Last week, civil rights leader and political icon Marion Barry died and barely after he had taken his last breath, the media was besmirching his reputation.
Barry was a “true” civil rights icon, not one “appointed” by the media. A “true” icon or leader should be like a candle; the more light he gives the less he becomes. The more light a candle gives out to lighten the darkness, the less it becomes; that is the essence of true leadership and Barry had plenty of that.
Barry was born in Itta Bena, Miss. but was reared in Memphis, Tenn. As a high school teen, Barry had a paper route and was promised a free trip to New Orleans if he obtained 15 new customers. Barry and several other Black teens achieved the 15 new customers goal, but was denied the trip to New Orleans because the city was segregated.
So Barry organized all the other Blacks with paper routes and they refused to work their routes until the newspaper delivered on their promised trip to New Orleans. They ended up receiving a free trip to St. Louis, my hometown because it was not a segregated city. This was the beginning of his fight against discrimination.
Barry graduated from LeMoyne College, now Lemoyne-Owen College, a historically Black college, in 1958 with a degree in chemistry. He went on to receive his M.S. in organic chemistry from Fisk University, another historically Black college. He was only a few credits away from receiving his Ph.D in chemistry from the University of Tennessee before dropping out to devote his attention full time to fight for civil rights for Blacks.
He eventually moved to Washington, D.C. where he served on the school board, four terms as mayor and three terms on the city council. His two signature accomplishments, by far, are his summer youth jobs program and mandating strict minority participation in all DC procurement opportunities.
His youth job program began in the summer of 1979 and was eventually expanded to be a year-round program. Under Barry, government contracting went from 3 percent to 47 percent of all procurement. He also hired professional Blacks to run various government agencies under his control. These actions were unprecedented in D.C. and have never been duplicated since, though every D.C. mayor has been Black.
So, by the time Barry was set up in a sting operation by the FBI smoking crack cocaine in 1990, he had established himself as a political powerhouse in D.C.; he had 20 years of being an advocate for good before he had his first negative blip as an elected official.
This is why I found the media’s behavior so offensive when, upon Barry’s death, they immediately began mentioning his arrest for smoking crack. Is it a legitimate part of Barry’s life’s narrative? Of course, but not in the immediate aftermath of his death. Could the media not allow his body to grow cold before they talked about his personal flaws?
Whenever the media interviewed or discussed Barry, they somehow seemed to always find a way to interject his crack arrest into the story. But somehow this same media never mentions former president Bill Clinton’s many dalliances with women when they interview him or discuss his legacy; they hardly mention his admitted sexual affair with a White House intern, Monica Lewinski.
How many of you are aware of 60 Minutes correspondent and CBS News chief foreign affairs reporter Lara Logan admitted to having sexual affairs with two American men simultaneously in Iraq that led to the two men getting into a fist fight over her (I guess she took her CBS News title literally). U.S. State Department contractor Joe Burkett and CNN correspondent Michael Ware fought a battle royale over Logan in a Baghdad safe house which put innocent people’s lives in jeopardy.
How many of you are aware that NBA broadcaster and TNT announcer Marv Albert was accused of raping at least two women and agreed to plead to lesser charges. He was suspended for two years, but his personal issues are rarely, if ever, mentioned.
I would just simply say, pull up a picture of each of these people and make your own conclusions.
Barry, without question, has created more Black millionaires in this area than all other people combined. Without Barry, there would be no Bob and Sheila Johnson, co-founders of BET, America’s first Black billionaires.
Without Barry, there would be no R. Donahue Peebles, head of Peebles Corporation, the largest Black-owned real-estate development company in America. At the age of 23, Barry appointed him to the Board of Equalization and Review, the real estate tax appeals board; at the age of 24, he was made chairman of the board, one of the most powerful boards in D.C.
To my dismay, even Black-oriented –but not Black owned – media outlets, including The Root (owned by the Washington Post) and The Grio (owned by NBC) have been no better than the White media’s portrayal of Barry.
To White folks who seemed to be confused by the love affair average Blacks had with Marion Barry and are always asking me why Blacks seem to almost worship him; to those with that question, I say for the same reason average Whites seem to almost worship Ronald Reagan.
For all of Barry’s personal demons, like a candle, he used himself up to lighten the path for others. That is why people called him “Mayor for Life.“
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @raynard1223.
Check out this perspective on the Bill Cosby controversy by Raynard Jackson originally posted on 23 November 2014 on Black Press USA.com.
By Raynard Jackson
“Hey, hey, hey (in my best Fat Albert’s voice), please listen to what I have to say. My friend Bill Cosby is in trouble today.”
Even Fat Albert knows Bill Cosby is getting a raw deal. As a public relations/crisis management professional. I have worked with some of the biggest names in sports, entertainment, and business. So, let’s deconstruct this media frenzy engulfing the man who was once America’s favorite TV dad.
Many of these allegations have been around for more than 30 years. Cosby has never been charged with a crime and deserves the presumption of innocence. Simply because several people – okay, eight and counting – provide a similar salacious account doesn’t make it true.
Until now, Cosby and his lovely wife, Camille, have not had to defend their hard-earned good name. They have given north of $50 million to educational institutions, especially HBCUs. Cosby has opened doors to many of the top actors and comediennes in the industry.
At the ripe old age of 77 years, at what point does one’s body of work require one to be given the benefit of the doubt? Cosby is, and in my book, will always be “America’s Dad.”
None of the females coming forward ever went to the police when the incident in question was supposed to have happened. There have been no corroborating witnesses. After the initial alleged incident, each of the women continued to spend private time with Cosby. If Cosby had done what they allege, why would they continue to spend private time with him? That makes no sense. Not even to Fat Albert.
And the media’s hands are not clean in the smear campaign.
Why would respected news organizations even give these women a platform when they offer no proof or evidence to support their allegations?
Corporate America has also taken the guilty until proven innocent approach toward Cosby, a former corporate darling.
NBC officials announced last week that that they were no longer working with Cosby to produce a new series that was supposed to launch next summer. Mind you that Cosby made NBC billions of dollars with his hit TV series “The Cosby Show” in the 80s and the successful spinoff, “A Different World.”
Evidently, Hollywood is a different world.
Even more surprising than the reaction from Hollywood and Corporate America is the paucity of people willing to defend Bill Cosby or at least insist on a greater burden of proof from his growing list of accusers. To be blunt, true friends don’t desert friends based on unsubstantiated rumors.
That means even when defending them is unpopular. I have publicly defended former Senate Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi when I knew accusations of him being a White racist were unfounded. I also backed former Majority House Leader Tom DeLay, who stepped down in 2005 after being indicted for allegedly improperly funneling campaign donations to Texas House candidates. He was eventually exonerated but by then, his political career had been unfairly destroyed.
Doesn’t Cosby deserve that same kind of loyalty?
I am not aware of one public statement of support from any former cast member of Cosby’s shows. I am not aware of any statement of support from any comedian on the scene today whose career took off because of Cosby. I am not aware of any statement of support from any civil rights group or college that have gladly taken millions over the years from Cosby and his wife.
Without delving into the issues about which only Cosby and his accusers know, at minimum, those who have been recipients of his largess could at least say there’s another side of the man.
I have spoken to a few of my A-list Hollywood friends about this issue and I found their explanations repulsive. They are all afraid of being “blacklisted” by White, liberal Hollywood. As much as I love money and success, I love my integrity more. How can you not support someone who has been instrumental in your being the very person you are today? How do you justify leaving someone like Cosby out to hang by himself?
Even Fat Albert doesn’t think Cosby deserves this kind of treatment.
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @raynard1223.