Local activists questioned Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry’s commitment and leadership when he failed to appear at a Thursday rally in opposition to a women’s services shelter in Anacostia.
Amplified with a bullhorn, ANC Commissioner Greta Fuller’s voice cut the early morning cold, echoing down the 1200 block of Good Hope Road SE.
"We have been fed lies over and over again that are our community will be revitalized,” Fuller said to more than 50 people who gathered. “Marion Barry, you are not in touch with our community. You don’t know what we want, you don’t know what we need.”
Organized by former Barry spokesperson Natalie Williams, now challenging Barry for Ward 8’s 2012 DC Council Democratic nomination, the rally attracted community leaders and residents that have sought information on Calvary Women’s Services’ plan to open a 50-bed shelter on Good Hope Road for the past 6 months without success.
A self-identified “old foot soldier,” known widely as the grande dame of Anacostia for her tireless work with children and the homeless, Hannah Hawkins expressed her disappointment in Barry.
"Marion Barry, I love him,” said Hawkins, the matriarch at Children of Mine Youth Center on Mount View Place SE. “But he has backed off a lot of these social services issues.”
Many in the assemblage questioned Barry’s nonattendance. In a recent press release criticizing Williams’ candidacy, Barry addressed the women’s shelter asserting “This is an issue I investigated and have been working with the Community [sic] on for over three months. Her Johnny-come-lately efforts are just that.” No one in the crowd could account for Barry’s claims, while some even questioned if there are ulterior motivations for his reluctance to respond to his constituent’s concerns.
In reaction to Barry’s statement, DC Council Chairman Kwame Brown reprimanded the former mayor for a “potential violation of the Council’s Code of Official Conduct” in addition to existing city and federal law that bar electioneering with public resources. The DC GOP questioned Barry’s ethics in attacking an opponent on government time.
Many speakers at Thursday’s rally were direct in marking the distinction of their opposition. “We are not against women’s shelter, we are not against homelessness,” Fuller said. “What we are against is the oversaturation of these services in a condensed area.”