Retired Congressman Major Owens tells a riveting story of how the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) saved the life of then-soon-to-be-deposed Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. According to Owens, U.S. backed military forces were moving across Haiti making their way to Port-au-Prince and the President's Palace. Owens, with a contingent of CBC members, went to the White House demanding to meet with President George W. Bush. The CBC members requested assurance that military forces would spare the life of Aristide. Neither Rice nor Powell could grant that request. It was then that Owens and the CBC threatened to stay at the White House until they could speak with President Bush. We threatened a sit-in at the White House! Owens recalled. At some point President Bush became available. Though Bush did not make a commitment during the meeting, the next day the CBC learned (along with everyone else) that Aristide's life was spared when he was airlifted out of Haiti. Closer to home, Owens tells of how former First Lady Hillary Clinton's fledgling run for U.S. Senate was saved from itself. Early in her campaign, Clinton spoke at length to Sunday congregants of the First Baptist Church on Eastern Parkway. Clinton waxed profusely on the life and times of one brave, heroic African American female who freed numerous slaves: Sojourner Truth. First Baptist Church's congregants remained politely quiet as they heard Clinton's faux pas. It was a miracle that no one laughed out loud, as I did when Owens told me the story. It was an even bigger miracle that the story did not get out. Owens explained that if local media had gotten wind that Clinton did not know the difference between Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, Clinton's campaign might have been irreparably damaged before it began in earnest. These and other insider stories ... The Destructive Power of Peacock Mania is a devastating evaluation of the political predatory peacock with a defining characteristic being its lack of sincere allegiance to any group mission. Owens makes his argument plain: Bold, highly visible or outrageous actions are inevitable components of the predator peacock game plan. Equally destructive are temperamental peacocks and pathological peacocks. The struggle to consolidate Black political power and nurture community empowerment has been consistently damaged by peacock maniacs who can be identified by rushes to manipulate and profit from public hysteria; a short attention span for serious causes; reluctance to support a game plan which offers no dramatic opportunities to show off; a careless use of ideology and philosophy as mere rhetorical conveniences; untrustworthiness in a negotiating process; and other behavior patterns. Hmmmm. You might wonder who Owens is talking about. Well, Owens names names. The chapter on The Workhorse Imperative is an equally thoughtful analysis of what the CBC stands for and what it can be. The CBC is an LSO (legislative service organization) plus infinitely so much more, declared Owens. Members best weapons and resources are each other. Owens applauds the CBC for establishing Braintrusts which when applying "in-depth management and coordination" to a problem reaps greater rewards for everyone. The E-Rate, which guarantees basic computer access to all schools and libraries, came out of the CBC Education Braintrust. The Veterans Braintrust produced what ultimately became the Comprehensive Homeless Veterans Act. The Peacock Elite promises to be a must read for political junkies and constituents who need a blueprint with which to assess their elected officials. A similar tome would be useful coming from within the NYC council and the State's legislature, as well as the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Blue Dog Democrats (what remains of them). --Mary Alice Miller, ROOM EIGHT, New York Politics
Major Owens does it again with The Peacock Elite: A Case Study of the Congressional Black Caucus. The Peacock Elite, is a documentary that outlines 24 years of Congressional Black Caucus achievements and failures; it both celebrates the triumphs of Black elected officials, as well criticize some of the short comings. The author, Major Owens, who has been described as a sage to the community, a national treasure, an intellectual giant and a scholar recently released The Peacock Elite in April 2011, attended a book signing at Medgar Evers College on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011. Hundreds of dedicated fans and supporters turned out to welcome former Congressman Owens, and to get their copy of The Peacock Elite signed, people stood in line to shake the hand of the man with the plan. Owens will be signing copies of his book again during the 40th anniversary of the Congressional Black Caucus on Friday, Sept. 23 at the convention center book exhibit. The Peacock Elite is a help to community leaders and the community at large. The Owens 300-page case study is available in both hardcover and paperback. --Tanisha M. John, Caribean Life News
About the Author
Major Owens retired from the US House of Representatives in January 2007 after serving 24 years. As a Member of Congress he distinguished himself by successfully sponsoring and passing more legislation than any other member of New York City's Congressional delegation since Adam Clayton Powell. Owens is justifiably proud of the role he played in the passage of the landmark American with Disabilities Act, which bars discrimination against people with disabilities in employment and other areas of life. In conjunction with the other members of the Congressional Black Caucus he worked relentlessly and successfully to achieve the designation of the Martin Luther King Federal Holiday and the imposition of sanctions against the racist South Africa regime. No causes or issues; however, interfered with his laser-like focus on problems related to education. In 1986 he engineered the passage of the Title IIIB amendment to the Higher Education Assistance Act, which, for the first time created a permanent stream of assistance for more than 100 financially strapped Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Since the first year of passage these institutions have collectively received more than five billion dollars in federal assistance. The Owens amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Assistance Act Title I program requiring that a minimum of one percent of the budget be spent on parent involvement activities has remained in place for more than fifteen years. Since retiring from Congress Owens has completed a successful stint as a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the John W. Kluge Center in the Library of Congress, which gave him the opportunity to write The Peacock Elite, a book about the Congressional Black Caucus. The only librarian to ever serve in Congress Owens has a Masters Degree in Library Science. He worked for the Brooklyn Public Library for eight years; served as NYC Commissioner for the Community Development Agency for six years and was elected to the New York State Senate for eight years before resigning to run for Congress. Owens presently serves as a Distinguished Lecturer and a member of the DuBois-Bunche Center for Public Policy at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn where he resides with his wife Maria. He also serves as President of the Board of the Central Brooklyn Martin Luther King Commission. During his Congressional career Owens served on the Education and Labor Committee and the Government Oversight Committee.