WASHINGTON - In a few weeks, many will celebrate what would have been former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry's 80th birthday. We could also soon learn more on how the District plans to honor the man known as “Mayor for Life.”
One idea that is being considered is changing the name of Ballou High School to Marion Barry High School.
That idea has sparked a debate and two petitions are now being circulated – one for the name change and the other one to keep the name.
After its recent $140 million facelift, Ballou High School is stunningly beautiful now. But inside these new walls remains an old deep history so many people are proud of.
“I do know that a lot of the residents who are still in the community have an attachment to the school and have an attachment to the name of the school,” said D.C. resident Charles Wilson. “They wear it like a badge of honor.”
At Expert Barber Shop not far from the high school, Wilson and Bruce Sims are well aware of the ongoing debate. A proposal to change the name to honor the late D.C. mayor is getting a lot of talk.
“I agree with the work that was done by Marion Barry,” said Sims, a former Ballou student. “I think he did an excellent job of having the school rebuilt. He is well-liked, well-loved in the community.”
At Union Temple Baptist Church where Barry spent a lot of time, there is a petition drive underway to change the school’s name, and the man backing it is Barry's son, Christopher.
The first line of the petition claims former D.C. Public Schools superintendent Frank Ballou, the person who the school is named after, was a "staunch segregationist.”
But back at the barber shop, these men said the true debate here is between the deep history of a school and honoring the legacy of a great man.
“How can you say no to renaming it when he played a large role in getting it rebuilt,” said Wilson.
“I haven't been asked to sign a petition,” said Sims. “I honestly believe at this point that I would do so to have it renamed.”
Also, several other ideas are on the table to honor Barry, which include renaming a street in the District and a student center at the University of the District of Columbia.
Those who want to keep the Ballou name said this has nothing to do with Barry and they support honoring the former mayor. They have suggested naming the new all-boys high school after the former mayor instead of Ballou.
Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. council will have the final say and both will have to approve the name change.