Former District mayor and recently elected City Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) crossed into Prince George's County last week to teach the county's business owners about survival and success.
"The brothers and sisters that have been through the battle must take the time to share, and we must take the time to listen," Barry told about 200 small-business owners gathered for the first DuBois Business Summit at Martin's Crosswinds in Greenbelt last week.
New D.C. City Council member and former mayor Marion Barry, seen at a D.C. hearing in October, spoke at a Greenbelt business summit last week.
(Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)
The summit, which is named after NAACP co-founder W.E.B. DuBois, was themed "Survival and Success." Barry, who came back from a drug conviction and six months in prison to win election to the council, is the epitome of the conference topic, said conference Chairman Joshua Smith.
"If you are in business, you have had your ups and downs," said Smith, who manages a business development group. "Knowledge of what not to do is so important. [Barry] is someone who has been on both sides of the mountain."
The conference included sessions on deal-making, entrepreneurship, how to develop a business and one called "How to Fund Your Dream When the Banks Say NO!"
"It is kind of hard for a person that is new in business to be able to have an interaction with someone who has been in business. The whole purpose of the summit is to share business experiences -- the good, the bad, the ugly," Smith said. "You don't always have the access to the people that have the answers."
The highlight of the day-long conference was Barry's luncheon speech, said Angela Barksdale, owner of Faith Works Home Care Service, a county-based provider of medical care to the elderly.
"I've gone through some struggles where family and friends have counted me out, but I said, 'I'm going to keep on keeping on,' " she said. Barry "is not scared to talk about what is. I want to bring my business to Ward 8."
Barksdale and other black small-business owners in the audience clapped and laughed many times as Barry told them to have courage and demand a fair shake. Barry is not as popular with the District's business community, which blamed him for the city's financial troubles in the mid-1990s and donated heavily to his opponent, Sandy Allen, in Barry's successful race to represent Ward 8 on the D.C. Council starting in January. He welcomed the warm reception from Prince George's business community -- calling the county "Ward 9" and appealing to the challenges faced by some black business owners.
"We were not taught to be business owners. During slavery, the master didn't teach you how to run his business," Barry said. "And most of us were told go to college and you get a good job. No, it's time. Start your business."
The Prince George's Harlem Renaissance Foundation, Prince George's Minority Business Opportunity Commission, the Maryland/DC Suppliers Council and the Prince George's Black Chamber of Commerce helped plan the conference. Panelists for the sessions included Prince George's County executives B. Doyle Mitchell Jr., president of Industrial Bank in Oxon Hill; Bruce Bates, owner of Bates Trucking and Trash Removal Inc. in Bladensburg; and Jacqueline W. Sales, president of Lanham-based Hazmed Inc.
Black Chamber President Hubert "Petey" Green said he wanted to hear Barry speak because "when he was mayor of D.C., he created an environment where, if you had vision, then you could have opportunity."
"A lot of people . . . got work. They got business opportunities, and there was excitement in the air," he said. "We need to have the same kind of excitement in our business community in Prince George's County."
Barry said that during his tenure as D.C. mayor he greatly increased the number of blacks who won city contracts. "I wasn't bashful about what I was doing," he said. "You had to bring an African American to the table."