COVER STORY: Dee Ross

city council dee foundation indianapolis ross

You’re straight off the campaign right into opening a grocery store. Why was this important to you? The east side of Indianapolis has the biggest food desert in the Midwest right now. The Far Eastside in particular has not one grocery store. That directly correlates to the violence and education in our communities. Not having food can cause an uprise in violence and a decrease in high school graduates increasing the school to prison pipeline. Food can change the way you think, and improve test scores.

What inspired the forgotten neighborhoods tour? I’m a huge advocate for 38th and 42nd and Post and Mitthoeffer. When I was going to German Church, Cumberland and Carroll Road while canvassing I was surprised about how many areas have never been heard. There are so many deplorable living conditions in these areas throughout the city of Indianapolis. The Far Eastside has the highest concentration of section 8 or low-income housing and apartment complexes in the city. You can go from Franklin Road to Mitthoffer and see 30-40 apartment complexes. When you have that high number of people living in low income and not enough resources and services or even a grocery store, library or public school what do you expect to happen?

How did you come up with the “Why Not Dee” slogan for your campaign? I tried to run as a democrat initially and they said I wasn’t qualified and I had to wait my turn. They tried to bribe me into taking another position. I turned all of it down and said,to them “Why not me?” I told them it wasn’t my fault they didn’t do voter education in impoverished communities. If they had done their job as a political party of educating people instead of just coming around during election time to the different churches. So I asked, “Why can’t I run?” They told me things like I don’t look like them, I don’t have a degree, or I need to pay my dues. I took it to offense. With all due respect, I feel like I’m more than qualified. I’ve been serving this community I was born and raised in. I have HIP health insurance which is something the democratic party fought for nationally.If I didn’t have HIP insurance I would have died last year when I was in a coma. So I decided I wasn’t going to let them redirect me on what God had led me to do.

What role does faith play in your journey? My faith is number one. I’ve been having a chronic lung disease since I was twelve. I have had pneumonia over 55 times in my life. Last year,I had just finished a speaking engagement in Atlanta, When I got home I couldn’t stop bleeding out of my mouth and nose. In order to stop the bleeding and seizures, my doctor had to paralyze me and induce me into a coma. During that time I lost a substantial amount of blood, died and was flatlined for two minutes.
I could literally see my body outside of my body. An overwhelming, powerful voice came and I just knew it was God. He was like, “You were getting complacent. I wanted to get you away from all the distractions so I could talk to you by yourself and let you know that you have a bigger calling. A bigger purpose in life.” He pushed me back in my body and I woke up crying. Right before that my family had just said their last goodbyes and they were about to pull the plug. I woke up crying with the ventilator in my mouth. The doctors couldn’t explain it. I know it was God. I feel like I was called to run. I had to be obedient. I don’t do anything without God steering it. Transitioning from a lifestyle I was used to was hard. It’s time to break the curses of generational trauma and poverty that our community is attached to. Maybe I can restore hope and inspire people to be the best version of themselves.

You took the time to encourage people to vote, but things were going on to discourage those people from voting for you right? The poll workers weren’t educated on the [new system] process so they just encouraged people to vote straight democrat. I took the high road through all the low blows. I decided to have a clean campaign and show that the victory was already won. My victory was in the journey. That was the highest percentage an independent has ever gotten in Indiana. That sent echoes through both parties. I had to get signatures to get on the ballot. They threw out over 50 percent of my signatures. I turned in over 500 and they only calculated like 250. I needed 175 but I aimed high. People are hitting me up anticipating my next step. What’s next for me is self-care.

What do you want to tackle next? 70% of the city of Indianapolis voted straight ticket. That’s a problem. They’re just voting to say they voted. I want to set up workshops next year to do voter education. They wonder why things aren’t improving…Why aren’t these elected officials advocating? We don’t have a shelter on the far east side. But they voted on a $600 million new jail. Imagine what that $600 million would do for the 46218 area or the Far Eastside or Haughville. That could restore that whole community! There are megachurches in our city that are too busy doing overseas humanitarian projects to put a dime in their own back yard. I’m holding them all accountable. If you’re going to take from our community, give back to our community. There are a couple privileged churches donating $13 million a year to projects overseas. With $13 million on 42nd and Post we could get a library, a youth center and all kinds of things we need. This is the reality, but it’s politics. There’s a reason they won’t invest in us. And that’s the reason why they didn’t want me at the table.

IG: @DROSSRPR FACEBOOK: DEE ROSS

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