On the evening of March 11, mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson made a surprise appearance in front of a packed room at the monthly LGBTQ+ event Slo Mo Jam, which was held at Sleeping Village, 3734 W. Belmont Ave.
Johnson's appearance, an effort to reach diverse communities across Chicago, was not the only surprise that night. State Sen. Mike Simmons (7th District), Illinois' first Black openly LGBTQ+ senator. publicly endorsed Johnson from the stage.
Introduced by Slo Mo producers Tristen Winfield and Kristen Kaza, Simmons took to the stage and spoke freely about being ostracized and bullied as a student while Johnson's mayoral competitor, Paul Vallas, was the head of the Chicago Public Schools . He also spoke about Vallas' relationship with conservative Republican group AWAKE Illinois, which has recently targeted lesbian-owned Uprising Cafe and Bakery.
Johnson, who managed to pull in 21.6% of the vote in the first mayoral contest against nine candidates, and Vallas, who garnered 33% of the vote, are headed for a run-off election set for April 4.
Johnson greeted the crowd boisterously with, "Well, we all know you all know how to have a good time." He also joked, "I'm also sure that none of you listen to what your parents tell you."
When discussing his plans for inclusion Johnson referenced his past both as a social studies teacher and as an organizer with the teacher's union. Kaza and Winfield hushed the crowd for a silent prayer, then appealed for their support in the race.
Johnson has also gained endorsements from Equality Illinois, Chicago Teacher's Union, Service Employee International Union, Sierra Club, and National Organization for Women. In addition to Simmons' support, Johnson has been endorsed by U.S. Reps. Jonathon Jackson, Delta Ramirez and Jan Schakowsky, and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren.