Michael Billy (Activist)

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Michael ‘Billy’ Bisogo (b. May 17, 1982) is an American Human Rights activist, actor, broadcaster, and CEO of Hudson Pride Center in New Jersey.

Early Activism[edit]

When Michael was fourteen years old, twelve of his fellow students brutally assaulted him for being queer. Michael went on to create GAYLY, Gay and Lesbian Youth, to bring together the local gay community in Bergen County. For this, he was awarded the Suzanne Big Crow Memorial Award. ‪[1]‬ In 1999, he was awarded the Equality Awards by the Human Rights Campaign. The same year, Michael was asked to the White House to meet with Attorney General Janet Reno to discuss anti-bullying in schools. Michael also joined the National Board of Trustees for the National 4-H Council. [2] During this time, he was taken under the arm of Keith Jennings, who helped bring him deeper into being an activist. Jennings once said that he could see Billy becoming the first gay president.[3]

In and out of hospitals throughout his later teens, Michael continues to deal with mental illness and addiction.. He speaks often of his time in and out of clinics. He was overmedicated. One hospital he went to tried conversion therapy on him. He often speaks about his mental health during his talks and speeches to stop stigmatizing of people with mental health diagnosis.‪[4]

Broadcasting and Acting Career[edit]

In the early 2000s, Michael shied away from his early spotlight in activism. He attended the Connecticut School of Broadcasting. He took an internship at SiriusXM in the news department with OutQ (SiriusXM) as the anchor for the overnight. He worked with Vinnie Politan for two years on the “Me and Vinnie” show discussion legal and political matters.[5]

In 2007-2009, Michael hosted 8 episodes of the Emmy nominated show “In the Life”.“In the Life” on IMDB.com Starting in 2011, Michael began to act as a cultural commentator on HLN and CNN. [6] The same year, Michael got his cinematic premier in “The One” where he played Stephen, the gay best friend of the main character. In his second film “Bad Parents” (2012), he humorously played himself. Sony pictures “The Evangelist” is Billy’s most recent film where he played a detective searching for a serial killer.Evanelist on IMDB.com His newest film, Rock, Paper, Scissors, premieres in April 2019.“Rock, Paper, Scissors” on IMDB.com

Entrepreneurialism[edit]

From 2011-2015, Michael Billy joined his former CSB student, Jarl Haugedal at NYC-NY after collaborating together on an event. The working relationship led them to utilizing the hotel and their linked broadcasting background. They started Humanity Pride Productions. Their premiere project was “Mr. Gay World USA” which had twelve contestants compete for the title of Mr. Gay USA, and then move on to South Africa to fight for the title of Mr. Gay World.[7] Using Humanity Pride, the duo created JB Talent to specialize in bringing the international talent of music, stage, and screen here to the United States. [8]

In 2014, Jarl and Michael joined with Maureen and Craig Goletz to create the Jersey City International TV and Film Festival. Their inaugural show brought 55 submissions, 35 of which they showed throughout the festival. This continued to bring more of the spotlight on both Jersey City as a production center as well as spotlight the diverse community here, which has followed Michael throughout his career.[9]

Local Politics[edit]

In 2017, Michael began a run for the Ward E Council Position located in downtown Jersey City.[10]. He had worked closely with the administration having been added to the LGBT TaskForce by Mayor Steve Fulop and the Diversity and Inclusion Board.[11]In August, Michael bowed out of the race to begin working more closely with the LGBT Community as the CEO of Hudson Pride Center. [12]

Current Activism and Hudson Pride Center[edit]

Michael spoke at the first Jersey City Pride Festival in 2001, when he first moved to Jersey City.[13] In 2014, he took a more active role within first becoming the chair of the festival and then beginning to work with Eddie Baez whom he continues to work with on the yearly festival. Under Eddie and Michael, the annual festival has grown from a single Saturday event to a month long event throughout Hudson County. [14]

After the Orlando shooting, Michael Billy banded together with the community to create a large vigil in downtown Jersey City. Jersey City Stands became an activist arm to protest for immigration reform, against the Muslim band, and for all discriminated upon individuals. Mostly recently, Billy and various community leaders stood up against Donald Trump separate children from their parents at the border. Speakers ranged from clergy to community members from all backgrounds.[15]

Although beginning to work with Hudson Pride Center, then known as Hudson Pride Connection Center, he took an official position on the board of trustees in early 2017. In August of that year, Michael joined Hudson Pride Center as the Chief Executive Officer.[16] Using his business prowess, Michael rebranded the company from Hudson Pride Connection Center, to Hudson Pride Center. He brokered a deal wit Carepoint Health to expand the services, and helped expand more fully outside of Jersey City with events and outreach. [17]

Personal Life[edit]

Michael has been with Matthew Argenti since 2006, and the two married in September, 2015.[18]

Michael Billy (Activist)[edit]

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