Harlem's sparkling 'Diamond'
Cyril Josh Barker | 4/12/2011, 5:23 p.m.
One look at Diamond Butler's resume and you would assume she has years of experience working in the community. However, she just graduated from college this May and is on the road to changing the world.
Butler currently serves as youth coordinator and director of youth internship programs at the Christ Community United Church in Washington Heights. The church is recognizable thanks to the late Rev. Dr. Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter, better known as Rev. Ike, who died last year.
Being appointed to the position a month ago by Bishop Xavier Eikerenkoetter, Butler is in charge of the church's after-school and tutoring programs along with internships for teens. She recently held a back-to-school event for children in the community and a summer camp with over 120 campers.
Born in the Laurelton section of Queens, Butler moved to Harlem when she was 13 and graduated from the Frederick Douglass Academy. During her teenage years, she was a member of the Junior Scholars Program at the Schomburg Center in Black Research. She recently sat on a panel about the state of the Schomburg, explaining her experience in the program.
While in high school she learned about different cultures traveling abroad to Ghana, London and Canada. But she spent a lot of her time in the church.
"Growing up within the church, I started a foundation and gained experience in the ministry," she said. "I grew up thinking I could be whatever I wanted to be."
Her graduation from high school paved the way to go to the historically Black Cheyney University in Pennsylvania. She decided to go to the school after hearing a speech from noted New York Cheyney alum Althea Kitchens.
Butler said, "I decided to go because I spoke to a representative and did research about the school and it seemed like a community I wanted to be a part of. I felt as though it would be a nucleus place of empowerment."
At Cheyney, Butler studied political science and was heavily involved in extracurricular activities, including as color guard and on the track team. She was a star on the campus, becoming president of the school's National Council of Negro Women chapter and serving as vice president of the Student Government Cooperative Association.
While in college, she was an intern for Rep. Charlie Rangel and worked with the Congressional Black Caucus political boot camp at the National Labor College. Being one of two students chosen from every state for the program, she said the experience introduced her to the mechanics of government.
She received another dose of hands-on political work last year as a canvasser for Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.
However, it was another internship at the International Rescue committee that turned her on to her passion. The agency, which works with victims of human trafficking, led to her decision to become an international human rights attorney. Working the office's front desk, she was able to see firsthand the faces of victims of those suffering from slavery, torture and sex trades.
"The fact is that slavery is still very much alive in this country and other countries," she said. "People try to push it away and it's something many people are neglecting."
As for the future, Butler has plans to attend law school and wants to enter a dual-degree program where she can earn her master's and law degrees. She is currently preparing for the LSAT.