Every Sunday morning, Michael Billy and his husband watch CNN over breakfast. This past Sunday, like so many of us, they watched reporting on the largest mass shooting in our country’s history. And like so many of us, they were devastated.
“We were also angry,” says Billy, “because it was so clearly a targeted attack on the LGBT community, but the majority of the news coverage and public officials refused to use “LGBT” or even “Gay community” in their press conferences. It was an unsettling moment. Since then, we’ve seen many of our LGBT leaders echo the same experience.”
Billy began planning almost immediately. “I knew we had to do something in Jersey City and it was obvious to me that a candlelight vigil was the appropriate event. I knew the administration would be on board and fully supportive.
“We’ll be assembling at 8 pm on Newark Pedestrian Mall in Jersey City for a candlelight vigil. We’ll have community leaders, spiritual leaders and city officials present. The evening will be a spiritual one in tone with songs for the crowd to join in on. I hope and I’m confident that the evening will represent the diversity and love that exists within the state’s largest LGBT community. This is the people’s vigil and I’ve been honored to lead the way.”
When asked about fear, Billy zooms out. “I’m scared because we have states that won’t pass the employee non discrimination act. I’m scared because we have states that are spending millions fighting a bathroom policy that has no factual data in it’s argument to back it up. I’m scared because we accept and give a pass to Presidential candidates that campaign on anti-gay policies. And I would be horrified if people don’t see the connection between all of those issues. When it comes to a targeted attack on the LGBT community, know that we ourselves as a society are also responsible.”
Billy says he hopes tomorrow exemplifies the power and strength in our unified community. “We are Jersey City strong and proud to be the largest LGBT community in the state. Our LGBT community has a legacy of leadership, advocates and activists because we are a community that stands up for what is right with light and love.”
And like any effective leader, Billy shares wisdom with the next generation. “Our youth should know that this is the most important time in our history to be alive. Be empowered by the LGBT community that has come before you. Please know that the Hudson Pride Connections Center is offering services for our youth and adults who have been affected by this tragedy.”
The candlelight vigil is set for tomorrow night, June 14, at 8 pm in the Newark Ave. pedestrian mall. All are invited to attend.