haitian-american district leader emile bazile
Williamsburg native Emile Bazile will serve a two-year term as District Leader for Assembly District 50. Photo by Leonardo March

By Sam Bojarski

haitian-american district leader emile bazile
Williamsburg native Emile Bazile will serve a two-year term as District Leader for Assembly District 50. Photo by Leonardo March

For the past two years, Emile Bazile has listened to the concerns of residents in Assembly District 50. As a staffer in District 50 Assembly Member Joe Lentol’s office, what Bazile learned from the residents of Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Fort Greene have prepared him for his newest leadership role.

“Community involvement really led my motivation to pursue politics,” said Bazile, 24, who was confirmed in September as a Democratic Party district leader for Assembly District 50. “Haitians are trailblazers, and being the first Haitian district leader of Assembly District 50 is another win for the community and for our people.”

Bazile’s confirmation makes him the fourth Haitian-American district leader for the Kings County Democratic Party, which has 42 district leaders in all. Bazile, who resides in the Williamsburg neighborhood where he grew up, joins Party Chair and District 42 Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte, male District 42 Leader Josue Pierre and male District 43 Leader Edu Hermelyn. 

“Every generation, you try to find the people who want to get involved, [who] want to be leaders,” said Pierre, who is running next year to represent City Council District 40. “To have somebody who’s younger, who understands and can voice the concerns of younger people is always a plus.” 

Bazile comes into the role with some political experience already under his belt. He has interned as a legislative aide for the New York State Assembly and earned a political science degree at Niagara University, in western New York. After graduating in 2018, he began working as a special assistant under Lentol. In another two years, Bazile said he will reevaluate whether to attend law school. 

For now, Bazile is focused on the district leader role. He credits his parents for helping him reach this point in his career.

“My parents modeled hard work and in doing so afforded me this opportunity today,” he said.

Those who know Bazile or have watched and taught him are not surprised at how much he has achieved at a relatively young age. 

Jamie Pimlott, a political science professor, taught Bazile at Niagara and served as his academic advisor. As a student, Bazile’s dedication to and passion for his community were clear. 

“From day one Emile talked about his home and community in [New York City],” Pimlott said. “More often than not, he would talk about how what he was learning applied there. I am so glad that his community and its leaders recognize what a dedicated, committed, and capable young man he is.”

District Leader Kristina Naplatarski, Bazile’s counterpart in the 50th District who nominated him for the male role in September, has worked with Bazile since he joined Assembly Member Lentol’s staff in 2018. 

“When you call the office, he’s really the front line of defense,” said Naplatarski, who works for District 34 City Councilmember Antonio Reynoso. “He’s just always at community events, always eager to be pitching in in the community and really going above and beyond the duties and responsibilities of an office staffer.”

Connecting party and community

Bazile, who is single with no children, now has the opportunity to bring new people into the political process. As a district leader, he will staff polling sites, choose county judicial candidates, set policy for the party and work on voter engagement initiatives. Reaching out to underserved voters, particularly in South Williamsburg, will be a focus of Bazile’s two-year term, he said.

“I also want to demonstrate that we as young Haitians can have an active role in politics and civics,” Bazile said. 

Bazile grew up in the Berry Street-South 9th Street houses, a public housing complex just south of the Williamsburg Bridge. His father and mother, Renel and Josette Bazile, worked in a factory and as a nursing assistant, respectively, when he was growing up. 

The Haitian community in Williamsburg is small compared to central Brooklyn’s enclaves, and has been that way since Bazile was a child. Among the languages spoken in the area, according to a 2017 Pratt Institute study on the neighborhood, Creole is not even listed. 

Since the early 2000s, South Williamsburg has faced challenges like rising housing costs and increased poverty levels. As of 2015, the Pratt study noted, 28% of neighborhood residents lived below the poverty level, compared with 21% of people citywide. Five census tracts south of the Williamsburg Bridge had poverty rates above 30%.

However, the rest of Williamsburg, like many other parts of northern Brooklyn, have been heavily gentrified in the last two decades. Residents of those census tracts are wealthy, affluent and face a different set of issues.

Bazile said he will make himself accessible to all residents, encouraging them to participate in electoral politics and giving them a platform to voice concerns. 

“Really, it’s just building bridges in the community,” Bazile said. “Not everyone has a seat at the table in local politics, and really I just want to find those people and invite them to participate.”

From the view of Niagara faculty, Bazile should have no trouble connecting with voters. He was always easy to talk to and a good listener with an open, yet steadfast personality, Pimlott said. 

“Emile is able to listen to others and other viewpoints, discuss those differences, and express himself in a way that facilitates conversations between people,” said Pimlott.

Sam is a reporter for The Haitian Times and a 2020 Report for America fellow. He has covered Haiti and its diaspora since 2018. His work has also appeared in USA Today, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Haiti Liberte. Sam can be reached at sam@haitiantimes.com or on Twitter @sambojarski.

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