Posts Tagged With: Barry

“Mayor For Life”, Marion Barry Was First American To Take A Bullet In War on Terror Against Muslim Extremists

“Mayor For Life”, Marion Barry was a freedom fighter. He is the first elected official in America to get shot fighting Muslim Extremists. In 1977 when Hanafi Muslims took over the District Building , Barry was shot during the incident. His survival seemed to boost his “unstoppable” image. A sometimes controversial but always tireless advocate for Washington, D.C., Marion Barry created jobs for generations of Black families, became the ultimate District of Columbia politician. Barry first made a name for himself in the Deep racially segregated South as a leader in the Civil Rights Movement; then he brought that fierce advocacy to D.C. to support the fight for “Home Rule” where local residents would be freed from the rule of Congress to manage their own city affairs, something referred to today as “taxation without representation”. He has left a strong legacy for so many young people to build upon.

Marion Barry was the first American to take a bullet in the War on Terror against Muslim Extremists. He was first and foremost a lover of America and the American Dream. This is his true legacy; this is the real story of the Life of Marion Barry. The Media focuses on a few incidents of misuse of controlled substances, but they choose to ignore the greater story. That is the rise from the dirt poor humble beginnings of a sharecropper’s family on a cotton plantation in Mississippi to become the Mayor for Life of the Nation’s Capitol, Washington, D.C.. That is a modern day Horatio Alger Story. That is the essence of the American Dream. Marion Barry signifies the best in the American Dream. His story is what Dr Martin Luther King was talking about in his I Have A Dream Speech.

‘Some Things You Never Forget’

Hostages who were held by gunmen at the B'nai B'rith International Center board a bus after their release. The March 1977 siege by a group of Hanafi Muslims lasted 39 hours and ended with one person dead and dozens hurt.

Hostages who were held by gunmen at the B’nai B’rith International Center board a bus after their release. The March 1977 siege by a group of Hanafi Muslims lasted 39 hours and ended with one person dead and dozens hurt. (1977 Associated Press Photo)

The small scar above Marion Barry’s heart has had three decades to fade, but it’s still noticeable — evidence that some things don’t disappear with time.

For 39 hours in March 1977 — before the word “terrorism” entered our daily vocabulary — 12 gunmen paralyzed the District in a three-point siege. The group of Hanafi Muslims held about 150 people hostage in three buildings, and before they surrendered, a young reporter was killed and dozens were injured, including D.C. Council member Barry. A shotgun pellet pierced his chest, right above his heart, nearly killing him.

“It’s been a long time, but some things you never forget. And that’s one of them,” Barry said in an interview.

This morning, many who remember those three days and others who simply recognize their significance will gather in the Wilson Building’s fifth-floor press room. They will unveil two plaques and dedicate the room to Maurice Williams, the WHUR-FM radio reporter who was shot as he stepped off an elevator in the District Building, the name of the city government’s headquarters at the time.

The building was one of the three places targeted in the siege, along with the B’nai B’rith International Center, at the time on Rhode Island Avenue NW, and the Islamic Center, on Massachusetts Avenue NW.

“I believe this incident was one of the more traumatic incidents in the history of this city, and the fact that he was the only African American journalist ever killed in the line of duty . . . makes it a very special occasion,” Paul Brock, who was WHUR’s news director when Williams was a student intern, said yesterday.

Brock will be among those gathered. “It’s an incident that everyone should know about,” he said. “It was a hint of things to come.”

The siege started March 9, 1977, at a time when security was still relaxed in government buildings and hostage videos weren’t a few clicks away on the Internet. It was before people searched mail for white powder or suicide bombings claimed regular headlines. It was a time when Judge London Steverson did not even have to show his identification card to gain entrance to his office in the International Division of Coast Guard Headquarters across town in the Volpe Transportation Building at 700 D Street, SW.

“This was an early wake-up call about violence and terrorism and the extent to which groups will go to engage in violence either for the sake of violence or to make a point,” Daniel S. Mariaschin, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International, said yesterday. “Little did we know 30 years ago that this kind of issue would be a daily concern for all of us, not only here in Washington but abroad as well.” He will speak at today’s event.

The 12 gunmen had several demands. They wanted the government to hand over a group of men who had been convicted of killing seven relatives — mostly children — of takeover leader Hamaas Abdul Khaalis. They also demanded that the movie “Mohammad, Messenger of God” be destroyed because they considered it sacrilegious.

Most of the hostages, more than 100, were captured at the B’nai B’rith headquarters.

Rae Ehrlich, a secretary on the fourth floor of the Jewish organization’s building at the time, was among those held captive.

“A girl came in screaming, ‘There are men with guns!’ ” Ehrlich, 83, recalled. She and others locked themselves in her boss’s office, she said. “The next thing we heard were men coming in and saying, ‘Unlock the door or we’re going to kill you all.’

They shattered a glass panel in the door and then took everyone downstairs, she said. “When I entered the second floor, there were bodies on top of bodies. I thought everyone was dead,” she said.

In the room where she was held, men were placed on one side, their hands tied behind them, and women on the other. She remembered wearing a dress that day and slowly unhemming the bottom, hoping the length would help her avoid attention. The men had it worse, she said. Some were not allowed to use the bathroom and had to relieve themselves where they stood.

One of the captors told them that “if anyone does anything wrong, he’ll cut their head and throw it out of the window,” she recalled.

Ambassadors from Iran, Pakistan and Egypt worked with police to persuade the men to give up. When they were finally released, Ehrlich and others went to a hotel, where counselors were waiting. “They said, ‘You cry it out, you write it out. Whatever you need to get it out of your system,’ ” Ehrlich said. She cried only once, when she saw the headlines the next day. “Then I cried,” she said. “I got it out of my system.”

Mayor For Life, Marion Barry said one lesson from that day has remained with him. “That God’s in charge,” he said. “Life is not promised. You could be gone in a flash.

He walked into the hallway of the District Building after hearing a commotion and was hit by a ricocheted shotgun pellet. He recalled stumbling back into the council chambers, dazed and “scared to death.”

Down the hall, a security guard lay wounded and would die a few days later from a heart attack. Williams, also nearby, was dead. Barry, who was elected mayor the following year, said he knew Williams as a “young, aggressive, budding reporter who took his job seriously.”

Williams was 24. Two years ago, the National Association of Black Journalists voted to create a scholarship in his honor, something Brock had pushed for. Williams’s mother, Bertha, who lives in Maryland, will attend today’s ceremony.

“He was very serious journalist. He wanted to tell stories that needed to be told,” Brock said. “I believe if his life had not been cut short . . . that he would have evolved into a renowned national journalist.”

(By Theresa Vargas,3/ 12/ 2007, Washington Post Staff Writer) 

John W. King wrote about the Hanafi siege in his book, The Breeding of Contempt. The book chronicles the siege and his family’s becoming the first African American family in the Federal Witness Protection Program after the massacre of the Khaalis family.

The siege is mentioned in Joni Mitchell‘s song “Otis And Marlena” from her 1977 album Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter. In the song, the title characters travel “for sun and fun / While Muslims stick up Washington”.

The Jonathan Leaf play The Caterers, which was produced Off Broadway in 2005, portrayed a modern-day version of the siege.

Categories: American History | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Mayor For Life”, Marion Barry, Says Good-bye

Marion Barry, the politician known as “Mayor for Life” has died at the age of 78. He served four terms as Mayor of Washington D. C. and was the most beloved local leader in four decades of District of Columbia self-rule.

Mourners gathered inside a cavernous hall at the Washington Convention Center to pay their final respects to former Washington D. C. Mayor Marion Barry.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson delivered the eulogy, which was a roll call of Civil Rights Heroes, at the December 6 funeral. In his eulogy, the Rev. Jesse Jackson called Barry, who came to Washington as the first chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a “freedom fighter” who joins the pantheon of civil rights leaders who died before him. “Marion was one of the architects of the new South and the new America,” Jackson said. “Marion Barry emancipated Washington.”

Other speakers included the Rev. Louis Farrakhan and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who appeared on video. Barry’s widow and son also spoke.

Washington, D.C., on Thursday, December 4,  began a three-day final farewell to former Mayor Marion Barry.

Barry, known as the District of Columbia’s “Mayor for Life” after four terms in office, died on Nov. 23 at 78 due to heart problems. He was a city councilman when he died, representing impoverished Ward 8.

Barry’s coffin, draped in West African kente cloth and piled high with red roses, lay in repose at city hall after police pallbearers carried it past mourners, media and political leaders.

Civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr. accompanied Barry’s family into the black-draped building.

Many of the mourners said Barry, the son of a Mississippi sharecropper, had transformed the U.S. capital by giving jobs and hope to black residents.

Mayor Vincent Gray, (2nd from the left in above photo)a longtime friend and political ally of Barry, said Barry stood up for people with intellectual disabilities long before it was politically popular to do so. Gray, who directed an organization for the intellectually disabled, recalled how Barry dealt with a wealthy resident who didn’t want a group home in his neighborhood. “Mayor Barry said, and I quote, ‘You really don’t want any answers, do you? If you want to talk about how we will make this work, I will stay with you all night. Otherwise, I have nothing else to say to you.’ That was vintage Barry,” Gray said. “The home opened and was a huge success.”

The Rev. Louis Farrakhan, the head of the Nation of Islam who was in Washington to support Barry,  said he was asked by a reporter at the time what he thought of a man who broke his marital vows and used drugs. I said, ‘Who are you talking about, John Fitzgerald Kennedy?’ That ended the press conference,” Farrakhan said to a raucous ovation. “I only raised that for those who like to talk about our deficiencies while they hide the wickedness of their own leaders.”

Farrakhan also credited Barry with the success of the Million Man March on the National Mall, which he organized and led in 1995. “The Million Man March could never have happened in any other city at any other time than in Washington, D.C. at the time of Marion Barry,” Farrakhan said.

Barry’s only son, Christopher Barry, thanked his father for teaching him both academic and life lessons, including a formative trip to Barry’s native Mississippi when he was 13. He said Barry wasn’t a conventional father, but he always felt the love Barry had for his constituents. “I didn’t always feel like he had the time to spend with me as a father,” Christopher Barry said. “It was other people that embraced me. I never felt his absence because I always felt his love through others.”

Charles Wilson, 54, was one of many mourners who wore a T-shirt printed with photos of Barry. A native Washingtonian and a social worker in the city, Wilson said he got his first job at age 13, working for the city’s parks and recreation department, through Barry’s summer youth program. “He was our father. He gave us jobs. He’s done a lot for the city. Whatever I have belongs to him – my house, my car, my job with D.C. government,” Wilson said.

“He’s like a messiah for the district. He paved the way for many, many, many of us, African Americans as well as people in general,” said Diane Lyons, 54, a healthcare worker.

Bernard Barker, 53, a laborer who had arrived at 6:30 a.m. to be first in line, prayed at Barry’s coffin.

“I just said, ‘God bless you, Mr. Marion Barry, God bless your family.’ I know he’s going to heaven because he did a lot of good for the city,” Barker said.

Washington planned three days of commemoration, with a motorcade carrying Barry’s coffin on Friday, December 5, to the Temple of Praise church, where he had worshipped.

A memorial service at Washington’s Convention Center drew thousands. The Reverend Jesse Jackson delivered the eulogy.

Barry became mayor in 1979 and focused resources on poor neighborhoods, government contracts for Black businesses and jobs on the city payroll.

Brief Bio

Marion Barry Jr. was born on March 6, 1936 in Itta Bena, Mississippi. His father worked as a sharecropper and passed away when he was only four. His mom moved the family to Memphis, TN. remarried and raised nine children. As a young boy, Barry took on multiple jobs to assist his family, including picking cotton.

Civil Rights Activist

This young man applied his work ethic to his education too. He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1958 from Le Moyne College and in 1960 received his master’s degree in chemistry from Fisk University. London Steverson had plans to attend Fisk University if he had not received a principal appointment to the U. S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT..  His passion for the Civil Rights Movement kept him from completing his doctorate. Instead, Barry’s efforts went into the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); he served as its first national chairman. In 1965, he moved to Washington, D.C. to launch a local chapter.

Undergraduate studies at LeMoyne College

Barry attended LeMoyne College (now LeMoyne–Owen College), graduating in 1958. Judge London Steverson attended LeMoyne College in the Summer of 1962 while still a student at Woodstock High School. In his junior year of college, all of the racial injustices he had seen started to come together. There was a fair ground in Memphis that he and his friends decided to go to; it was a segregated fair. They went to the fair at the time that the white people were supposed to go, because they wanted to see the science exhibit. When they were close to the exhibit, a policeman stopped them and asked them to leave. Barry and his friends left without protesting the policeman. At that time, Barry did not know much about his race, or why they were treated poorly, but it did not sit well with him. After this experience, Barry became a more active member of the NAACP chapter at LeMoyne; he became the president. While at LeMoyne, his ardent support of the civil rights movement earned him the nickname “Shep”, in reference to Soviet politician Dmitri Shepilov. Barry began using Shepilov as his middle name. In 1958 at LeMoyne, he criticized a college trustee for remarks he felt were demeaning to African Americans, which nearly caused his expulsion. While he was a senior and the president of the NAACP, Barry heard of Walter Chandler—the only white member on LaMoyne’s board of trustees—making comments that black people should be treated as a “younger brother not as an adult.” Barry did not appreciate the comments made by Chandler, and wrote a letter to LeMoyne’s president asking if Walter Chandler could be removed from the board A friend of Barry’s was the editor of the school newspaper, The Magician, and told Barry to run the letter in the paper. From there, the letter made it to the front page of Memphis’ conservative morning paper.

Political Ambitions

In 1967, Barry co-founded Pride, Inc., a jobs program for unemployed black men. Next, Barry began his foray into politics by winning a seat on the D.C. School Board in 1972; two years later, he was elected to city council. But his success put Barry in the line of fire, literally. Hanafi Muslims took over the District Building in 1977 and Barry was shot during the incident. His survival seemed to boost his “unstoppable” image.

Mayor Barry

After just three years on the city council, the democrat ran for mayor and won in 1978. He was reelected two more times.

Despite being the political comeback kid, Barry continued to have brushes with the law involving such accusations as drugs, tax evasion, probation violation, traffic offenses and stalking. In 2010, he was censured and stripped of his committee chairmanship because of corruption allegations. Still, in 2012, he was elected for a third straight city council term. His story may become an HBO biopic with Eddie Murphy playing Barry and Spike Lee as the director.


In June 2014, Barry had published his autobiography, Mayor for Life: The Incredible Story of Marion Barry Jr. In a New York Times interview after its release, he said, “I serve as an inspiration for those who are going through all kinds of things.”

Marion S. Barry Jr. died on November 23, 2014 at the age of 78 in Washington D.C. According to a statement, the former mayor had numerous health issues over the years including high blood pressure, diabetes, prostate cancer and kidney ailments.

Categories: American History | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at