This weekend, a large bronze statue of former Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry was unveiled to the public. It is featured on Pennsylvania Avenue, only a few blocks from the White House. He is seen by African-American Democrats as a hero, but was once prosecuted for crack possession.
According to a FOX 5 report, the Washington D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities commissioned the statue. It cost as much as $250,000 to make, and was funded at least in part by public funds. Berry, a contemporary of Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement, became an infamous figure in 1990 after a video of him smoking crack surfaced.
The video tape can be seen here:
He was caught using illegal drugs during an FBI sting and went on to serve six months in federal prison. After he became free, he immediately resumed his political life. He was elected mayor following his conviction in 1994 for a single term and then was elected onto the city council in 2005 where he served until his death in 2014.
Despite his many personal faults, African-American members of the Washington D.C. political scene largely see him as a hero and are happy to see him being honored.
“He was a living legend,” said City Councilman Trayon White, during a radio appearance according to FOX News. “Marion Barry was an integral part of getting D.C. where it is today. … To honor a man like that who touched so many people — it’s right for the city.”
“Sometime after Dr. King had a dream and before President Obama gave us hope, Marion Berry provided opportunity,” Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser wrote in a Tweet.
Since his departure as Mayor, violent crime has dropped sharply in the city. That and his record of corruption will not stop his supporters from celebrating him, and paying honor to his likeness in America’s capital.