Michael “Billy” Bisogno formally kicked off hisÂ Jersey City Ward E Council campaign yesterday at the Grove Street PATH station.
It was a lively affair as drummers drummed away and some in attendance danced enthusiastically to the beats.
Several speakers took the microphone, including two poets from Jersey City Slam, as well as Jonathan Lovitz, Vice President at the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
“I have been friends with Michael Billy for nearly 10 years and in that time I have watched him grow from a local community organizer to a force to be reckoned with on the local, state and soon-to-be national stage.Â He cares deeply about building a better Jersey City. He believes in bringing communities together to do just that,” said Lovitz.
He added that Bisogno has the skills to lift up all economic boats equally.
“When women do better, so do we. When people of color do better, so do we. When LGBT people do better, so do we. When people of faith do better, so do we. And when we stand with Michael, we’re all going to rise together.”
Bisogno then walked onto the stage, and recounted a very traumatic experience in his youth that he said in a follow-up interview compelled him to become an activist.
“It’s been a crazy, long journey, but I’m so glad to be here. When I was 14 years old I was beaten up for being gay by a group of 12 guys. They punched and held me up against the fence, yelling out anti-gay slurs, and I looked out at the school population and saw about half of them just staring at me with their mouths open, looking angry and confused,” said Bisogno.
He exclaimed, “After getting help, I realized that the biggest gift from that experience was seeing myself in those guys that did that to me. And isn’t that the basis of building a community. Seeing yourselves in each other.”
In a follow-up interview during the above Facebook Live segment, we asked Bisogno how that painful experience contributes to his decision to enter the political arena.
“I have been an activist for 20 years and it kicked off with that terrible experience as a child, allowing me to see myself in other people. I really think that’s the through-line to building a community.”
He said that one of the messages that’ll be important to convey to Ward E residents is to find creative ways to equalize growth throughout the city.
“We don’t want to be lost in high-rise buildings. The heart and soul of this city over the next four years will really be up to the community and the Council person here to bring together our neighborhoods and wards,” Bisogno said.
When we asked him if he expects to get the support and blessing of Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop to unseat Ward E incumbent Candice Osborne, he responded with a laugh, “I would love everyone’s support. Great question.”