The Nine Lives of Marion Barry
Hollywood by Choice
“The Nine Lives of Marion Barry” will be released on DVD Dec. 7, and it is the suggestion of this writer that everyone should have a copy of this documentary in their video library. Why? Because it is one of the most powerful lessons you can learn about life, and how racism, bad breaks—like getting shot in the chest at City Hall—hard knocks, mistakes, drug addition, embarrassment, hard times, ill will, bad judgment, and womanizing doesn’t necessarily have to break you down and count you out in this thing we call life. You can get up and fight another day, and so it is with Marion Barry.
This extremely well-made documentary details the life and political career of current D.C. City Councilmember Marion Barry. For those of us who don’t live or have never lived in Washington, D.C.’s Ward 8, “The Nine Lives of Marion Barry” may answer some questions about why this man keeps getting elected to public office.
Barry has been caught on tape sniffing cocaine, tested positive for drug abuse as late as 2004, and served time in prison yet, every time he decides to run for office, he wins. His constituents support him because they know he knows what their lives are truly like. His record shows he’s tried to right wrongs in his community since the first day he stepped into public office. He’s the man who transformed Washington, D.C., from a sleepy southern town run by segregationists into a cosmopolitan, political stronghold of Black America.
He knows extreme poverty, hopelessness, and strife. Yet he also knows extreme courage, the power of education, and how to fight for social justice. And most important of all for Barry, he knows how to get up once he’s been knocked down. It doesn’t matter to him whether or not he brought on his own destruction, what matters to him is his indomitable spirit.
The most striking characteristic I saw that he possessed as a young man was his fearlessness. Talk about shaking off threats, taunts and racist attitudes, Barry had the audacity to defy conventional thinking which included racist Whites and upper-crust Blacks. He was for the people, opportunity and justice forgot.
Director/producers Dana Flor and Toby Oppenheimer tell a very objective story about Barry and his nine lives. Historical footage of Barry depicts the man at his core including his values, his drive, and his amazing audacity at a time, when a Black man’s life wasn’t worth a dime, and if he had a mouth on him, he surely walked around with a target on his back. But he thrived.
Power corrupts. And it draws women like flies. The producers trace his slide into the dark side with very touching interviews with his then wife Effi, who painfully details his downward trek.
There are a number of memorable powerful moments in “The Nine Lives of Marion Barry” right from the start. The excellent narrative, background music and editing takes you through the many ups and downs of Barry’s life and career in a very factual, yet deeply human style.
I suggest this video for everyone, because there are times in our lives, when we want to give up on ourselves particularly when we cause our own downfall due to human weakness or error. We let public opinion or so-called righteous people break us down and tell us we’re no good; we’re finished. That’s when we can take a lesson from D.C. Councilmember Marion Barry. And before you call him evil, an embarrassment or thug take a look at his story, and know that if he can get up, dust himself off and try again, so can we.
“The Nine Lives of Marion Barry” will be released on DVD Dec. 7."
Gail can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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