Ms. Butts is the founder of the cultural institutions ‘African Voices‘ and the ‘Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival and Lecture Series.’ She has spent a lifetime working for the public good, whether as a journalist, a city government employee or in founding both a magazine and a film festival devoted to presenting the work of artists of color in a variety of mediums.
African Voices is now in its 25th year and has grown to include several additional services including community forums, literary readings, and artistic programs for youth. The internationally recognized festival this year celebrates two decades of success, a testament to the passion of its founder and the public importance of the work presented.
Ms. Butts’ own love of storytelling also led her to create a group, ‘Get Out& Read!’, dedicated to bringing the love of reading, writing, and storytelling to young people in low-income communities. In her own work, and in her promotion of others, she has been an incredibly important advocate for the power of the arts, both for those who create and for those who experience those creations.
The honoree was joined at the ceremony by her husband, Carl Schmalenberger, brother-in-law, Rowe, and other friends and members of her organizations.
The proclamation honored Ms. Butts for her “many endeavors to increase the visibility of African-American artists over the last three decades” including the Reel Sisters festival, African Voices, and more. It further declared that “Ms. Butts has truly distinguished herself in all of her endeavors and has earned the esteem of her fellow New Yorkers.”
The honoree was joined at the ceremony by her husband, Carl Schmalenberger, brother in law, Rowe, and other friends and members of her organizations. All in the Council Chambers applauded Ms. Butts for her dedication to bringing the arts to communities that might otherwise not be exposed to certain opportunities, and for her elevation of the contributions of people of color to the art world, across film, print, and other forms.
“I found Carolyn Butts was…telling the story of people who weren’t being told in the right way,” said Council Member Williams, as he presented the proclamation. “She has been helping to elevate and amplify the voices of women of color in the arts,” he added, thanking her for her work on an issue close to his heart as a former actor and a supporter of the Reel Sisters festival.
“When you read a good book or a magazine, you are moved. When you see a good film you are moved,” said Ms. Carolyn Butts in a powerful speech after receiving the proclamation. “Conversations that you never thought you would have emerged… Art can change the world, one poem at a time, one film at a time, one painting at a time,” She also thanked Council Member Williams for being an “ambassador for the Reel Sisters.”