A leap of faith

November 02, 1994|By Samuel L. Banks

MOST POLITICAL pundits, despite political affiliation, predict that Marion Barry will again be elected mayor of Washington on Tuesday.

Among factors in his favor: Democrats far outnumber Republicans and Mr. Barry's political wizadry in the primary, including his ability to organize young voters, makes him a shoo-in for the general election against Republican Carol Schwartz.

Since Mr. Barry's return from prison for possession of an ounce of cocaine, he has been followed very closely by the media and the public. In his move to Ward 8, a largely poor area, he positioned himself to rise from ignominy, personal pain and public disgrace to gain a seat on the city council.

Since that election, Mr. Barry has been a forceful and resourceful voice for the dispossessed. Poor and middle-class black citizens coalesced to pave the way for Mr. Barry's return as mayor.

The saga of Marion Barry is instructive and inspirational. He had fallen, through his visceral and worldly appetites, to the lowest point with his incarceration. Nonetheless, he paid his dues and bounced back. His incarnation provides a marvelous example to those in similar predicaments as to what can be achieved through faith in God, determination and staying power.

While the Washington Post has endorsed Ms. Schwartz, and reportedly many white Democrats are planning to cross party lines and vote for her, I believe the only question on Tuesday will be the size of Marion Barry's victory margin. Following are some key reasons why Mr. Barry will be returned to the post of mayor.

* A pervasive belief among most of Washington's black voters that Marion Barry has had a religious transformation and is worthy of another chance. * Because Mr. Barry is able and was an effective manager as mayor, it really does not matter that the mostly white residents of Ward 3, an affluent area, refuse to accept him. The majority rule principle will prevail in the general election.

* Mr. Barry has established an excellent rapport with and knows well the disparate socio-economic groups in Washington. The different groups will unite to help him win again.

* The spirit of redemption espoused by Mr. Barry resonates powerfully and convincingly among black ministers and their congregants. The effort made by the Washington Post and other white-controlled media, print and electronic, and some residents of Ward 3 to demonize Mr. Barry was a disaster. As one jubilant "sister" proclaimed after Marion Barry's primary election victory: "He may be a devil, but he is our devil."

In short, a majority of the black voters are prepared to take a leap of faith and elect Marion Barry.

Mr. Barry knows that the political and personal stakes are high. He knows, additionally, as mayor, his leadership of Washington must be racially inclusive and prudent as he works with the Congress, businesses and Washington residents to tackle the city's many problems.

He deserves on the basis of his ability, management skills and willingness to serve the needs and interests of all of Washington's citizens, black and white, the opportunity to serve once again.

Samuel L. Banks is director of the city schools' Department of Compensatory Education and Funded Programs. He writes from Prince George's County.

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