By MARK F. GRAY, AFRO Staff Writer, [email protected]
For the fourth consecutive year the legacy of former Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion S. Barry was honored by those trying to follow in the footsteps of the man who many believe was the greatest advocate for indigent residents of the nation’s capital.
The Marion S. Barry Youth Leadership Institute (MBYLI) honored thirteen civic and community leaders during its annual day of remembrance celebration at the Pepco Edison Gallery in Northwest, D.C. These trailblazers – representing community activism, education, broadcasting, business, and high student achievement – were honored for their unsung work in areas that receive very little notoriety but are impactful to the daily lives of residents of the District. This year’s honorees included: WUSA-TV news anchor and cancer survivor Bruce Johnson, former Howard University SID Ed Hill, Donnell Floyd founder of the Familiar Faces go-go band, and Tiffany White, Principal of Achievement Prep.
On November 25, 2015 members of the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Institute Alumni Association gathered at Uniontown Restaurant in Southeast, D.C. to commemorate the passing of Barry- affectionately known as “Mayor for Life”. The restaurant was the last place Barry visited the day he died on November 23, 2014. Because of the large turnout, testimonials, and sentiment of those gathered it was decided that the Marion Barry Day of Remembrance would become an annual event to remember his life and legacy.
“People don’t fully appreciate the breadth of what Mayor Barry did for this city,” Norman Nixon, President of the MBYLI said to the AFRO. “It’s important for transplanted residents to understand he was more than the man caught on videotape making a mistake.”
However, the work of the organization remains one of the biggest grassroots secrets in D.C. The MYBLI is a four-level year round leadership training and development program for young people in the District of Columbia between the ages of 14-19. The MBYLI training model emphasizes practical hands-on experience and a holistic approach to developing leaders of the 21st century.
New participants are recruited in the spring for the MBYLI Summer Intensive Training component. Youth Leaders are selected through a rigorous screening process. The summer portion of its training takes six weeks on a local college campus. It includes training seminars, community labs, youth government elections, cultural events, guest speakers and open discussion forums.
During the school year MBYLI focuses on applying those skills by developing programs that allow students to participate in community service projects, general body meetings, youth related forums and additional leadership development training. The Alumni Association has awarded $18,500 dollars in college scholarships over the past three years to MBYLI High School Graduates too.
Annually the day of remembrance honors the memory of Mayor Barry by gathering to honor unsung heroes in the community who, through their work, represent his life and legacy. It is also an evening for members of the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Institute Alumni Association to gather and celebrate their participation in the Youth Leadership Institute, which was founded in 1979. Since its inception, over 15,000 students have matriculated through the program and several alumni have also become prominent D.C. politicians including former City Council Chair Kwame Brown, current Council member Kenyan McDuffie and Joy Arnold, chief of staff for soon-to-be Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks.
“Marion’s vision was one of whatever you do be in a position of leadership,” Nixon said. “We haven’t quite lived up to that legacy yet.”
MBYLI’s outreach beyond academic development has also impacted the community also. They sponsored Thanksgiving basket drives and public speaking competitions while hosting workshops on community development, public speaking and funding the MBYLI Summer Basketball Tournament.