New York Democratic Congressional candidate Mondaire Jones said he is not “running to make history as the first openly gay black member of Congress,” but recognized the weight that title may hold and the importance of representation.

“I’ve said that I’m not running to make history as the first openly gay black member of Congress, but I know the power of representation,” Jones told uPolitics‘ founder Erik Meers. “Representation, later in life, helped me to come out. It was watching Noah’s Arc, which was the first I’d ever seen openly gay black men in loving relationships… and it was learning that Frank Ocean had written so many of the songs on Channel Orange to another man, that helped me really feel comfortable in my own skin so to speak and to come out to my family, my friends later in life.”

Jones, who is running on a progressive platform in the 17th congressional district, said he “never imagined” that someone like him could run for Congress.

“Of course growing up poor, black and gay, I never imagined that someone like me could run for Congress,” he said. “So much has changed, I’m really grateful for it and I know from the conversations that I’ve had with people throughout my district and this country, and just the messages that are being sent to me, that my run is already helping people to live their authentic lives.”

He continued: “I love that I’m able to be of help to someone through merely existing and running openly and proudly, so I’m looking forward to that and also to bringing my lived experiences to the policymaking context.”

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