My first year as ED

This year’s Pride theme is Stonewall 50: A Legacy of Liberation, as we intentionally look back at the last 50 years of our movement, and work together to chart a path forward towards what we hope to leave for the next generation. 

This week I’ve reached my one-year mark as executive director of San Diego Pride, and that has me reflecting on my own path; a first generation US citizen, the product of Jewish immigrants on my mother’s side, and Mexican Catholic immigrants on my father’s side, growing up femme and queer in a small town with a brother who is blind, deaf, and in a wheelchair. I survived constant bullying, homelessness, and sexual assault, all to meet the man of my dreams, start a family, fight for marriage equality by his side, and then lose him to mental illness.

Overcoming these obstacles was only possible because of the people who invested in me over the years, as I did my best to absorb the wisdom of their experiences; my family, Molly McKay, Davina Kotulski, Sayre Reese, Delores Jacobs, Aida Mancillas, Dwayne Crenshaw, and so many others who have lifted me along the way, and pushed me in front of new challenges they believed I was capable of overcoming. For the last 20 years I have fought for our community in many roles and with several organizations including Marriage Equality USA, Equality California, The Task Force, and eventually San Diego Pride.

In San Diego, we do Pride a little differently. We are philanthropic and engage year-round, a legacy we owe to folks like Christine Kehoe, Neil Good, Joe Mayer, Ron DeHarte, Cheli Mohamed, and so many more. This last year at Pride we had nearly 5,700 volunteer shifts working almost 22,000 hours, directly serving over 330,000 people. That’s not counting our expanded media reach. Our Festival attendance jumped from 30,000 to 45,000 as we focused on bringing in entertainers who are queer, trans, and people of color who actively use their platform to speak out about LGBTQ justice. In 2018 we hired our first Education & Advocacy Manager to ensure greater focus on that much-needed work. We shifted our Director of Development to Director of Philanthropy, who not only helps folks navigate their philanthropic giving to Pride, but helps us focus our philanthropic giving, which last year exceeded $170,000. In the last year, we helped to start the LGBTQ Interfaith Shelter Network, founded the #MeTooLGBTQ conference, and with funding from the Department of State started a binational LGBTQ capacity building conferenceOrgullo Sin Fronteras. We’ve reignited our interfaith organizing with DevOUT, are launching a new Queer APIMEDA Coalition, and have added more events all year round than ever before.

While those are just some of the highlights from my first year as executive director, I think the takeaway is that if we begin to operate from an abundance mindset, build a bigger table, and lift up those around us – we are all lifted. None of this would be possible without our community who volunteer their time and invest in our work. It is an honor to serve our community in this role, pursuing justice with joy. I look forward to this next year working with you, as together, each of us understands our part in this Legacy of Liberation.


About Fernando

Fernando Lopez is the Executive Director of San Diego Pride. Lopez’s years of LGBT advocacy, nonprofit management, public education, diversity consulting, media relations, guest lectures, and organizing have made him a consistent presence ensuring the struggles of the LGBT community are ever visible.