Amber Hikes: Innovation for the LGBT Community In Philly
By Sekinah Brodie, 07/09/19
Episode #28 of Shades of Success features Amber Hikes – Executive Director of LGBT Affairs for the Mayor’s Office in Philadelphia. I first learned about Amber when her version of the LGBTQ flag went viral. She is responsible for adding the black and brown stripes to the flag. She has been recognized in several publications for her advocacy work and changed policies in Philadelphia. In the interview, she talks about how to become better allies, inclusion in the workplace, and finding a balance between work and self-care. Listen to the episode here.
Amber Hikes is the Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs for the City of Philadelphia. In this role, she develops policy and serves as the principal advisor to Mayor Kenney on issues that affect the LGBTQ community. At the Mayor’s Office, Amber has set her sights on fighting and advocating for the most vulnerable populations within the LGBTQ community – specifically youth, elders, transgender people, and people of color.
At the Mayor’s Office, Amber has set her sights on fighting and advocating for the most vulnerable populations within the LGBTQ community – specifically youth, elders, transgender people, and people of color. In her first year leading the office, Amber has advocated for anti-discrimination legislation at the municipal level, launched a citywide LGBTQ Community Conversations initiative and helped facilitate an international conversation about race and discrimination in the LGBTQ community with the addition of black and brown stripes to the rainbow flag.
Amber has been recognized nationally by OUT Magazine as one of the 2018 OUT100 and by Business Equality Pride as one of the 40 LGBTQ Leaders Under 40. Locally, she was named one of Philly’s 20 Biggest Winners of 2018 by Philadelphia Magazine and named Philadelphia Gay News’ 2017 Person of the Year. Hikes believes in employing an intersectional lens in all aspects of community work and leans daily on the words of sister Audre Lorde: “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle, because we do not live single-issue lives.”
00:00:48 – Can you talk a little bit about how you actually got into that type of work and what made you want to fight for the rights of that community specifically?
The mayor asked me a couple of years ago when I was living in California, at the time, and asked me to come back to Philadelphia and leave the mayor’s office LGBT affairs, because he wanted to address the issues, specifically around racism and the LGBT community, and he felt that he didn’t need a politician to do it. He needed somebody who was rooted in community and believed deeply in the power of communities.
00:04:56 – Can you talk about some of the campaigns that you’re responsible for that have helped to progress the community in Philadelphia.
I think kind of off the bat, people are most familiar with them or call them or pride campaign. And so this is the rainbow flag with black and brown stripes. It was definitely supposed to be a small kind of city initiative to address the issue of racism. So I launched that flag in June of 2017 and again like we just thought it was like a, you know, a
nice little effort and it’s going to be a local effort. And it went viral. Pretty immediately. And so it’s everywhere now, which is nice. Even presidential candidates are using it in all their pride materials.
00:14:28 – How do you measure impact in the work that you do. What are some of your, your KPIs.
It’s tough in city government. I think our workforce is so big. Philadelphia is the fifth-largest city in the country. So we’re dealing with like 1.6 million people, a lot of those ones are LGBTQ. So it’s like, how do you know that you’re reaching folks? Some of the work that we do in the cities around education and training. And you can imagine it’s like training people to be more LGBTQ competent that’s like a really tangible thing.