Humam Abdulmalik, 58, sat quietly in the hospital auditorium as news of Barry’s death was announced. Asked afterward why he felt compelled to come in the predawn hours, he cited that first summer job — in 1979, at St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church.
“One of the greatest politicians Washington, D.C., ever had,” Abdulmalik said.
While Barry’s national profile has long been indelibly fixed on his 1990 drug arrest, he won the abiding esteem of a generation of Washingtonians through his Summer Youth Employment Program — which Barry launched in 1979 and continues to this day. The jobs weren’t always much — glorified internships, in most cases. But they were a lot more than many youths could expect to find on their own. With the city picking up the check, many employers have been glad to host the young workers for a few weeks and give them their first exposure to the professional world.
Also at the hospital was Kim Harrison, 51, who recalled getting her first job because of Barry’s program, at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“It was a meaningful work experience, not just a job per se,” said Harrison, who now owns a business.
Other recollections rolled in on Twitter, including from actor Jeffrey Wright:
Got my first job because of Marion Barry's Youth Summer Job program, but most reporters will only speak of crack because they're drug-free.— Jeffrey Wright (@jfreewright) November 23, 2014
People who don't know of Marion Barry's Summer Youth Employment Program are people for whom job-creation in the inner-city is not a concern.— Jeffrey Wright (@jfreewright) November 23, 2014
Got my 1st job at 16 with Marion Barry's Summer Youth Employment Program. He made such an impact on my generation. I'm eternally grateful.— Ms257 (@Misss257) November 23, 2014
That's real young my 1st job was because of DC summer jobs program.. Thank you Marion Barry.— SC⚡️ (@SC2417) November 23, 2014
Retweet if you got a DC summer job because of Marion Barry— Velvet Jones (@dcmadness202) November 23, 2014
Share your own summer job memory in the comments.