“It has always taken all types to get to our equality. When we look back at our history of civil rights, we don’t have one leader that got us there. We have a lot of different people that have a lot of different perspectives about our ways to get there.”
Imani Rupert-Gordon is an LGBTQ+ activist and social worker and the first Black Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
Imani Rupert-Gordon was born on April 17, 1979, in Bedford Heights, Ohio, and grew up in Yucca Valley, California. After she graduated high school, she attended a college near San Diego but ended up transferring to UC Santa Barbara where she earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology. She later attended UC Santa Cruz where she worked in residential life and also served as a lecturer. During her eight years at Santa Cruz, she co-founded the Social Fiction Conference which was a program that used science fiction to examine social justice. Her now wife, Derah, encouraged her to go to graduate school. Rupert- Gordon ended up receiving a master’s degree in social work from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration.
After graduate school, Rupert-Gordon landed a job as director at Broadway Youth Center (BYC), a part of Howard Brown Health in Chicago which services 1,500 LGBTQ youth who are experiencing homelessness. Part of Rupert-Gordon’s job was to provide therapy to LGBTQ+ youth in the community. During her time at BYC, she worked with the local government and community to ensure that the services that BYC provided wouldn’t be interrupted and expanded the number of services as well.
Rupert-Gordon, however, felt like she had more to give. The former executive director of Affinity Community Services (ACS) which is the oldest social justice organization for Black LGBTQ+/same gender loving people in the United States with an emphasis on the experiences of Black LGBTQ+/SGL women, encouraged her to apply for the recently vacant position for the executive director. During Rupert-Gordon’s five years serving as the executive director for Affinity Community Services, she brought tremendous change to the organization. She helped increase budget and program outreach.
In 2019, Rupert-Gordon received the Activism Award from the Illinois Human Rights Commission for her leadership and activism.
In 2020, Rupert-Gordon became the first Black executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), a legal organization that focuses on protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ people and their families based in California. She hopes to bring more inclusive and intersectional change-making to the organization.