Photo illustration by Johansen Peralta
Jun 14, 2021
Chi Ossé: A warrior in the garden
The buzzy Gen Z city council candidate discusses his political awakening on this week's episode of 'Brooklyn Magazine: The Podcast'
Chi Ossé never expected to be a politician. A self-described 23-year-old, Black, queer, college dropout, Ossé was working freelance jobs in nightlife when the pandemic hit. By the summer he found himself leading some of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations that took over the borough following the murder of George Floyd. From there, Ossé and several other engaged protestors formed Warriors In The Garden, a social justice collective that organizes peaceful protests and other public programming related to racial injustice. The group would help to get personal protective equipment into communities that didn’t have it, for example, or educate seniors on the vaccine.
“People get hung up on the fact that they want to help, they have to save the world,” says Ossé, who is this week’s guest on “Brooklyn Magazine: The Podcast.” “The world is too big to save, but what we can do is help someone next door or across the street or in our community. That’s something that Warriors in the Garden tried to do.”
It didn’t take long before Ossé announced his candidacy for New York City Council—on June 19, 2020, Juneteenth—as a representative of District 36, which encompasses Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights, where he grew up.
“It drove many of us to get up out of our quarantines and start doing something,” Ossé says of this summer of political radicalization. “From one protest to another I started finding my voice and refining my voice. I took this leap of faith and jumped into the city council race.”
And from day one, Ossé has led the pack in fundraising and capturing buzz (and sartorial panache), despite being a political newcomer. For Ossé, with his background in nightlife, all politics is theater. And all politics is local. And issue number one on day one for him would be affordable housing.
“I’m sick and tired of seeing my neighbors pushed out of this community, whether it’s the increase in property taxes, the increase in rent prices,” says Ossé who says he hasn’t taken a dollar of fundraising from real estate developers or interest groups. “Our elected [officials] and even candidates in this race will love to tell you that the color of gentrification is white. But the color of gentrification is green.”
Ossé may be a new to the public stage, but he comes by his activism honestly: A third-generation Brooklynite, Ossé father was the late Reggie Ossé, the hip-hop activist, lawyer, journalist and entrepreneur who went by the handle Combat Jack.
We discuss all of that, and more, on the podcast.
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