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Friday, August 22, 2014

Cheater's Guide to Dream City -- Part 13 (Murder Capital)

This is the thirteenth installment of a series (see the first installment here) summarizing the 1994 book Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, Harry Jaffe and Tom Sherwood. This book has recently been republished as an ebook and a paper book. HBO has plans to use material from the book to make a movie about the life of Marion Barry.

Chapter 12: Murder Capital

Rayful Edmond's undisputed moment at the top of the drug-dealing heap was short-lived. By summer 1988, he faced two challenges -- one from locally-based Michael Salter (also known as Michael Frey or Fray) and the other from criminal gangs based in Jamaica via New York and Miami. The Jamaicans caused rival gangs to unite temporarily. Once the external threat receded, the gangs turned on each other.

"The number of murders shot up again in 1988 to set a record at 372. The rate of 60 killings per 10,000 residents put Washington ahead of Detroit as the murder capital of the nation. By comparison, New York's rate was 25. And it would get worse. On Valentine's Day 1989, 13 people were shot in one twenty-four-hour period" (Kindle location 3888).

"Eighty-nine percent of the victims were black; 96 percent of the assailants were black. Not one murder occurred in the white neighborhoods west of Rock Creek Park" (i. 3893).

" 'I'm not going to take full responsibility for all these murders,' Mayor Barry told Newsweek magazine. 'The city government didn't import this drug into Washington' " (l. 3899).

"The public read about two separate car accidents, one in the dead of night. His chauffeur-driven car ran a red light and collided with a car driven by a radio reporter en route to work at 2 am. 'I'm just a night owl,' Barry said to explain his early morning meanderings" (l. 3913).

"At least half of the people killed were African-American males under the age of 25, and numbers of juveniles arrested on drug charges climbed from 1,111 in 1986 to 1,658 in 1987. In 1984 there were no children twelve or younger arrested for drugs; by 1987 there were 35. Twenty-five juveniles were charged with murder in 1988; 52 would be up on murder raps in 1989" (l. 3938).

"Barry's dissipation placed his young aides in a wrenching predicament. They were talented, honest, highly-motivated African-Americans. They felt indebted to Barry for his leadership in the civil rights movement. They believed that Barry and his comrades ... had changed the world and paved the way for their success. They also were totally committed to the notion that balcks could run the city government. It was their city" (l. 3953).

"Barry's staff became one more layer in the wall of silence that protected the mayor. But the wall had many more elements. Barry's friends kept their silence; his cocaine dealers never squealed; [then-wife] Effi Barry witnessed the damage and kept it to herself. The city watched Barry slur his speech, sweat profusely in cold room, stare from dilated eyes. Call them facilitators or enablers, to one degree or another, dozens of people were culpable. The whole town knew that the mayor was falling victim to drugs. 'What's the surprise?' an African-American cabdriver said one day. 'Everyone knows Marion's a street monkey who's addicted to cocaine' " (l. 3967).

"...[B]y the late summer of 1988, even Barry knew that he was in grave danger. Some friends who suspected Barry's addiction suggested he 'pull a Betty Ford' and check himself into a clinic for alcoholism. Some suggested he needed to take a real vacation and stop his party lifestyle. Barry was too proud and too scared politically to go public and check into a hospital. He decided to try to heal himself" (l. 3978).

He checked into the New Age Health Farm Spa in Neversink, New York.

"Barry's plan was to spend the week quietly and return to Washington refreshed and released from drugs and alcohol. But his insistance, for the first time, that a trip remain a secret raised suspicions in the press... Barry stationed two security guards in a New York City hotel for the week to distract reporters. Their bill, paid by taxpayers, exceeded $2,500" (l. 3995).

Barry went on a special diet and had colonic irrigation. After returning, he told the press in October that his health had improved: "I'm more controlled, more contemplative, more reflective, more caring" (l. 4005).

Cheater's Guide to Dream City continues next week

Further installments will appear on successive Fridays. All posts will be cross-posted on the ad-hoc "Cheater's Guide to Dream City" blog.

Full disclosure: I have a commercial relationship with Amazon. I will receive a very small portion of the money people spend after clicking on an Amazon link on this site.

This is a great book and well worth reading in its entirety.

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