Did you know that the founder of one of the nation’s leading African-American literary magazines lives in Central Brooklyn?
Brooklyn native and Crown Heights resident Carolyn Butts founded African Voices Magazine at the tender age of 25.
Described as “a soulful collection of art and literature,” African Voices remains one of the country’s last African-American literary and artistic magazines to survive in print.
Founded by Butts in 1992, along with a small group of writers and visual artists, the organization strives for artistic and literary excellence while showcasing the unique and diverse stories experienced within the African Diaspora.
The magazine’s resilience has to do with the dedication of its founder, Butts, who also spearheads a number of other programs for the magazine’s parent organization– African Voices Communications, a non-profit cultural arts organization.
Aside from the quarterly publication, African Voices Communications, is host for three other annual public programs: Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival & Lecture Series, a festival for women filmmakers produced in collaboration with Long Island University; Cultural Circle Conference, a writer’s conference; and Get Your Read On!, a family literacy program that provides workshops for young people living in low-income communities.
The organization serves approximately 5,000 people through its arts programs and 6,500 readers through the magazine. An additional 5,000 people are reached weekly via an e-newsletter announcing events and opportunities for artists.
“I see it as all a part of my life mission, not only to share the art and the stories of others, but also to share the work that I have in me,” said Butts, a writer and photographer. “It’s the love that I have for life in me. And hopefully, some of that will inspire other people.”
In 2008, African Voices received the distinction of being the only literary publication in the nation to receive the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read grant ($20K) in 2008.
In 2010, the American Library Association presented African Voices and its collaborating partner the Brooklyn Public Library with the Zora Neale Hurston Award for excellent programming of the NEA’s Big Read celebration of Ms. Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.
And in 2012, African Voices celebrated its 20-year anniversary with a major legacy exhibition at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, featuring the works of Danny Simmons, Sheila Prevost, Elizabeth Catlett, Faith Ringgold, Mirlande Jean-Gilles and several more.
Carolyn also credits her stamina and longevity in the business to her husband, Carl, who has supported her from the very beginning of her journey with African Voices:
“To be able to balance a relationship with running a business, it’s a great challenge,” Carolyn told The Reader. “But to have that anchor in your life, someone who supports you every step of the way means a lot in this whole journey.
“Noone ever talks about their spouse or husband as playing a big role in their success. But I want to begin doing that. Because I couldn’t have done it without him.”