“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.
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.
“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.
In just three years after his public disgrace, Marion Barry is redeeming himself as Ward 8's councilmember.
Back to his roots in the lower-income black community, Barry is galvanizing the long-ignored ward and rebuilding his political foundation. You've got to give him a chance.” Another is cursing the “white motherfuckers” who brought Barry down in 1990. Hainsworth looks to be in his late 40s and, like the other men, came here this morning to register at a Ward 8 job fair. He was given a second chance, and he's on the road back.” Both Hainsworth and another man, who calls himself Zapp, worked in Barry's Pride Inc. “He's trying to see if he can come in and do something,” Zapp says.
It has the fewest homeowners, the most residents of public and subsidized housing, and the lowest property values.
The ward contains few retail stores and only one supermarket.