Cora Masters Barry is a former first Lady of the Nation’s Capital. She has dedicated her life to leveling the playing field and addressing the racial, social, and economic disparities and injustices that have been part of the Black experience in America. She serves as founder and CEO of the Recreation Wish List Committee and the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center located in the heart of one of the most historically underserved communities in Washington, DC where she works to transform the lives of children and their families.
For twenty-one years, Cora served as a tenured Professor of Political Science at the University of the District of Columbia, specializing in Black Politics, Comparative Political Studies, the Presidency, and the Constitution. In the political realm, she orchestrated voter education, registration, and mobilization initiatives, both locally and nationally including the historic political return of Marion Barry for an unprecedented fourth term as Mayor of the District of Columbia. Cora was appointed tohead the Million Man March Voter Registration Drive Team, which registered over one million men before and during the March.
Cora also served as Chairman of the DC Boxing and Wrestling Commission. —the first woman in the country to hold such a position. She was an Executive Board member of the World Boxing Council and the International Boxing Federation.
Most recently, Cora has focused her efforts in three principal areas to uplift and empower Black people.
- VOTING RIGHTS— Cora has marched, demonstrated, lobbied and been vocal in her unwavering support of pro-democracy reform (For the People Act) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Bill. She has appeared on numerous TV shows—including MSNBC’s Jonathan Capehart Show and the Reid Out to sound the alarm that our democracy is under attack.
- HEALTH DISPARITIES—Cora has been unwavering in addressing health disparities in the Black Community and the disproportionate number of Blacks who have died from COVID- 19. Cora was appointed to serve on Mayor Bowser’ ReOpen DC Advisory Group. From that experience, she conceived and implemented “Don’t Miss Your Shot”—a community-based mass vaccination program which focused on multi-generational families living in the same household and others within her community reluctant to take the vaccination. Cora worked with the DC Department of Health; withnonprofit community partners who reached into the community, educated, and enrolled residents; and with a host of premier health facilities to administer the shots. Nearly 1,000 residents were served in the one-day program.
- THE EQUITABLE AND FAIR ALLOCATION OF RESOURCES TO COMMUNITY ARTISTS AND ART GROUPS— Upon appointment to the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (CAH), Cora discovered an alarming imbalance in the resources that were allocated to artists of color and community groups outside of the “mainstream” arts community. As a new Commissioner, she championed the fair, equitable, and competitive allocation of Government funds, and advocated the elimination of special “earmarks” to preferred groups. She spoke out vigorously against the City’s Council’s tradition of arts
funding to the elite. She ultimately prevailed in changing a broken and system, and for the first time, countless small community arts groups and individual artists received the resources needed to practice their crafts. Cora earned reappointment to the CAH on her own terms— unbought and unbossed.
Cora has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the DC Chamber of Commerce Community Impact Award, Washingtonian of the Year, the Rodham Institute Beacon of Light Award, the USTA Founders Award, and the National Recreation and Park Association’s Robert ArtzCitizen Advocacy Award. She has also been inducted into the USTA’s Mid-Atlantic Tennis and Education Foundation’s Hall of Fame and the Black Tennis Hall of Fame.
Cora is a member of the National Council of Negro Women, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and Leadership Greater Washington. In addition to serving as a Commissioner on the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, she is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and a member of the Black Women’s Roundtable.
Cora graduated from Texas Southern University with a B.A. degree and earned her M.A. degree in urban studies and public administration from Howard University.