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Humanity Over Politics: Leadership Lives in Brooklyn

Henry Butler is in it for the Long Haul

Bernice Elizabeth Green

Waiting seems to be the order of the day – waiting for decisions to be made, waiting to hear about loved ones in nursing homes, hospitals, funeral parlors. Waiting to eat, waiting for a word, waiting for a signal all’s well, waiting to return to normal. Waiting for something to change, waiting for word on who will care, waiting for the check, waiting for help.

Henry Butler at home

But from a most unlikely place – politics – comes great examples of grassroots leaders who refuse to wait. Even in place. These people in so-called normal times are expected to serve or, in a sense, “wait on” the people. They are not the ones who are on the receiving end of “Where are our politicians?” but they are leaders who offer great models for how pols can serve.

Community Board 3 leader Henry Butler is an example. Last month, as COVID-19 began surging into rage, Butler, also president of Vanguard Independent Democratic Association (VIDA), went back home to help deliver groceries to his former neighbors. Fully-masked and armed with sanitizers, skullcap and heavy sweats replacing the typical suit and tie, he hauled food in a cart – looking very much like a bottle collector.  Answering to an inner call, Butler said he delivered to NYCHA’s Tompkins, Marcy and Sumner Houses, unconcerned with appearance.

Earlier this week, Butler was appointed to the position of Male Democratic State Committee/District Leader, 56th District, a position vacated by Robert E. Cornegy Jr, who resigned recently from the seat. With new CDC warnings about waves of the coronavirus returning more dangerous than ever, Butler requested we convey this message to the community:
“Everyone should try to stay home as much as possible. We have lost so many people in the Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights communities due to the COVID-19 Virus.

“Community residents have told me they are afraid to answer their phones because they fear the call will be about a loved one who has passed from the virus. I know exactly how they feel. I was awakened earlier this week by a phone call about the passing of beloved Community Board 3-member Pastor Gwen Dingle.”

The images on these pages tell the story of a leader who, in coming days, will be forced to lead from the safety of his home. Butler says he will follow Governor Cuomo’s edict and his own advice to the public.

Butler told us, “I’m urging everyone to please take this virus very seriously. Stay home. This is about protecting yourself and our most vulnerable populations.”

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