District residents are mourning the untimely death of Marion C. Barry, the son of the late Ward 8 D.C. councilmember and former Mayor Marion S. Barry. Marion C. Barry, known mainly by his middle name “Christopher” was pronounced dead of an apparent drug overdose on Aug. 14. He was 36 years old.
Marion C. Barry was the only child of former D.C. Mayor Marion S. Barry.
According to news reports, Christopher was allegedly smoking K2, a synthetic drug and PCP, a hallucinogen. The District has recently seen a rise in synthetic drugs use. See “D.C.’s Drug Face Continues to Change” article on afro.com
“This tragedy once again highlights the pressing need to get drugs off of our streets, including dangerous synthetic drugs. While often believed to be harmless, synthetic drugs can induce immediate, psychotic and deadly reactions,” D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine said in a statement, referencing that The Office of the Attorney General is working on educating the public and the business community to ensure that city neighborhoods and children are safe from drugs. Besides K2, other common synthetic drugs are Spice, Trainwreck, Scooby Snax and Bizzaro.
“Some thought Christopher lived a life of privilege, but he experienced the pain that often comes with that so-called privilege,” D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said in a statement released Aug. 15. “Many beyond his friends and family feel the deep loss of Christopher in the springtime of his life.”
Christopher was the only child of Marion and Effi Barry and was born on June 17, 1980, while his father was serving his first term as mayor.
Christopher’s stepmother, former D.C. first lady Cora Masters Barry, said she was shocked when she heard the news. “Christopher’s sudden death has been devastating news to me,” Cora said in a statement obtained by the AFRO. “My heart is broken. I am in shock.”
Cora extended her condolences to Christopher’s grandmother, Polly Lee Harris, his only living direct biological relative after the death of his father in 2014. Effi Barry died in 2007.
Christopher attended St. Albans School for a few years and then left the District with his mother to live in Hampton, Va., after his parents divorced in 1993. He eventually returned to the city and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School where he also played football.
Christopher was a student at Hampton University and the University of the District of Columbia.
Christopher worked on construction jobs in the Hampton Roads area and in the District. When his mother died in 2007, he delivered a moving address at her funeral in the Washington National Cathedral.
He also named his construction business, Efficiency Contractors, after Effi Barry. Christopher was active in his father’s 2004, 2008, and 2012 Ward 8 council re-election efforts.
D.C. Council member LaRuby May (D-Ward 8), who ran and won against Christopher in 2015 to get his father’s council seat, said that her former opponent was a man who cared about the people who lived east of the Anacostia River.
“As a small business owner Christopher continued the legacy of his father by many times offering residents in our community their first job,” May said. “Christopher’s hiring practices did not discriminate because of your background or your neighborhood; he simply wanted to make sure that our people were given a chance in life. Mr. Marion Christopher Barry will be remembered by Ward 8 as a son, a brother, a friend and fighter.”
The residents of Ward 8 also expressed their condolences on Christopher’s passing. “I was one of his best friends, he cared a lot about the community, I got a job from him,” said Gregory Mobley. “He gave a lot of people jobs…he was trying to get big contracts.”
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) said, “Christopher Barry’s untimely passing is a sad ending to the Marion Barry legacy. Christopher never asked for the burden that comes with being part of a famous politician’s family.”
Christopher’s personal friends and allies are saddened by his death. “This has been a very tough two days for me,” Former 8B04 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Anthony Lorenzo Green told the AFRO on Aug. 15. “It seemed that he was evolving into a more positive individual each day.” Green was a strong supporter of Christopher’s 2015 campaign.
Markus Batchelor, a candidate for the Ward 8 D.C. State Board of Education seat, said he knew Christopher but wasn’t close to him. Nevertheless, Batchelor said Christopher was “very intelligent and wise beyond his years.”
“Christopher had a legacy of his own and like his father, was an unapologetic advocate for the marginalized people of the city,” he said.
Both Green and Batchelor confirmed that Barry was very interested in running for Green’s old seat. “He left me a message recently saying that he wanted to run for 8B04 and who should I talk to and things like that,” Green, who lives in Ward 7, said. “I didn’t have the chance to return the message, though.”
A candlelight vigil was held Aug. 17 for Christopher at Woodrow Wilson in Ward 3.
Christopher’s home going services weren’t finalized by AFRO press time.
Linda Poulson contributed to this article.