On Saturday, March 3, 2018, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities publicly unveiled a ten foot statue of Marion Barry, Jr. The eight foot bronze sculpture, created by local artist Steven Weitzman, stands on a two foot pedestal outside the Wilson Building which houses the offices of the City Council. This public monument commemorates Barry for his civil rights leadership, his time as mayor and as Ward 8 councilmember. His statue prominently occupies the northeast corner of 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, a highly visible position on “America’s Main Street” between the White House and the US Capitol.
While most people know Barry as a mayor and a councilmember, he ascended into politics first and foremost as a civil rights leader. In 1965 Barry moved to Washington DC and opened the local chapter of SNCC. He quickly established himself as a respected leader when he organized a successful bus boycott to protest fare increases in DC. He then co-founded Pride, inc. an organization funded by the US Department of Labor to assist in the employment of black men. In 1972, he was elected to the DC school board, a position from which he would springboard to higher political office. He served as DC’s second Mayor from 1979-1991 and from 1995-1999; he served as Ward 8 councilmember from 1993-1995 and from 2005 until his death in 2014.
Cora Masters Barry, from whom Marion Barry, Jr. was separated though still on friendly terms, sought to ensure that artist Steven Weitzman replicated the likeness of her late husband. She worked closely with Weitzman during the creative process offering the artist articles of Barry’s clothing and other items to help fashion the statue. Best known for creating the Frederick Douglas bronze which now resides in the US Capitol’s Emancipation Hall, Weitzman has extensive experience creating commemorative work. Based in the Gateway Arts District in Brentwood, MD just a couple of miles over the DC line from Eastern Avenue NE, Weitzman’s studio kept Barry’s statue a closely-guarded secret until its final unveiling.