Brownsville is continuing its’ strong showing of homegrown democracy through competitive elective races.
That after Chris Legree, who grew up in the Brownsville Houses and has lived in the neighborhood all his life, announced last week that he will challenge incumbent Anthony Jones for the male Democratic District Leader seat in the 55th Assembly District.
There are two Democratic district leaders per assembly district – one male and one female. The district leader position, while unpaid, wields power in they select local judicial candidates as well as assembly and state senate candidates for special elections. They also are instrumental in hiring poll workers getting petition signatures and help in structuring the county Democratic Party platform and rules.
While Legree could not be reached at post time, his campaign website notes his mother Lillian, a NYC Police Department Clerk worked at the 67th precinct in Flatbush while raising Chris and his 10 siblings in the midst of the social and economic oppression that have battered black communities like Brownsville for many generations.
That insight and perseverance led Legree to adapt into one of the first classes of diverse students at South Shore High School in the 1970s, where he was a standout quarterback and pitcher. After his college football career at the University of Pittsburgh and Fordham University, he returned to Brooklyn searching for a way to impact his community.
In 1996 after the Million Man March, Chris and his business partner, Ervin Roberson, were inspired, which led the two to found the Mo Better Jaguars youth football program. Since then, the program has helped guide numerous participants away from the pitfalls that young people face growing up in New York City neighborhoods. Mo Better has collaborated alongside teachers, parents, social workers, and politicians in their efforts to accumulate resources for the children in the program.
While the program has won a Pop Warner national championship and several regional titles, its biggest success has been the impact it has had on the participants the program has guided towards college and professional careers. Many Mo Better participants have gone off to colleges throughout the United States, including Syracuse, Seton Hall, University of Maine, Ohio State, and more.
Besides the volunteer work, Legree continues to work full-time at Consolidated Edison, a job he’s held for 37 years. Most recently, he expanded his program, renaming it the Mo Better Leadership Academy. The rebranding process expanded to include other sports and academic enrichment, collaborating with neighborhood schools to foster life skills in a generation of children forgotten by most of those in power in America.
A father of eight, grandfather of six, and great grandfather of one, Legree hopes to improve the community from inside the halls of power.
Legree’s entrance into the race comes as Assemblywoman Latrice Walker and City Councilwoman Alicka Ampry-Samuel, both of whom ar attorneys that grew up in Brownsville’s public housing, work to create a new spirit in the community, which is seeing something of a homegrown renaissance minus the amount of gentrification happening in neighbouring communities.
Besides Walker and Ampry-Samuel other lawmakers contributing heavily to this rebirth include Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and State Senators Jesse Hamilton and Roxanne Persaud.
Rumors have it that either Walker and Ampry-Samuel may run themself or support another woman in the district to challenge female Democratic District Leader and former City Councilwoman Darlene Mealy. Jones has already endorsed local activist Shemene Monique Minter as his female Democratic Leader counterpart.
Ampry-Samuel could not be reached at post time.
Walker spokesperson Amaris Cockfield said it is a little early to comment on who the assemblywoman will support for district leader as petitions have yet to be filed.
Petition to run must be filed by mid-July. The primary is Sept. 13.