New York City public school teacher Jabari Brisport looks forward to becoming the first Black openly gay member of the New York State Legislature this November. The 33-year-old Democratic nominee in Brooklyn’s 25th state Senate District, who won the primary election by 10,000 votes in June, is running unopposed, with support from Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
The Democratic Socialist, social justice activist, and vegan, has always been standing up for progressive issues, including tenants’ rights, universal health care, and criminal justice reform.
“I want to be able to make some change, especially protecting people on housing, and education and transportation. We desperately need a government that works for all the people,” Brisport told The New York Post last October.
Growing up in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, Brisport has witnessed firsthand dramatic changes in his neighborhood due to gentrification.
“It’s like a bomb goes off, and all the sudden the neighborhood is completely different,” he told NBC News in an interview. “All of a sudden, it’s like you just see more white people walking down the street, you see stores that you grew up with going to close down, store owners that you grew up knowing having to go back to their home country or having to move because they can’t afford the rent.
“It’s really scary and really alarming, and it makes you want to fight for a world where that isn’t driven exclusively by capital and pursuit of wealth, but one that prioritizes communities and puts people first.”
The middle school math teacher, who is strongly opposed to charter schools in the Brooklyn district, is also concerned about the lack of investment in public schools and the social inequities that play out in the classroom.
A third-generation Caribbean American, Brisport’s father immigrated to the U.S. from the Caribbean and is now a sheet metal worker. His mother is a native New Yorker, who is currently an office manager and member of the Communications Workers of America, according to NBC News.
Before entering into education and politics, Brisport was a drama student at Yale, and this was where he began his fight for the legalization of gay marriage. In 2009 when he led other campaigns to get same-sex marriage legalized by New York state lawmakers, he failed though gay marriage would be legalized two years later. Brisport believed he did not get the needed support during his campaign on same-sex marriage because there were no Black LGBTQ state lawmakers at the time.
That episode however pushed him to where he is today. “I can fight for LGBTQ rights as a legislator now,” Brisport said.
He is particularly content with policies like the New York Health Act, which would cater to the health needs of all New Yorkers. “That’s extreme help for queer people of color, especially if they have pre-existing conditions or lack of access to health care because they might not have a job, or they’re in a job without benefits,” he said.