Leader Spotlight: Wynell Butler

Wynell Butler is a member of Ascension-Saint Susanna Catholic Church in Harvey, IL and of Illinois Gamaliel affiliate, South Suburban Action Conference. 

How did you get started working with Gamaliel? 

Well I was at the South Suburban Action Conference and I got started working with them through the training and through my church. Some of the housing issues are what perked my interest at the time, but I’ve since been involved with the education issue. My church has been working on establishing some of the first new homes built in my town in 40 years. I worked with the CRI issues, including making sure immigrants are able to get a driver’s license. Just as I worked with the public school kids, I do counseling for some Catholic girls as well. 

Have you gone to training and how has it helped you as an organizer? 

Yes, I’ve been to weeklong, advanced, African-American leadership training… I’ve been to most of the trainings. I think it has helped me tweak my self-interest and it has helped me speak. It gave me the courage to speak out about some of the issues that people face every day. 

How has the Fire of Faith Campaign affected you personally? 

We are multiple congregations, multiple races and we’re discussing issues that are very dear to my heart such as education and civil rights of immigrants. These are things that are really important in my community. I believe that audiences like that are pleasing in God’s sight. We can come across racial and economic lines and recognize that we are dealing with common issues. After going to the first public meeting of Fire of Faith I left really upbeat, and it provided me with motivation in the Fire of Faith cause. 

Do you think the work of Gamaliel is in line with Catholic Social teaching? 

I think Gamaliel and Catholic Social teaching have the same goals in mind, and the issues that both are addressing are important no matter what your faith is. Both have the goal of helping people, which is part of God’s teaching. My major concern right now is the failure of our school systems to educate African-American and other minority students. This is an issue I’m very passionate about, and it is especially prevalent in my district, where 70% of the students are Hispanic. We’ve been able to ensure the students have access to language classes and to dual-language classrooms, which seems to be working well. Good first steps have been made, but there is still a lot of work to get done. Education and jobs go hand-in-hand, and if we can educate our children the prisons wouldn’t be overflowing and unemployment wouldn’t be such a problem in our community.

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