Barry Wins: Ignites Asian Community
By: C.N. Staff Writer
Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry won the D.C. Democratic primary on April 3, 2012, successfully reclaiming his seat by an overwhelming victory with more than 72% of the vote, among a crowded field of contenders.
Barry’s challengers included former Ward 8 Democratic President Jacque Patterson (8.52%), Ward 8E02 ANC Commissioner Sandra Seegars (7.87%), Former Barry Spokeswoman Natalie Williams (6.98%), and current Ward 8 ANC 8B03 Commissioner Darrell Gaston (3.25%).
Although, Patterson came in second place, not a single one of Barry’s contenders came even close to the percentage in which he won. It was a landslide.
Barry held his victory party at the Old Congress Heights Elementary School (now occupied by Imagine Public Charter School) a staple in the Congress Heights Community. During his victory speech Barry commented on what he believes could be a better relationship with Asian business owners and the immediate community. Barry’s remarks ignited a firestorm locally and are receiving attention from national press as well.
Barry said, “We’ve got to do something about these Asians coming in, opening up businesses, those dirty shops. They ought to go. . . . We need African American business people to be able to take their places.” He went on to say that his comments only referred to “some” of the Asian businesses. However, some Ward 8 Asian business owners are not happy with his comments.
The owner of Hong Kong Delight, which is located in the heart of Congress Heights on MLK Avenue, said he was “troubled” by Barry’s comments. “We are doing business in this neighborhood and the residents are buying from us so I don’t see the harm.” However, Brian Woodson, a Ward 8 resident, who also patronizes the MLK Deli said, “Barry is right. These Asian joints look like [explicit].” Longtime resident and Ward 8 business owner Phinis Jones said, “As a business owner I live in the area I work and I hire and train local residents. This is the model for true community development. The Asian business owners here in Congress Heights are being presented with a golden opportunity. I encourage them to participate in the upcoming Congress Heights Day scheduled for May 12, 2012 on the parking lot of Old Congress Heights School. Their participation will show Mr. Barry and his constituents they have a true commitment to not just economic gain but community development and involvement. The residents will not only continue to patronize their establishments but will start showing them respect.”
Across town on Georgia Avenue NW, there are several Asian-owned nail salons. Lisa Ketting and Barbara George were leaving one business and commented on Barry’s comments. Lisa said, “I just asked one of the owners in there, ‘Why yall keep these places so dirty?’ They know it’s dirty up in there.” Lisa said he didn’t have anything to say.
Lisa’s sentiment seems to be what Barry was trying to relay in his victory speech comments. He further stated that the Asian businesses don’t reinvest into the community in which they are a part of.
These businesses don’t come out and support local initiatives in the community, set up tables during community events or support other local businesses through newspaper ads or attend the Ward 8 community meetings. They just come and run their businesses and take the money out of the community.
There are a number of local Asian groups calling for an apology of Barry: Asian American LEAD (AALEAD), Asian Pacific American Bar Association of the Greater Washington DC Area, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance — DC Chapter (APALA-DC), Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center (APALRC).
Other critics of Barry are calling on him to withdraw his seat from the National Democratic Convention this summer in Charlotte, NC, citing his comments are an embarrassment to the Democratic party and the president. However, Barry maintains that residents of the District, within congressional lines, democratically elected him.
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|MEMBER OF THE COUNCIL WARD EIGHT|
|Jacque D. Patterson||DEM||537||8.521%|
|S.S. Sandra Seegars||DEM||496||7.870%|
|Darrell Danny Gaston||DEM||205||3.252%|
Candidate Results for Ward 8 Council Election
Data as shown on the dcboee.org website