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How Will Historians Like Marion Barry’s Life Impact 21st Century Leadership?

November 23rd, 2014, “The Mayor For Life”, Marion Barry transitioned from life to eternity.  By coincidence, a legendary list of icons for justice also made a similar transition from life to eternity, all within a one-year period of time.  One week ago, on November 16, 2014, Herman Russell, Civil Rights and Business icon who started a shoeshine stand at 16 years old, turned a small plastering business into the third-largest black-owned business in America.  Herman Russell was laid to rest on last Saturday, after a funeral that included in attendance, three living Presidents.

On May 28, 2014, a trailblazer in film and television, an American author poet, dancer, actress, and singer also crossed over to the everlasting. Maya Angelo captivated children, Presidents, and the nation with her passion for love, life, and a daily expression for peace.  Nelson Mandela, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, a South African revolutionary, politician, philanthropist and the first Black President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999 also passed away less than one year ago on December 5, 2013. 

 For thousands of people in the District of Columbia, Marion Barry was the reason they had a job, which meant that Marion Barry was the reason they could keep their home, feed their children, and pay their light bill.  Poor and working-class kids in the city received their first jobs from Barry’s summer jobs programs for thirty-five years.  The Barry administration increased assistance to the elderly and the poor. It was often said, “if you did not benefit from the way Barry ran the city, you probably knew someone who did”.  DC residents loved Marion Barry because he cared for them. 

At 9:15pm Monday evening, November 24, 2014, the announcement on the Michael Brown Ferguson Grand Jury decision was read to the nation less than 48 hours from the passing of the Mayor For Life.  OGTV honors this historic DC legend by sharing video participation on the March on Washington 50 years later as Marion Barry declares from the stage that Statehood for DC residents is a right that must pass.

There is so much to learn about the life of Marion Barry, but there is one thing that has become apparent;  Marion Barry was an Ambassador for change and justice, for the underserved and underrepresented by any means necessary.  And to pass away literally days before the Ferguson, jury decision, and less than a year after the loss of such icons described, OGTV’s feature story, we ask,  “How Will Historians Like Marion Barry’s Life Impact 21st Century leadership?   Herman Russell, Mayou Angelou, Nelson Mandela, and now Marion Barry were all subject to injustice.  However, in-spite of the injustices experienced by each leader, we now can examine how these leaders have overcome challenges of injustice, and made a difference in the world. Emerging leaders will now have to take on the responsibility to improve life for those most in need. Who are they?  Where are they?

And for OGTV to highlight three of the nation’s most well known leaders on the same day the streets of Ferguson St Louis are lit with fire, police in riot gear, stores burned down, and protestors dispersed throughout the country expressing their fury against the Ferguson decision, is a piece of history that will require leadership in the 21st century to change laws, and to create a civil survival.   So the future of leadership leaves room for many questions.  For example, will police and Black boys continue to be a Black parent’s worst nightmare?   Will DC finally be able to win the right to statehood under a new leadership in Congress and the Senate?   Marion Barry, Herman Russell, Maya Angelou, and Nelson Mandela have done what they have been placed here on earth to do.  We ask now, how will their lives impact 21st Century Leadership? 


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