A Liberian American pastor, Rev. Jesse Gibson, will appear on the ballot as an at-large city councilor candidate in the November 5 municipal elections for the central Massachusetts city of Worcester.
Gibson earned his place on the ballot by being one of the 12 candidates to receive the highest votes in a preliminary election that was held on September 10.
During a phone interview, Gibson said he is running “so that Worcester would be a better place for all of us.” His campaign is advocating for more funding for youth skills-building programs and other initiatives that aim to reduce illicit drug use and illegal drinking among young people.
Gibson said he also wants to prioritize the elderly, especially when it comes to allowing elderly persons from immigrant populations to have better access to and awareness of existing resources.
Worcester has a relatively high immigrant population, with approximately 22 percent of the city’s residents being foreign-born, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Gibson says if elected, he would be the first of Liberian descent elected on Worcester’s city council. He hopes his presence on the council can allow for perspectives from the African immigrant community.
“The African community in Worcester are not represented in the city government,” he said, as he estimated their population to be 30,000 within Massachusetts second-largest city.
However, those numbers have not translated to a significant amount of votes for Gibson. He placed 11th out of the 12 candidates qualifying for the general election, with only 1,017 votes in an election that saw a turnout of only 8.69 percent. The city council has only six seats for at-large members.
Gibson, who heads the Throne of Grace Ministries, thinks his campaign can overcome this hurdle by raising money to have access to more data and to recruit more volunteers.
“We’re going back to the table and knocking doors and doing more canvassing than we did before,” he said. “At the end of the day, we believe we’ll win because we know we’ll step up our game this time.”
Gibson believes his commitment to his community should be useful in helping him win. He coaches a girls soccer team, is a member of the Coalition Against Bias and Hate and volunteers on Worcester’s Citizen Advisory Council.
If he wins, Gibson would be following in the footsteps of a series of Liberian Americans who have triumphed in American politics. In 2018, Michael Elliot was elected mayor of Brooklyn Center while Wynfred Russell was elected to the city council of nearby Brooklyn Center – both in Minnesota. The previous year, Wilmot Collins was installed as the mayor of Helena, Montana. Collins is now running to become senator of the state.
Featured photo courtesy of Jesse Gibson