East 71st Street brimmed with cheer Thursday afternoon as Henry L. English, president and CEO of Black United Fund of Illinois (BUFI) was honored during a street sign dedication.
A stretch of 71st between Constance to Ridgeland was named “Henry L. English Way” for the longtime community activist.
English founded BUFI in 1985 as a philanthropic organization to meet the increasing needs of the African American community.
BUFI is a non-profit, tax-exempt federated organization and a social movement designed to improve the quality of life for African Americans through reliance on self-help at the local community level, according to its website.
English has also instrumental in several causes in the South Shore neighborhood throughout the years including the Coalition to Save the Country Club which helped transform the former South Shore Country Club into to the South Shore Cultural Center.
English also led the way for the turnaround of South Shore High School into four small schools and was involved in the development of the new South Shore International College Prep high school.
English’s community efforts demonstrate his unwavering commitment for helping people, particularly youth. He is noted for saying it is important to “help people help themselves.”
Alderman Leslie Hairston hosted Thursday’s street dedication and spoke highly of English.
“ He (English) has been out there fighting in the streets for education, for social justice , job opportunities and economic development in this community for 45 years and that deserves recognition,” Hairston said.
English was overcome with emotion as he addressed the crowd of well-wishers.
“When the community gives you this kind of honor, it’s indescribable,” the revered advocate said.
While he appreciated the recognition, English let it be known he had no plans of retiring soon.
“I just want to be very clear,” he said. “I still got some years left of fight of me.”
English earned a Master’s of Public Administration from Cornell University, Bachelor of Arts from University of New Hampshire and an associate degree from Malcolm X college and is a longtime South Shore resident.
By Thelma Sardin