The New York Caribbean Community is mourning the recent passing of William “Bill” Howard. The mentor and senior campaign staff member of Shirley Chisholm who was celebrated as an outstanding community member recently passed at his home in Brooklyn at age 75.
William R. Howard, who grew up in Fredericksburg, Virginia, reportedly met Rep. Shirley Chisholm, America’s first black congresswoman, when he was just 23 years old in 1965. Chisholm, then a state legislator, asked Howard to be her campaign finance manager, a relationship that, according to published sources, changed Howard’s life.
“I met four presidents through Mrs Chisholm, both Bushes (George H. W. and George W), President Jimmy Carter and President Clinton, Robert Kennedy, the entire US Supreme Court. Anyone who was anybody in Washington, D.C., came by to shake Chisholm’s hand,” said Howard. “That changed my life entirely.”
Howard remained close to the Barbadian community and often attended or participated in cultural events.
In April 2016, Howard participated in Barbados’ National Heroes Day Lecture and Unsung Heroes Awards at Giando On the Water catering facility. That affair presented the Shirley Chislom Award of Excellence to Barbadian Chirlane McCray, the First Lady of New York City.
Howard was also among the large crowd that attended the New York book launch of Who Gabby Think He Is, an autobiography of Anthony Mighty Gabby Carter written by Barbara Chase.
It may be more than a coincidence that two of the recent Grand Marshals of the West Indian day parade were Barbadians – former Ambassador to the United Nations, Hon. Keith Tony Marshall and Earl Phillips, Secretary-Treasurer of the local 100 Transit Workers Union.
Howard was president of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA) which organizes the September Labor Day Parade that brings together Caribbean carnival revellers on the Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn on the first Monday in September. This tribute was paid to him in a public statement from the Association:
“Godspeed to a giant and a champion that worked tirelessly to keep the culture, contributions, and legacy of Caribbean people alive. His legacy in our community and within our organization has been impactful to many and will remain a beacon for many generations to come.”
In a release, Barbadian Borough President Eric Adams paid tribute to Howard in this way: “Bill’s legacy will forever be tied with that of the great Representative Shirley Chisholm, as well as that of the West Indian American Day Carnival Association. Bill’s leadership and guidance were indispensable to both of these true Brooklyn institutions, as was his role in strengthening the welfare and unity of the borough’s diverse African-American and Caribbean-American communities. I am a better public servant and more importantly a better man, for knowing him and receiving his incalculable counsel.”
Truth be told, Howard honoured one of Shirley Chislom’s beliefs and values when he reportedly said, “You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.”
Walter Edey, a former Science educator, and author, believes that Structural Thinking is the “Thought Technology” and wave of the future.