February 13, 2017
Philadelphia's Office of LGBT Affairs will soon be led by newly appointed Executive Director Amber Hikes, city officials announced on Monday, marking a transition follows months of turmoil over the state of race relations in the local LGBT community.
A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania's Social Work Program, Hikes will bring an extensive record of local experience to the office when she takes over on March 6. She served on the board of the William Way LGBT Community Center from 2011 through 2015, organized the Philadelphia Dyke March from 2007-2015 and co-founded the women's event group Stimulus Productions, a traveling nightlife party that has focused on elevating diversity since 2008.
“My diverse experiences in the vibrant Philadelphia LGBTQ community first as a student, then as a professional, then as a business owner and finally as a community leader, afford me the unique opportunities to view LGBTQ community work in this city from multiple vantage points,” said Hikes. “I'm eager to serve my community during this pivotal time by increasing the accessibility of the Office, listening to community members and implementing initiatives to serve LGBTQ Philadelphians more efficiently and effectively.”
Most recently, Hikes served as the director of Upward Bound, a California-based student service program that offers federally funded education and resources to low-incomes students. Her work there included a multimillion-dollar Department of Education grant to refund the program at Penn for the past five years.
Attorney Nellie Fitzpatrick, the office's outgoing executive director, held the position over the last two years and become the focus of intense scrutiny in the aftermath of last year's video leak of a Gayborhood bar owner using the n-word. Ensuing protests and community meetings led to the city's first report on racism in the LGBT community.
Fitzpatrick spoke extensively with PhillyVoice in an exclusive interview about her experience leading the office and how she handled the backlash that ultimately forced her out of the job.
Among the most important issues Fitzpatrick said she encountered during her tenure was that she was not "a conventional fit for the role," which she feels is best served by someone who excels at community organizing. Her expertise, she said, was building support in City Hall for legislative initiatives that could advance the rights of LGBT individuals.
“Nellie’s work to institutionalize this Office by pushing forward legislation to change the city’s charter helps make this possible, and we appreciate her laying the foundation for the focused community work that Amber will be doing moving forward," said Nolan Atkinson, Philadelphia's Chief Diversity Officer.
In her new role, Hikes will draw on her experience organizing community service events and fundraisers for local LBGTQ organizations including GALAEI, William Way Community Center, Attic Youth Center, and ACLU-PA. She will work on engagement and inward facing policy work in coordination with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which oversees the LGBT office, and the recently formed LGBT Commission.
“The lessons I learned in these organizations about representation, privilege, equality, and equity have shaped every step of my life,” said Hikes. “It was with these organizations and so many others that I discovered my passion for creating safer spaces and uniting people across our beautiful LGBTQ community.”