(Courtesy photo by Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)
“We have moved the Office from a local policy shop to a formidable force for change.”
That’s a quote from Amber Hikes included in the City of Philadelphia’s July 9 announcement that the executive director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs has resigned, effective July 31.
“Amber has been a fearless advocate and public servant, working tirelessly to support Philadelphia’s LGBTQ community from within City government,” said Mayor Jim Kenney in the statement announcing Hikes’ resignation.
Appointed to the Office directorship amid controversy about the City’s response to racism in the Gayborhood, Hikes is credited with a number of high profile initiatives to improve representation in the LGBTQ community. During her two years heading the Office, the “More Color, More Pride” flag, which added black and brown stripes to represent LGBTQ people of color, was introduced, and the LGBTQ Community Leadership Pipeline was instituted.
The pipeline, which helped diversity the boards of local LGBTQ organizations, was the greatest accomplishment of her tenure, Hikes told Generocity. “That will really change the face of our leadership,” she said.
Hikes also instituted the annual LGBTQ State of the Union, successfully advocated for gender-neutral language in the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter, and, according to the announcement, worked “with the Philadelphia Police Department and members of the transgender and non-binary communities to institute one of the most progressive police policies in the country—guiding more respectful, dignified treatment of transgender and non-binary people during interactions with police.”
Still, she said, some big challenges remain.
“One of the challenging aspects of being in city government,” Hikes said, “is your resources and capacity are limited in many ways. I wish I had made more headway around prison policy, and seen a bigger shift around it and law enforcement.”
One of the things Hikes said she’d like to tell those working in the public and nonprofit sectors is about the “importance of being aware of the call to serve, and being mindful of the space you are in.”
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“We have to know when to step up, and when to step down,” Hikes said.
“And in today’s climate, so fraught with tensions,” she said,” it is important to be mindful of taking care of ourselves.”
Is that why she’s leaving her position with the city? No, she said, “though I’d be lying if I said there was no burn-out after working 12- to 14-hour days for two years.”
“I’m leaving because I got a really exciting offer,” she added.
Hikes’ new position will be made public next week, until then she will not confirm whether she will be staying in Philadelphia.-30-
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