What did Ossie Davis envision in 1971 when he proclaimed to the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) that “it’s not the man, it’s the plan”? In a special forum held Oct. 1 at the Library of Congress, former New York congressman Major Owens hosted a distinguished panel of U.S. representatives and political scientists in a discussion of his forthcoming book, “The Peacock Elite: A Subjective Case Study of the Congressional Black Caucus and Its Impact on National Politics.”
The panel included Rep. Maxine Waters (D. Calif.), a current member of CBC; two former members of CBC, Oakland Mayor Ronald Dellums and attorney Louis Stokes; Ronald Waters, author and University of Maryland professor; and Michael Eric Dyson, author and Georgetown University professor.
Owens challenged the CBC to establish a national African-American action agenda, stating, “We must act now or our middle class will be shoved to the margins … while the black masses are driven downward into a permanent underclass.” Owens also challenged the CBC to assume greater leadership responsibility for the African diaspora.
Owens, the only professional librarian elected to Congress, served 24 years on behalf of New York’s 11th Congressional District. He is now a distinguished visiting scholar in the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress. Owens began his residency at the Library after his retirement from Congress in January 2007.