Rafer Owens | University of Portland

Rafer Owens

Rafer Owens was born and raised in Compton, California, home to the notorious Bloods and Crips street gangs. When he was nine, his brother Vincent, a gang member, was sent to prison for murder. To keep their youngest son from a similar fate, Owens’ parents encouraged him to attend church and school, with the hope that faith and education would keep him off the streets. After graduating with honors from Verbum Dei Catholic High School in Los Angeles, Owens attended the University of California, Los Angeles. Since then, he has dedicated his life to healing the community in which he not only grew up but raises his own children. Owens is now a Los Angeles County deputy sheriff working in community relations and the head pastor of Faith Inspirational Missionary Baptist Church. In 2006, he partnered with area churches to found the Compton Initiative, a 40-year commitment to improve and restore the city through painting homes, schools, and churches on quarterly workdays. In 2014, he wrote The 7 Pillars of Community Leadership so as to provide a roadmap for others who wish to make a difference in their communities. Owens and his wife Natalie have six children, including Rachelle, a communications major and guard on the Portland women’s basketball team.