Hello! My name is Chloe Owens, and I am excited to be starting as Empower Missouri’s Justice Organizer. I am originally from Memphis, TN, but Missouri is as much a part of who I am as my hometown. Growing up, I spent my summers in Charleston and Sikeston, MO, and I attended college and graduate school in St. Louis. As the Justice Organizer, I will focus on capitalizing the momentum that the Missouri HIV Justice Coalition has gained in the effort to modernize the state’s outdated criminal laws targeting persons living with HIV.
When I finished my undergraduate studies in social work, I was convinced that I would use my education to work in a school. I loved working with adolescents, so to test my commitment to the path, I joined AmeriCorps and served for two years with City Year, an education-focused non-profit in Boston, MA. I supported a sizeable group of high school students on their academic journeys, helping with attendance planning, behavioral coaching, one-on-one tutoring and more. The more I got to know my students, the more I began to understand just how many obstacles they faced outside of the school building. I became frustrated with how limited our options were to fully support our students and how school policies and procedures prevented us from truly addressing many of the students’ challenges. From that point on, I knew I wanted to pursue a career that addressed policy change and systemic reform, and I’ve been putting myself in advocacy spaces ever since.
While I am a social worker, I am also a storyteller. I recently took six months to complete an intensive training program in documentary filmmaking, learning how to produce, shoot, and edit nonfiction stories. Since Fall 2018, I have been a volunteer editor with Humans of St. Louis, a powerful, first-person storytelling platform. As an advocate, I believe storytelling is critical to creating change because it humanizes the theories and data we heavily rely on when discussing policies, regulations, and systems. Strong evidence and compelling stories are crucial to creating change.
Not too many years ago, I was doing everything I could to run away from this state. I’ve witnessed and experienced many forms of injustice in Missouri. The time for running, however, has passed. Missouri is the place I choose to call home. It has molded me into a person I didn’t know I could be. There is no better place to dedicate myself to the fight for social justice. I am grateful to have the opportunity to do so in this state and with the Empower Missouri team.
This post originally appeared in our September Newsletter, which you can find here.