At Cardozo High School some students say that when Mayor Marion Barry criticized student drug use in the school and excessive noise in its hallways, he over-looked the efforts of a group for whom citizenship is an important issue.
"We are really mad at Mayor Barry. He did not know about the Early Birds. We are all good citizens, and we do not smoke dope," said one member of the student club, which holds meetings between 7 and 9 a.m. each school day.
The Early Bird member added, "Our student government is going to write the mayor and tell him he was wrong."
Barry made the critical remarks last month in a sermon at All Souls Unitarian Church. He recalled an October visit to the school, saying, "I wasn't sure I was in a school or where I was, really, there was so much noise, so much going on in the hallway and in the classroom that anybody who wanted to couldn't learn."
Cardozo students, teachers and administrators later said Barry's remarks were unfair. They said behavior at the school is improving despite some continuing drug problems.
Last week, the Early Bird Club, which has more than 100 student members, celebrated three years of citizenship activity at Cardozo with a special program for the student body.
The club, which is sponsored by Charles W. Brooks and the National Baptist Memorial Church, is one attempt the school has made toward improving student behavior. Brooks, who has been a volunteer in the District school system since 1954, was introduced by a Cardozo faculty member to the student body as "someone who will respect you even if you don't respect yourself."
Now retired from the National Security Agency, Brooks, 57, said he came to Cardozo three years ago to continue his work with youth. He said the youth organization sponsors sports activities, Bible readings, games, drill team training and generally builds citizenship.
Brooks has five children, three of whom have attended, or are attending Cardozo. He said he is proud of the Cardozo students he has worked with.
"In many cases these are students who would ordinarily get in trouble. Instead, they have decided to join our group and have become good citizens," he said.
During the program, members of the Early Bird precision drill team performed, a soul band played and the Cardozo High School Chorus sang.
Among the most important events were speeches by Early Bird members who discussed their reasons for joining and how the club has changed them.
A tall, slender student swaggered up to the microphone and told the packed auditorium, "Before I joined the Early Bird Club I wasn't going to class. I was trying to steal everything out of school. But when I joined the Early Bird Club, Mr. Brooks showed me how to do right."
Another said, "Charles Brooks is a man of very high stature."
The student audience oohed and aahed when Gregory Baxter stepped up to the microphone, and said, "I'd like to tell you how I became affiliated with the Early Bird Club. It all began last year when I didn't know where I was going. I went to Charles Brooks and he showed me how to mentally, physically and spiritually help myself."
Another student said Brooks taught him how to say "Good morning, good afternoon, thank you, and how to respect other people."
Christle Perkins, 18, said she doesn't even like getting up early, but she regularly attends the Early Bird Club meetings "because I like meeting people." Perkins added that she liked reading passages from the Bible, and said the Bible readings "got some guys to come to school."
Brooks' son, John, who graduated from Cardozo last year and is now helping his father run the volunteer club said, "We accept all kinds of people in the organization -- chumps, punks... we take anybody. But it is mainly a spiritual organization."