New York Pastor to Speak at MLK Event

New York Pastor to Speak at MLK Event

Keynote speaker drew praise for role in NYC Sept. 11 prayer service

By Stephen Gawlik
Staff Writer

Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, president of the State University of New York College at Old Westbury and pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City, will be the keynote speaker at the annual Martin Luther King Awards Banquet on Feb. 19.

Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, president of the State University of New York College at Old Westbury and pastor of New York City's Abyssinian Baptist Church.
The event, which begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Welch Dining Room of Lyons Hall, annually draws several hundred members and friends of the Boston College community to celebrate the legacy of the slain civil rights leader.
The banquet includes the presentation of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Scholarship. This year's finalists are Rufus Cain, Erica Fontes, Edward Ford and Katherine Pullings [see separate story].

Rev. Butts has helped lead efforts to stop police brutality in New York City and spearheaded boycotts against institutions accused of employment discrimination. He also led a campaign to eliminate billboard advertising of alcohol and tobacco products in New York City neighborhoods, and has criticized rap artists whose lyrics denigrate women and promote violence.

In September, Rev. Butts was one of several New York City religious leaders to lead a prayer service at Yankee Stadium for those lost in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. In his address to the packed stadium, Rev. Butts urged New Yorkers to build a monument to the city's public safety workers but reminded them that the best way to honor the Sept. 11 victims was to return to normalcy.

"The greatest monument that we can leave is for us not to be paralyzed by fear," he said. "In other words, get back on the planes, drive through the tunnels, cross the bridges. Let's go back to work to rebuild America, invest, so that the terrorists will not win, because if we are afraid, then they have won."

The president of the Council of Churches of the City of New York, Rev. Butts chairs the National Affiliate Development Initiative of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS and is a founding member of the organization's board of commissioners. He also is vice-chairman of the board of directors for United Way of New York City, and a former president of Africare, an independent organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in rural Africa.

Rev. Butts holds a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Morehouse College, a master of divinity degree in church history from the Union Theological Seminary, and a doctor of ministry degree in church and public policy from Drew University.

Butts has served as an adjunct professor in the African Studies Department at City College of New York and taught black church history at Fordham University.  

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