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Bill Clinton brings wave of nostalgia to Caribbean church in Lefferts Gardens - Brooklyn Paper

Bill Clinton brings wave of nostalgia to Caribbean church in Lefferts Gardens

Red, white, and Bill: Former President Bill Clinton addresses St. Gabriel’s Church in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens on April 11.
Photo by Jason Speakman

The dream of the ’90s is alive in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens.

Ex-President Bill Clinton sang the praises of wife Hillary’s presidential ambitions at a Caribbean church in the park-side neighborhood on Monday afternoon — days after protesters crashed a rally accusing him of creating harsh criminal penalties that led to the mass incarceration of black men. But the congregants of St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church say they remember the first Clinton presidency fondly, and believe they’ll see a return of those halcyon days under a second.

“We had eight great years with Bill,” said Olive Bute, who lives two doors down from the Hawthorne Street house of worship. “I know they are going to do something wonderful.”

The former Commander in Chief is now in the firing line for defending his controversial mid-’90s crime bill against the Black Lives Matters activists, but this largely middle-aged-and-above crowd offered nothing but cheers as the wannabe First Lad told them he believes there should be fewer black men in prison, as well as more cops of color on the street and a ban on employee application forms asking about people’s criminal history.

“People shouldn’t be discriminated against when applying for jobs because they have to check a box saying they were once arrested,” he said, eliciting the loudest applause of the afternoon.

The church is also a stronghold of Rep. Yvette Clarke (D–Flatbush) — an influential leader in the Caribbean community, along with her mom former Councilwoman Una Clarke — who introduced Bill Clinton by touting his presidency as a boon for black families and perpetuating the idea that the two spouses are one and the same.

“One of the things that I’m grateful for was the growth in the black middle class during the presidency of the honorable Bill Clinton,” she said, claiming Hillary Clinton will usher in a similar era of prosperity.

Indeed, many locals responded to the “why Hill?” question with a simple answer they seemed to think was obvious.

“I liked Bill,” said neighbor Shannon Duncan.

Reach reporter Madeline Anthony by e-mail at manthony@cnglocal.com or by pnone at (718) 260–8321.

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