull this off,” said Barry’s Council spokeswoman LaToya Foster. “I understand why it’s not as jovial as it usually is. The people are devastated.”
“I can see him getting out of the car right here,” Foster said, pointing to the driveway in front of the church. “And pumping up his fist screaming ‘Ward 8.'”
A man holding a large painting of Chuck Brown and Barry stood near the church, while another sold mayor-for-life shirts for $10—-a reminder that this was still very much Barry’s event. (I bought one.)
“He always looks out for his black people,” says resident Connie Johnson. “I came because I want to remember him like this—-his loving spirit.”
Photo by Perry Stein