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More crimes against persons are committed in the 7th Police District, which includes all of Ward 8 and small parts of Wards 6 and 7, than in any other.Ward 8 also has the highest percentage of children (33 percent) and the fewest people of voting age.
Forgiven by Ward 8, Barry remains the political entrepreneur he was when he set up shop in the District three decades ago, and he is repaying Ward 8's forgiveness with tireless advocacy and community mobilizing.
Now, just three years after a sordid trial and 16 months after release from federal prison, a rededicated Barry reigns ascendant over Ward 8, a political boss with an unmatched organization, grandiose plans, and a legitimate claim to speak for a ward that's never had a voice.
As mayor in the '80s, Barry abandoned them when realpolitik demanded it, exchanging the civil rights crusade for a permanent campaign.
In place of community empowerment and class politics, Barry substituted appeals to real-estate developers and the voters of the black middle class.
The part-time status doesn't hurt: He gets credit for a metaphysical rebirth, but preserves 100-percent name recognition as Marion S. Barry has also trumpeted his return as an African-American leader by climbing back into kufis, African shirts, and kente scarves.
As he told the Washington Post, these dashikis of the '90s symbolize that he has cast off Establishment values that he “subconsciously” adopted when he was wearing Raleigh's suits.“The people of Ward 8, and some people in other wards, felt that Marion Barry got a raw deal, even though he did tremendous wrongs and embarrassed the city,” says Ronald Walters, professor of political science at Howard University. By raising their fallen mayor, Washington's dispossessed raised themselves.This sense of victimization resonated deepest in the black neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River, and Barry sensed it in November 1990, when he suffered the only electoral defeat of his career.“There were a lot of people who were sympathetic to the kind of plight he found himself in.” Ward 8 responded to Barry's troubles because of its own.By every measure of social chaos, it is Washington's poorest, most troubled ward. Its percentage of families in poverty and its unemployment rate are highest.And, hard as it is for many to believe—or to stomach—he has brought with him the creativity, organizational skill, and cunning that made him the District's most effective, most beloved, and most reviled leader for 20 years. They rolled the stone in front of his tomb; the city elected a political neophyte as its mayor and tried to expunge Barry from District history.But those who buried him forgot that the Marion Barry who smoked crack in the Vista also was the alpha and omega of District politics, its creator and its unchallenged master.Knowing that he couldn't win the 1990 mayoral race, Barry re-registered as an independent and ran for an at-large council seat during the interval between his conviction and sentencing.Lacking organization, money, credibility, and social standing, Barry finished a distant third citywide, but first in Wards 7 and 8.On Alabama Avenue and Randle Place SE, in the heart of Ward 8, five middle-age men sit at the old Congress Heights School playground talking about their new councilmember, Marion Barry. “When it's time for him to get things together, he gets it together,” Hainsworth says. “He's trying to make it better for all of us.” Zapp, a 38-year resident of Ward 8, continues: “He's a person who's lived in the community, been involved in the community.... He's like family.” Further up Alabama Avenue, other constituents of the new councilmember gratefully welcome his return.Maria Wallace, a young grandmother, stands outside her church, next to a bricked-up project, and tells stories of how Councilmember Barry has already arranged the repair of her public housing complex and helped her get the food stamps she needs. Barry because he's the only person we can talk to,” she says.