"We prepare students to engage in the world that is and to help bring about a world that ought to be."

Chi Ossé ‘16 Offers Candid Glimpse Into Political Life

On Friday, January 27 Friends welcomed Chi Ossé ‘16 to speak to Upper and Lower School students in a series of events. Chi is the Council Member for New York City’s 36th District, representing Bedford-Stuyvesant and North Crown Heights. He entered politics as an organizer and prominent figure in the Black Lives Matter movement. At 23 years old, Ossé was elected in 2021 as the youngest member of this Council and its only member hailing from Gen-Z.

Josh Goren, Upper School English Teacher, highlighted some of the Council Member’s biggest achievements in his first year in office. Chi has been taking on the rat population, protecting renters’ rights and helping longtime homeowners against gentrification, ensuring every bar in the city has Narcan (a drug overdose medication on hand), and using participatory budgeting to distribute city money to local people doing local work. Josh also shared his top five favorite memories of him during his upper school years (all involving Chi being very vocal!)

The Council Member began with a reflection on his days at Friends. “Being one of a few Black students here wasn’t always easy,” he explained, recounting some of the “racial blindspots” he encountered and how Meeting for Worship gave him a voice to approach them. “I credit Friends Seminary for so much of who I am,” he revealed, explaining that despite “being shoved into early adulthood” by the death of his father and the boiling racial tension in America, he is still growing up. But he’s taking his neighbors in Brooklyn with him for the ride, helping to re-energize his party and continue fighting for transit equity for seniors and the disabled and fair pay in public schools. He concluded his presentation by taking questions from students on everything from fighting imposter syndrome to the importance of intersectionality at the School.

Chi then joined Annah Heckman ‘15, CPEJ Specialist for Service Learning and Civic Engagement, for a Q&A session with Grade 4 students. He spoke about his first year in office and why he got into politics, walked students through a recent bill he passed and how young people can get involved in politics. Students eagerly asked questions about his first days in office, how he’s helping his neighbors improve their lives, and his biggest goals. Lower Schoolers were particularly taken by his reflections on dropping out of college when his father became ill with cancer and his journey to public office and fighting for change.

In collaboration with the CPEJ Team, and leaders of various clubs, Chi wrapped up his visit with a jam packed lunch discussion with Upper Schoolers, expounding on his talk from earlier. “I take my work seriously, but I don’t take myself too seriously,” Chi joked. His charm, charisma and openness radiated throughout the School as he offered a candid glimpse into politics, culture and societal structures. “We don’t have to wait anymore to see what the future will bring. It’s up to us.” And of course, “if you want to learn more about how to be a disruptor, my DMs are open.”
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Friends Seminary — the oldest continuously operated, coeducational school in NYC — serves college-bound day students in Kindergarten-Grade 12.
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