The city of Philadelphia has ended an ongoing controversy about its office of LGBT Affairs with a change in leadership.
Amber Hikes, director of Upward Bound, a program to assist low income, under-served students in California, will take the job March 6. She’ll replace Nellie Fitzpatrick, who leaves the post Monday after criticism from some activists over her response to reports of racism at bars and clubs in the city’s Gayborhood.
Though Hikes lives on the West Coast, she has a history of activism in Philadelphia. She served on the board of the William Way LGBT Community Center from 2011 through 2015, and was an organizer for the Philadelphia Dyke March from 2007-2015.
Hikes said in a phone interview she’s excited to be returning to Philadelphia, and she expects the LGBT office will have a higher profile in the community.
“What we keep hearing from people is that they want to feel more connected to this office,” Hicks said, “and so what I’d be looking forward to in the future are forums and more opportunities to get people directly involved in the work that we’re doing in the mayor’s office.”
Fitzpatrick said in an interview that she was asked to resign by the Kenney administration because it envisioned a more “outward facing” role for the post.
She said that as an attorney she was effective behind scenes, affecting policy and working for change within the government.
“What I do, I’m not live-tweeting or necessarily doing with a bullhorn on a street corner,” she said.
Fitzpatrick said communication could have been handled better in the controversy over racism in the Gayborhood. She said tension was fueled in part by a misunderstanding of the role of her office.
“Initially reports went out in the media saying that my office should be issuing sanctions against the bars,” Fitzpatrick said. “Fortunately or unfortunately, whichever side of the coin you’re on, the Office of LGBT Affairs does not have the authority to do that.”
Fitzpatrick said she she’s proud that in her tenure the LGBT office became a permanent part of the mayor’s cabinet.