After battling the novel coronavirus, Carmen Vazquez, an LGBTQ+ activist, died at 72. Originally born in Puerto Rico, she was raised in Harlem and later live in San Francisco where her commitment to organizations began.
In 1971, Vazquez was the Women’s Building’s founding director, helping establish the Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center. The Women’s Building was a women-led community space. The advocacy mission was gender equality and social justice.
When she moved back to New York City in the ’90s, she worked as the public policy director at the LGBT Community Center between 1994 and 2003. There she helped from the New York State LGBT Health and Health Services Network. During the years between 2003 and 2007, Vazquez worked as the executive director for the Empire State Pride Agenda, which does not exist anymore.
She co-chaired the Woodhull Freedom Foundation board of directors, which focuses on promoting sexual freedom. She was also the coordinator of the New York State Dept. of Health LGBT Health and Human Services Unit.
Most recently, Vazquez was honored by The Task Force at the annual Creating Change conference for her lifetimes work by the LGBTQ+ elders.
Michael Adams, the CEO of SAGE in a press release, said, “One of my proudest moments as an activist was presenting Carmen with the annual SAGE Award at Creating Change 2020, in recognition of her lifetime of courage, fierceness, and struggle.”
In Vazquez acceptance speech, she said even if today was to honor her, creating change was not a one-person effort, recognizing the other people who pave the way for her noting, “There were countless others who paved the way for my activism and countless others who will follow me and build the bridge to the future. Equality is not enough; justice and liberation are where our hearts and minds should lead us.”
In a statement, the National LGBQ Task Executive Rea Carey said Vazquez’s passing “tears open a hole in the heart of the LGBTQ+, social justice, immigration, reproductive justice, and sexual freedom movements. And in mine. I’m deeply sad that one of our movement’s most brilliant activists is no longer with us. I’ve never known this movement without Carmen in it. A fierce, Puerto Rican butch, who spoke, wrote, organized, mobilized and willed with her small but powerful body justice and liberation into this world.”
The LGBTQ+ community has felt a great loss, but just as she said, she expects those to keep leading the movement and for more people to join in it. Rest in Power Carmen Vazquez.