By Nikita Stewart
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray on Saturday unveiled Lil' Benny Way, an alley named in honor of one of the city's go-go greats, at an event off U Street that blurred the lines between ceremony and campaigning.
Fenty and Gray, his chief rival in the Sept. 14th Democratic primary, were civil and made no campaign speeches. They stayed on topic: Anthony "Lil' Benny" Harley, who died of a heart attack in May at age 46, was a go-go legend and was dedicated to giving back to the community by helping young people learn music.
But 11th street between T and U streets, where an alley now bears Harley's nickname, was teeming with campaign workers for Gray and Fenty.
Fenty has been courting fans of go-go music since Memorial Day weekend when he began advertising on urban radio stations with endorsements from go-go musicians. Though go-go godfather Chuck Brown is supporting Gray, Fenty has a long list that includes Sugar Bear of EU.
Fenty's campaign staff and city staff were present, mixing in together. Concert passes bearing Harley's image were given to people in attendance. Harley's silhouette was drenched in a teal green so that the keepsake looked like campaign paraphernalia. The passes were paid for by Fenty and Democratic council members Jim Graham and Kwame R. Brown, both running for election and both in attendance Saturday.
Ron Moten, co-founder of the Peaceoholics who has become a face of Fenty's campaign, told the crowd that Fenty should be credited with giving Harley "the biggest funeral in D.C."
The impact of Fenty's go-go effort is unknown. The mayor was booed at Harley's funeral, but there were no jeers Saturday.
The crowd appeared focused on Harley despite the campaign stickers.
Jasmine Young, Harley's 15-year-old stepdaughter, delivered a touching speech about how Harley was also her "friend." WPGC radio personality Antonio "the Cuban Cigar Smoker" told the crowd that a scholarship fund in Harley's honor has been started to give assistance to students at Ballou High school, his alma mater.
In an interview, Antonio said Harley came up with the idea years ago to clear the alley of trash so that musicians could have a back entrance to the nearby Masonic Temple where go-go bands play.
After Fenty, Gray, Graham and family members officially unveiled the sign, they took a walk through the alley to the temple.