In partnership with Philadelphia Black Gay Pride, every day throughout the month of February we will spotlight an influential black mover and shaker in the city.
Today: Amber Hikes. You may know Ms. Hikes as one of the brainchildren behind Philly’s Stimulus parties, the monthly soirees that, especially since the demise of Sisters, is keeping the lesbian nightlife popping in Philly. She’s also chair of the William Way Center‘s resource development committee, a member of the Philly Dyke March planning committee, and just last year she was recognized by the LGBT community with the honor of being named grand marshall of Philly’s Pride parade. And that’s just the work she does at night. By day, as she explains below, she works in a program at Penn to help under-represented teens finish high school and get into college.
What's your Philly connection?
I'm from Atlanta. I went to undergrad at the University of Delaware then went to grad school in 2006 at Penn and moved to Philly. In 2009, I bought a house here, got a full-time position at Penn and have lived here ever since. My community is here. My business is here. Philly is home now.
When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
An entertainment lawyer. That's very specific, I know. My sister is incredibly talented vocally and I think I knew early on that gene had skipped me entirely. I still wanted to support her with her impending fame and fortune but my poor geeky adolescent self was only really good at reading and writing ... so apparently, entertainment law made sense to me. Go figure.
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
It may be trite but my mother, without a doubt. This woman was a real-life Lifetime movie. She had a very difficult and troubled marriage and escaped from Louisiana with my sister and me in the dead of night to start a new life in Delaware (of all places). She raised two small children and took care of a mother with Alzheimer's while putting herself through her Ph.D program. She completed her degree in three-and-a-half years (insane, I know) and accepted a job as the vice president of Spelman College then later became the vice president at Virginia Tech. She passed suddenly in 2008 but did more in her short 53 years than most could do in two lifetimes. She was a rock star and is still a daily inspiration. She taught me the value of hard work and the importance of having gratitude for the smallest blessings.
Finish this sentence: I feel fiercest when ...
I've got on a brand new suit (preferably with a vest), my hair is done and I'm doing my Beyoncé walk on my way to a meeting. You can picture it, right? Full-on fierce mode.
What's your proudest achievement?
Even though I've been here for years, I'm still really proud of the work I do at Penn helping under-represented high school students succeed in high school and get into college. My students combat incomprehensible daily struggles that most of us are fortunate to never think about, and they do it with their heads held high and their eyes on their goals. They make me so proud.
Also, every time I do that aforementioned Beyoncé walk and don't face-plant on 13th Street in front of everyone I've ever known is pretty much a tremendous personal victory. Every time.
If you had one super power what would it be and how would you use it?
I don't necessarily want just one superpower. What I want is to be a filthy rich bachelorette who owns a mansion, a bunch of cars, has an English butler and runs an enterprise of some kind. But I want to have a super secret alter-ego on the side, like a crime-fighting vigilante. I would design and produce any high-tech gadgets I needed to aid me in my crime-fighting and I'd save the city from certain ruin on a regular basis. Wait ... what do you mean that's already taken?
Finish this sentence: In 10 years I ....
... Would love to see sweeping global LGBT legislation. And I'm not talking specifically about marriage. Marriage is fine. Marriage is great. But I'm talking about anti-discrimination laws in terms of housing and employment, resources to protect our youth from homelessness, trans inclusive legislation, as well. Hell, don't get me started. I could go on all day.
Oh, and a flying car. A flying car in 10 years would be nice. I mean, it's about time, right?