Heritage of Pride (HOP), which produces the annual New York City Pride March and related events, has appointed out Latinx lesbian Sandra Pérez to serve as the organization’s next executive director.
Pérez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, is joining HOP, or NYC Pride, after working as a non-profit executive and carrying out other positions pertaining to special events, resource development, and philanthropy. She worked in development-related roles for the Ms. Foundation for Women and has also worked as a consultant in the private and public sectors.
HOP interim executive director David A. Correa will continue as the organization’s director of entertainment and events.
“The extensive search and subsequent choice of our next executive director were incredibly important for us as we look to the future of NYC Pride,” Sue Doster, HOP’s co-chair, said in a written statement. “After a challenging period for us and our community, we are thrilled to have chosen a leader who will help pave the way for our next era.”
In her new role, Pérez said she hopes to highlight LGBTQ young people through HOP’s Youth Pride initiative and put the organization’s focus on aligning “front and center” with the transgender community. As a woman of color, Pérez said she wants to use her platform to bring attention to the issues facing LGBTQ individuals who are last to be heard in the movement.
“My first job is to see where we’ve been, really to listen and engage with stakeholders who have or haven’t been at the table for a while,” Pérez told Gay City News. “As someone who comes from a working class background and has done a lot of firsts, I would like to see us ensure that some of the gains the movement has made are set and finalized.”
She added, “This is where having people apply a BIPOC lens to the challenges that lay ahead is going to be important… It’s not just looking at one issue, but looking at all the different issues that are impacting our right to exist.”
Pérez’s appointment comes as HOP has faced criticism for the large corporate presence at their march as well as for their lack of diverse leadership. Amid growing pressure from activists, HOP organizers announced a controversial policy in May prohibiting uniformed police officers from participating in the Pride March and other events until at least 2025. The Gay Officers Action League (GOAL) went on to rip the ban as “demoralizing” and slammed HOP for taking the “low road.”
Pérez said the ban on police contingents is on track to remain in place, at least for now.
“I know it was a decision that wasn’t taken lightly, and I know there’s a lot of pain on both sides,” Pérez said. “However, I don’t see the ban being lifted this year, and again, I do hope that we’ll be able to engage in dialogue with all of our community members.”
While that policy is likely to remain in place, it remains to be seen, for now, what other changes could be forthcoming at HOP under Pérez’s leadership.
“I don’t think anybody at HOP is looking to maintain the status quo; certainly I’m not, and I think my hiring is part of that,” she added. “We have a lot of external challenges… so, in my mind, one of the things we need to do is minimize the discord… So figuring out where the pain points are and how we can responsibly address them is the real task.”
Pérez, who now lives in New Rochelle, New York, grew up in NYCHA housing and in Co-Op City in the Bronx. Pérez recalled her mother working as a paraprofessional and her father working in a factory during her childhood.
“I went to Headstart, I know what it is to eat government cheese, but at the same time, that’s not the only story,” Pérez said. “I know what it’s like to have people discount you the minute you walk in the door because they are not familiar with who you are or your culture or where you come from, and they make assumptions.”
Outside of her work, Pérez has volunteered for various causes and organizations, such as the LGBTQ Giving Circle at the Chicago Foundation for Women and the YMCA Young Achievers Program, which provides youth of color with support, training, and leadership opportunities.
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