Marion Shepilov Barry - 1936-2014
|Washington City Paper|
As Glenn Greenwald tweets this morning, the New York Times obituary of Washington DC's former mayor Marion S Barry "does a decent job of conveying how Marion Barry's life was much more complex and varied than the caricatures."
As the obit details, for his entire life Barry was involved in civil rights struggles and politics, from organizing NAACP chapters at the colleges he attended on his way to becoming a chemist, to being one of the founders and first national chairman of the legendary Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which organized lunch counter sit-ins and voter registration drives in the Jim Crow apartheid South and helped trigger the modern Civil Rights Movement. And then being elected several times as Washington DC's mayor and later to city council seats, even after the famous 1990 misdemeanor crack cocaine arrest that made him a national laughingstock.
The obit also mentions that Barry was born with simply the initial S as a middle name but in the late 1950s took on the middle name Shepilov in honor of "Dmitri Shepilov, a purged member of the Soviet Communist Party."
Shepilov was a high ranking Communist Party member and Soviet economic theoretician who was ousted during a power struggle during the premiership of Nikita Kruschev. Although the New York Times obit doesn't go into it, Barry's taking that name points out the fact that many African Americans, North and South were, as were many Hispanics here in New Mexico, attracted to Communism and Socialism during those times because of the fact that economic justice and racial equality are part and parcel of them.
Marion S Barry was colorful, accomplished, controversial, and most of all, despite what you thought about him, persevering. But because I've always associated Barry's name with his arrest and ridicule, I often refer to Albuquerque's mayor, whose last name is Berry and who is also a mayor and has earned ridicule on his own, as Marion Barry. Guilt by association.
An apology is in order. I've slandered you, Mr Mayor. You're certainly no Richard Milhous Berry.