Born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Dennis Powell lived on West and Mill Streets which were both razed during the Urban Renewal of 1966. After serving in the U.S. Army in Germany, he worked briefly at General Electric, and then attended the Culinary Institute of America (C.I.A.), where he later became a teaching fellow. He worked in New York City until he returned to the C.I.A. as a faculty member, then department chair. After a career at the C.I.A., he opened a restaurant in Pittsfield, and now helps with Mad Jacks, his son’s restaurant and catering business.
Dennis is in his third term as NAACP chapter president, serves on the Pittsfield School Committee, Pittsfield Licensing Board, as Vice Chair of the Clinton Church Restoration Board, and is active in many social and racial justice and education projects, including the Du Bois Lecture Series. “I was in college when Martin Luther King was assassinated. I remember going and sitting on a bench at the green across from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut … totally lost.” When asked how he picked himself back up? “I don’t know if I ever did. I don’t know if I ever did.”
“I really believe [St. Clair Gunn] set the tone for…how kids are important in my life and the activism that I do…because I had role models that just didn’t talk it, but did it.”
Click here to listen to Powell’s full interview in the Special Collections and University Archives at UMass Amherst Libraries.
A full transcript of the interview can be accessed here.