Metro Weekly

First-ever ‘LGBTQ State of the Union’ held in Philadelphia

Amber Hikes, who leads the Philadelphia Office of LGBT Affairs, created the event to start a stronger dialogue between organizations and the LGBTQ community

LGBTQ+ State of the Union — Photo: City of Philadelphia / Samantha Madera

A first-of-its-kind “LGBTQ State of the Union” was hosted in Philadelphia on Tuesday night.

Leaders and community members filled the Perelman Theatre at the Kimmel Center to hear speeches from almost a dozen LGBTQ organizations in the area.

Created to initiate dialogue between organizations and the people they serve, the event was also attended by state Rep. Brian Sims and Mayor Jim Kenney, Philly Voice reports.

“There is nothing greater in this nation that striving for the inclusion, empowerment and protection of those who continue to be marginalized,” Kenney said in his speech. “It’s progress we seek.”

The event was put together by Amber Hikes, who leads the Philadelphia Office of LGBT Affairs. Kenney tapped Hikes to lead the office after months of racial tensions within the LGBTQ community.

Hikes started out by holding community conversations which ultimately grew into the State of the Union.

“As far as we have seen nationally, there has never been an LGBT State of the Union of this kind of magnitude,” Hikes said at the event. “This is by us, for us.”

Organizations that presented included William Way Center, the Mazzoni Center, GALAEI, Attic Youth Center, COLOURS, Philly Black Pride, Philly Pride, Independence Business Alliance, and Delaware Valley Legacy Fund. They spoke on their current progress, as well as efforts of diversification, missions and future vision for their organizations.

“This is a huge leap in terms of accountability and transparency that we have never seen before,” Hikes said to KYW Newsradio. “We had executive directors that have been doing this work for 25 years and said ‘I have never had to stand in front of the community or had the opportunity to stand in front of the community.'”