WASHINGTON — DC City Council member and former Mayor Marion Barry slammed HBO for hiring two white writers to pen an upcoming biopic about him, accusing the network of paternalism and attempting to speak for black Americans in a series of tweets.
Barry, a beloved figure in Washington, is perhaps best known for his 1990 arrest at the Vista Hotel for smoking crack during an FBI sting.
Barry, whose autobiography Mayor for Life is set to be released later this year, took to Twitter Friday morning to vent his frustration over HBO's decision to hire local reporter Tom Sherwood and crime novelist George Pelecanos to write the screenplay for the movie based on Barry's life. Sherwood is the co-author of Dream City, which will serve as the basis for the money.
"Some white people really do think they should tell the history of black experiences. Sad paternalists. We can speak for ourselves," Barry wrote in one tweet.
Barry also attacked Spike Lee, who is producing the movie, and had particular scorn for John Ridley, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of 12 Years a Slave — whose 2006 Esquire essay "The Manifesto of Ascendancy for the Modern American Nigger" was harshly criticized by many in the black community.
Barry could not be reached for comment. During an interview on the Kojo Nnamdi radio show Friday afternoon, Sherwood said, "I just have the greatest respect for [Barry] … I know the whole story, we told it in Dream City."
"But that doesn't mean that I sugarcoat anything he says or does that I think is not good or … is shown not to be good," he added.
John Stanton is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New Orleans. In 2014, Stanton was a recipient of the National Press Foundation’s 2014 Dirksen Award for distinguished reporting of Congress.
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