In Honor of Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III, of the Historic Abyssinian Baptist Church

by Dr. Wanda Fernandopulle, Member of the Abyssinian Baptist Church
Dr. Calvin O. Butts III Dr. Calvin O. Butts III

When I think about Harlem, New York, I think of so many great leaders like Adam Clayton Powell Sr., Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Samuel DeWitt Proctor, and my beloved pastor Calvin O. Butts III. Living

in New York City, I remember the many long commutes from Brooklyn to Abyssinian Baptist Church of Harlem; however, this particular church kept me going back. I spent many years in the Harlem community listening to the drummers on 125th street to eating Sunday dinner after worship services in the basement of the Abyssinian Baptist Church. Harlem and Abyssinian left an imprint on me. It was a breath of fresh air. Butt’s sermons were distinctively powerful, and the church music was that of the old Negro spirituals. It was Abyssinian. It was a place that eventually became my home church.

The Harlem Renaissance (1910-1930s) was that place which produced great orators, singers, musicians, actors, dancers, writers, scholars, civil rights leaders, doctors, lawyers, teachers, ministers, and the list goes on and on. Harlem continues to be a beacon of hope for African Americans. Butts often spoke about important issues such as police brutality, voter suppression, gun violence, the miseducation of African American children, racism, injustices, and so much more. I sit here now, and I reflect upon these issues that Butts frequently addressed. His message became more and more vivid as I witnessed the lack of leadership throughout local, state, and national levels.

While leaders like Butts spoke up, many other leaders remained quiet while so many pressing issues was rising. The question that often comes to my mind is “Have our people forgotten how they got rights?” Butts never forgot about our ancestors’ struggles. He built upon the lessons taught from his elders, and he forced the African American community to press forward. Now, it appears that we havea lot of “so called leaders” who are not leading with GOD but for themselves. Butts stayed true to his GOD given purpose, and he allowed GOD to use him. Butts spoke up and spoke out for the African American community. Butts spoke truth to power. He spoke with GOD’s favor. He stood for our people and by our people. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the world was full of darkness, but it was Butts who gave us light. He gave us hope. The light and the hope pushed us through and pushed us forward, and we survived to tell the story. “Our hope is built on nothing less but Jesus blood and righteousness.”

The story continues. Will we “do the right thing?” Will we vote? Will we stop playing with the lives of future generations? Will we make sure that our children are provided with a high-quality education and that we challenge the status quo? Will we listen and do the work of GOD? I am challenging myself and others to lead. Speak up, and let GOD use you. We can do better. We must do better. Do not forget about the hopes and the dreams of our children. I close by saying what Butts often said, “Keep the Faith, and Remember to Vote!” May Butts rest in peace and in power.