I was honored to call former Washington, D.C. Marion Barry a friend, and over the almost two decades that I knew him one thing was absolutely consistent; he always wanted the best for the constitutuents of his beloved city. Particularly District 8, the low-wealth community where we lived.
I knew Mayor Barry the public service and politician, and I also had a glimpse into Marion Barry the person. I saw him in physical pain, but showing up to his District of Columbia office anyway, in spite of his physical challenges. He never complained.
There are so many memories, but I remember best traveling as part of a Clinton Administration Presidential Delegation to Africa (Ghana), and the most hilarious discussion broke out between Mayor Barry and my mother, Ms. Juanita Smith. I had asked Jena Roscoe, who at that time still worked for President Clinton (and now works for me and Operation HOPE), to keep an eye on my loving and very vocal mother. It all worked beautifully until our departure from Ghana, where this hilarious discussion broke out between mother and mayor. That one is eched into my memory is if it happened just yesterday.
Long after he had been mayor, I remember Councilman Barry highly engaged in our HOPE Economic Summit in Anacostia, and later still, Barry pushing me to bring our financial literacy empowerment programs not only District of Columbia-wide, but to focus our financial literacy empowerment tools, services and programs on the youth and low wealth communities of under-served Washington, D.C. Most specifically District 7 and District 8.
One thing was sure — this was a man who lived his passion and purpose in the same breath. He lived his truth, whether others liked or appreciated it or not. I did (appreciate), and I do to this very day.
Thank you Mayor Marion Barry for your service, to others. Rest now my friend. Rest now.
John Hope Bryant and the Operation HOPE family