Rufus (Catfish) Mayfield was expecting to campaign for his new friend, Mayor Walter Washington, at a fete in Langsbury Park the other day when instead he ran into former friend Marion Berry.
The two men had hardly spoken to each other since 1967 when Barry squeezed Mayfield out as chairman of Pride, Ins. The coup occurred two months after Barry and Mayfield founded and received $2 million in federal funds for the organization designed to help Washington's "street dudes."
"I'm surprised, Marion, at the said to Barry about his campaign strength you're picking up," Mayfield said to Barry about his campaign for mayor.
"I'm going to be the next mayor," Barry said confidently.
"Oh, No you're not," Mayfield said coldly, and began to move away.
"The mayor doesn't love ya," Barry called out to Mayfield. "I still do."
There was a time when there would have been no question about that.
The friendship between Marion and Mayfield grew out of an era of protest and violence, when songs about blood, sweat and tears had literal meaning for those on Washington's sweltering streets during the preriot months of 1967.
Then, unlike now, a sharper line divided "us" from "them."
When Mayfield's best friend was shot and killed by city police who were investigating the shoplifting of a 29-cent bag of chocolate chip cookies. Mayfield began organizing prostrength you're picking up," said to Barry about his campaign for mayor, 14th precint police station on Benning Road and 42nd street in Far Northeast.
The well publicized shouting and fist waving activity caught the attention of Marion Barry, then a newcomer to Washington, who appeared on Mayfields doorstep one evening offering support.
The times would repeatedly see Barry and Mayfield side by side, fists clinched in a menacing gesture of defiance of the city's establishment.
Four a.m., would catch them still in Mayfield's living room planning Pride, Inc., and discussing how best to incorporate Barry's Southern style, confrontation tactics into the streetwise but politically unaware world of Catfish's Washington.
Now, 10 years later, these two men have taken different paths. That their relationship can be so cool after what they went through together is indicative of the strange nature of D.C. politics.
Well groomed in his conservative, three piece suits, Barry is no longer the devilish looking, goateed, dashiki-clad militant that Mayfield once knew. Once the menacing "street dude" to many whites in the city, Barry now counts among his strongest supporters the whites west of Rock Creek Park.
Since leaving Pride, Inc., Mayfield, now 31, has had a short-lived newspaper column which he said was ghostwritten for him and called, "Voice from the Ghetto." He recently gave up simultaneously held, and emotionally draining, jobs as nightclub emcee, blue joke comedian and host of a Sunday morning radio talk show on WOOK-AM.
Now unemployed, but less bitter about his life, Mayfield occasionally campaigns for Mayor Washington, introducing the mayor when he makes campaigns for Mayor Washington, inplugging the mayor while making speeches against drug abuse at area schools.
"What the city!" "What the city needs is a man with roots with integrity," Mayfield said, plugging Walter Washington as much as he was taking a jab at Barry.
"I'm not doing this just out of politics. I know it's hard for some people to understand, but this is my city, man, my people's blood is all over the streets of Washington. Now we're having this political newbirth and everybody flocks to Washington to try to make a name for themselves.
Interestingly, when Mayfield speaks of Barry it is with both anger and admiration. And it is with some jealousy that he says, "I taught that Negro everthing he knows about the streets of Washington."
He talks of "despising" Barry for "betraying" him at Pride, but speaks with utmost reverence about how fiery the man from Mississippi was upon arriving in Washington.
"Man, this dude was so militant, he scared me," Mayfield said of Barry. "He'd call President Johnson the stupidest so and so, and I'd cringe and say, 'Oh, my Jesus,' wild, man, wild. Then Marion would tell me stuff to say and I'd say it and people would go crazy. People would actually print it (in the newspapers). My mother would call me some mornings and say, 'Why did Marion make you say that.' I'd tell her 'cause we're out here doing it, mama.'"
Mayfield was soon pegged as a "militant," a "street dude," and a community activit." He relished the titles, then tried to do what he could to deserve them by increasing his already inflammatory rethoric.
"I still think he's a bright guy, and I have to let of compassion for him," Barry said of Mayfield. "1967" was a tough year for the country - the whole experience was new to me, too."
Of Pride, Barry said that he thought having a youth as chairman was a good idea and that he takes some of the responsibility for getting Mayfield, then 20, into the job, then having to come to grips with the realization that running a $2 million program was "too much, too fast" for his streetwise friend.
"The Labor Department just doesn't give somebody that kind of money and say do with it as you please," Barry said.
Mayfield had grown up in the Parkside projects just off Kenilworth Avenue in far Northeast, the son of a numbers runner and devout Christian mother, he said. While other kids in the neighborhood scraped and fought to stay alive, Catfish - nicknamed after his father - had few worries, other than how to become one of the boys.
The neighborhood gangster did not take kindly to a boy who always had new clothes, rode $100 bicycles and had his own guitar. So, Mayfield said, he started stealing cars, and returning to the projects to impress his neighbors.
When he got caught, and was sent to Lorton Youth Center, he became, to many, an "ex-con."
"I was so spoiled," Mayfield admitted. This was one of Barry's criticisms of Mayfield, who was 20-years-old and recently released from Lorton as chairman of Pride, Inc.
"When they took Pride away, it was like a child snatching," Mayfield said. "I was so hurt. I didn't really have anything else to do."
The years that followed were particularly painful, Mayfield says. He later married and had two children, and accumulated numerous debts.
"I'm broke now, but it's not so bad for me. I've renewed my faith in the God and now I have a foundation on which I think I can build something," he said.