D.C. Renames Anacostia Street After ‘Mayor for Life’ Marion Barry

Screen with the event program overlooks the day’s festivities/Photo by Nya O’Neal / HUNewsService.com

By Afia Barrie and Nya O’Neal
Howard University News Service

Hundreds gathered in D.C.’s Ward 8 at the intersection of Good Hope Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Anacostia on Saturday to see the reveal of a new street sign: Marion Barry Avenue.

Set to the backdrop of Go-go music from Experience Unlimited, fronted by Gregory ‘Sugar Bear’ Elliot, the street-naming ceremony was filled with families roaming the event. Vendors, food trucks and booths with free snacks and activities for youth set up by the Department of Parks and Recreation lined the streets.

“Ward 8, unofficially known as the Great Ward 8, is east of the river, the heart of the city,” said Thennie Freeman, acting director of the parks department. “It is the home of former Mayor Marion Barry.”

“There’s a lot of talent and rich history located in Anacostia. … So, anytime that the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation has an opportunity to have an activation at Ward 8, we’re extremely excited about it.”

Barry, affectionately nicknamed “our forever mayor” by local residents, was the mayor of D.C. for four terms. In the middle of his third term in 1990, Barry was arrested in a sting operation by the FBI and the Metropolitan Police Department for crack cocaine use and possession. He served six months in federal prison. In 1995, after his release from prison, Barry ran for mayor and won. He then served as a Ward 8 councilman from 2000 until his death in 2014.

His various programs, like the Mayor Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Program and his commitment to serving Ward 8, has left a lasting impact on Washingtonians. The phrase “Marion Barry gave me my first job” rang throughout the event, with everyone sharing how the late mayor impacted their lives.

The renaming of the avenue comes as another effort to recognize the Barry’s impact on the city. In 2014, an eight-foot statue of Marion Barry was unveiled at the John A. Wilson building. The One Judiciary Square Building was renamed in Barry’s honor in 2020.

Speakers for the Anacostia event included Barry’s wife, Cora Masters Barry, Mayor Muriel Bowser, Ward 8 Councilman Trayon White and Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League and former mayor of New Orleans.

“We know that Marion Barry challenges us to do more, to be bigger, to get up when we’ve been knocked down and to show the world who we are as Washingtonians,” Bowser said. “And who we are, are people. We take care of ourselves, we take care of each other, we fight back when picked on and we love each other like Marion Barry loved us.”

After the speeches, audience members and distinguished guests gathered underneath a blue tarp and pulled a string to reveal the new sign.

Southeast native Tammy Rogers regarded the day with a sense of pride. “He was one of those guys that I saw fall down and get back up and he let us know that we all can do that,” she said.

“We can all rise above any adversities that come in our lives,” Rogers said. “He did a lot for this city and I’m so, I’m so proud I’m able to be here today.”

Michael Sterling and daughter, Assata, enjoyed the ceremony.

“It was a good family event,” Sterling said. “It was a positive day. The weather turned out well, and it’s good to see a lot of families, a lot of kids, just a lot of these people in general out and about for a good day.”

Afia Barrie and Nya O’Neal are reporters for HUNewsService.com.