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A Major party for Owens

The Brooklyn Paper
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We attended Sunday night’s farewell gala for Rep. Major Owens (D–Crown Heights), who chose not to run for a 13th term and will leave office on Dec. 31. As we sipped cocktails and downed the delicious oxtail stew at the Grand Prospect Hall, we asked Owens’s biggest supporters a simple question: What is Major Owens’s legacy?

The Brooklyn Papers / Dennis W. Ho

Norva Butler, Crown Heights

“It’s education. He did so much work for the common people. He physically wired the schools, when Verizon refused to do it because there was asbestos. And he helped get the coal-burning furnaces out.”

The Brooklyn Papers / Dennis W. Ho

Lucy Koteen, Activist

“He was great on peace issues and a strong opponent to the Bush agenda. and he was a strong opponent of Atlantic Yards. He came to rallies and even rapped and sang at one.”

The Brooklyn Papers / Dennis W. Ho

Yvette Clarke, Congresswoman-elect

“He built a bridge of rights for the disenfranchised to the 21st century. He fought for a progressive agenda, from opposing the war, to supporting the Americans with Disabilities Act to his cornerstone, which was uplifting educational standards for our children.”

Chris Owens, son

“His legacy is what he taught me: the importance of having a vision and clarity about why we do public service. It wasn’t about accumulating power or raising money. It was really about the public. It doesn’t make you the best politician, but it makes you a great public servant.”

The Brooklyn Papers / Dennis W. Ho

Letitia James, City Councilwoman (D-Prospect Heights)

“He was the leader of the progressive movement, a coalition of African-Americans, liberal whites and Latinos, a coalition of conscience on social issues. He coined the term ‘empowerment.’ That was the first time I heard that word in the political context.”

The Brooklyn Papers / Dennis W. Ho

Major Owens, 12-term congressman

“I spent my time and energy organizing people. I certainly didn’t do it by raising money; fundraising was my greatest failure. I’m most proud of my amendment that got funding for 107 historically black colleges. It’s up $4 billion since that passed.”

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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