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Celebrating The Life And Legacy Of Henry L. English

By Toure Muhammad -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: Mar 22, 2016 - 11:27:25 AM

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(L) Denise English pays final loving tribute to her husband with family members. (R) Pallbearers carry casket to final resting place.

CHICAGO—Thousands of people, including activists, elected officials, entrepreneurs, friends and family filled Apostolic Church of God sanctuary to celebrate and honor the life of Henry L. English, lovingly referred to by some as the “mayor of South Shore” and a nationally recognized fighter for freedom, justice and equality.

Mr. English, 73, was driving on Lake Shore Drive, headed to a get-out-the-vote event for Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton March 5 when his van was rear-ended near 63rd Street. He died at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, apparently suffering a heart attack, according to news reports.***image1**

 His resume includes serving as treasurer of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party and working as a key leader in changing the name of Crane Community College to Malcolm X College. His work includes saving the South Shore Country Club from demolition and establishing the Black United Fund of Illinois (BUFI). Additionally, Mr. English was a key leader in the efforts to build the new South Shore International College Preparatory High School and was working on various projects until his untimely death.

“Certainty and service,” are the two words that U.S. Congressman Bobby L. Rush, 1st District of Illinois, used to describe the character of Mr. English during the service. He recounted when he and Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton, on a recruiting drive, visited Crane H.S. to meet Mr. English for the first time. “Out of that meeting came the foundation for the biggest, baddest chapter of the Black Panther Party, the Illinois chapter,” he said.

Like many Chicagoans of his generation, Ms. English was born in the South, specifically West Point, Miss., on May 27, 1942. Along with his parents, he moved to Chicago when he was six, settling on the West Side of the city.

During his life, he devoted years of service in diversified management, health care, education and fund development fields before embarking on his 30 years of service as leader of BUFI.



Most notably, he founded BUFI in 1985, a self-help organization, recognized as a leading Black philanthropic institution dedicated to revitalizing and supporting the community.

Under Mr. English’s leadership, BUFI raised funds to support some of Chicago’s most critical social services and most important cultural organizations throughout Chicago. Additionally, via youth programs and job training initiatives, he touched the lives of thousands of Chicagoans and improved communities throughout the city.

“We have lost a great friend and a great leader,” said political scientist and writer Robert T. Starks to those gathered for the March 16 commemoration. Mr. Starks serves as BUFI board chairman and is a founding member of the organization.

Speakers at English’s home going celebration included Dr. Carol Adams, CEO of Urban Perspectives, Dr. Conrad Worrill, director, Northeastern Illinois University Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies and Alice Palmer, a former Illinois State Senator.

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan was on the program, but was not able to attend. Speaking on his behalf was Leonard F. Muhammad, another longtime friend of Mr. English.

“If we understand his legacy, then we must carry on his work. Henry’s a friend of the struggle, a friend of the revolution. He loved Black people wherever they were in the world, but he had a special love for the people of South Shore,” said Leonard F. Muhammad who dubbed him the “mayor of South Shore,” a neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago.

Mr. English was a true leader, legend and link between the veteran and new activists in Chicago. With a tall frame—often towering over many—he walked with humility, confidence and determination. He could take center stage, but often mentored and allowed others to be the voice on various projects and campaigns, said friends and comrades in struggle.

 “Young people sat at his feet, asked questions, and got the history most people don’t even know, let alone share,” said Yvette Moyo, publisher of the South Shore Current.

It’s important to “keep his legacy and vision alive and continue to help the community,” said Nkrumah English who worked daily alongside his father at BUFI. “We must continue to focus on strengthening and empowering our people and getting youth and adults to work,” he added.

Nkrumah English urged support for current efforts to honor his father’s work by developing a statewide summer youth employment program bearing his name. It was a program Henry English was working on before his death. There will be an organizing meeting on March 23 at the Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies at 700 E. Oakwood Blvd. at 6 p.m. to focus on the way forward.

BUFI “was created to build an institution in the African American community that would be here for the youth, and that community-based organizations could rely on for support and to research issues of life in our community and to make recommendations to issues to organize around,” said Dr. Worrill.

“Most recently we vowed to ramp up our efforts to revitalize our beloved South Shore community and Henry partnered with us in launching The South Shore Works!,” said Dr. Adams. “We have to honor his legacy through our service, not our tears. And we must commit ourselves to making the Black United Fund of Illinois stronger than ever.”

“My family and I express our sincere condolences on the passing of Henry English, the founder and president of the (BUFI). I am honored to have been fortunate enough to call Henry an important friend and mentor for my entire life,” said Kurt Summers, Chicago’s city treasurer in a written statement.

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