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Join Center for Brooklyn History archivists and curators in conversation with Owens family members Chris, Millard, and Geoffrey as they discuss the Congressman's life and work.

From his roots as a librarian here at Brooklyn Public Library, to his ascent to the New York State Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, Major Owens' legacy is defined by his work as a tireless antipoverty reformer and as an advocate for education, civil rights, Americans with disabilities, workers' rights, and immigrants. BPL is celebrating Major Owens' invaluable contributions to our borough over the course of 12 terms representing Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights, Brownsville, Flatbush, Park Slope, and Kensington, with Central Library's new Major Owens Welcome Center and an exhibition including highlights from the newly acquired Major Owens Collection. 


Millard "Mitty" Owens is passionate about community development, social justice and the intersection of art and social change. His early work included the Ford Foundation, the NYC Office of Financial Empowerment, NYU’s Wagner School of Public Affairs, and the pioneering community development financial institution Self-Help. Enabled by a Kellogg National Leadership Fellowship, Mitty visited communities in West Africa and the Caribbean that have utilized creativity to address pressing social issues. Adjusting for the life of a single dad over the past 10 years, Mitty developed his own consulting practice focused on bolstering nonprofit capacities and strengthening the linkage of “impact investing” to social justice (captured in this recent article). He has served on various social justice boards (including the Fifth Avenue Committee, Global Exchange, Grassroots Leadership, and the Lower East Side Peoples Credit Union) and arts boards such as Chuck Davis’ African-American Dance Ensemble and Harlem Stage. Mitty recently penned a full-length play addressing issues of race and personal conviction, and he is happy to occasionally gig on vocal and percussion with his brothers in the Owens Brothers Band. Mitty is a graduate of Yale University and holds an M.S. in Community Economic Development. 

Christopher Owens recently retired from his seven-year leadership of the Brooklyn District Attorney's Re-entry Bureau, and he remains active in the re-entry field.  Owens has also founded REMEMBERTHEMAJOR.COM, advocating for the co-naming of Eastern Parkway as the "Major R. Owens Parkway."  Chris' primary focus, however, is his lifelong passion for writing, performing and supporting music. On July 1, 2021, he is launching ARTivistUS, LLC.  ARTivistUS will be developing the brands and audiences of various artists with strong social justice interests.  For more information, send an email to [email protected] Coincidentally, Chris is also his company's first client.  During 2020, the artist now known as "Chris Oledude" wrote, co-directed and produced a low-budget music video, "George Floyd: Say Their Names", that has received honors from more than fifty film festivals around the world, including 22 "Best Music Video" awards. Watch it and subscribe to the new ARTivistUS YouTube channel!

Geoffrey Owens has been active as a teacher, director and actor for the past thirty-six years. He has taught Acting and Shakespeare at Yale, Columbia, Pace, FSU, HB Studio, Primary Stages, and Stella Adler Studio.  He has directed numerous productions, especially the plays of Shakespeare.  On stage, he has appeared on Broadway in “Romeo and Juliet” (with Orlando Bloom), in “Salome” (with Al Pacino), and as ‘Henry’ in David Mamet’s “Race” (at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre), as well as in numerous productions at N.Y. Shakespeare Festival, CSC Rep, Long Wharf Theatre, Hartford Stage, Shakespeare Theatre of Washington DC, Shakespeare Festival L.A., and Dallas Theatre Center. Television credits include: The Cosby Show, Power, Ghost, The Good Fight, That Damn Michael Che, Billions, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, On Becoming a God in Central Florida, Divorce, Lucifer, The Affair, The Blacklist, Elementary, Bluebloods, Boston Legal, Las Vegas, Built to Last, and That’s So Raven.  Screen credits include: “The Paper” (directed by Ron Howard), “Fatale” (with Michael Ealy and Hilary Swank), “Wilde Salome” (directed by Al Pacino), and “Youth in Oregon” (with Frank Langella). 

The discussion will be moderated by Center for Brooklyn History Reference Librarian Michelle Montalbano



The Librarian in Congress: The Life and Work of Major Owens is on view now at Central Library.


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