NNIRR tribute to human rights pioneer and our first ED, Carmen Vázquez

Photo Credit: National LGBTQ Task Force, Latinx Heritage Month www.thetaskforce.org/carmen-vazquez/

NNIRR Mourns the Passing of Carmen Vázquez

We are saddened to share the news that Carmen Vázquez, NNIRR’s first Executive Director, died in New York last Wednesday from complications of COVID-19.

Carmen will always be remembered as a champion for racial and economic justice, for her work to promote the rights of all, and especially for her leadership in advancing sexual freedom, the rights of the LGBTIQ community, the fight against HIV/AIDS and much more. She was a co-founder of the Women’s Building in San Francisco, and spearheaded the city’s services for the LGBTQ community, including work in the fight against AIDS.

Carmen took on the challenging task of Executive Director for NNIRR in 1987, less than a year after the passage of the last major immigration reform bill and during a time of political evolution and institution building for a still-fledgling immigrant rights movement. The National Network itself was less than a year old, as the organization and its members delved into the demanding tasks and challenges of implementation of the new law, while defending immigrant communities against continued backlash and harsh enforcement. Carmen was one of many Puerto Rican activists, especially from the East Coast, who helped to spearhead immigrant rights advocacy in those early years of this current movement. Developing the organization, raising money and helping to steer advocacy — Carmen applied her many skills and experience during a tumultuous period.

When an opportunity then arose for Carmen to take the helm of a new initiative in San Francisco to strengthen health and other services to the LGBTQ community, she was torn between her commitment and responsibility in NNIRR and immigrant rights work, including the chance to play a critical role in the AIDS fight. With reluctance, but also a certain pride, the National Network board bid farewell to Carmen as our Executive Director, and enthusiastically applauded her new role in tackling another serious and controversial challenge. Carmen subsequently moved back to New York, where she assumed even greater responsibilities, including leadership at NY State AIDS Institute, and so much more.

Carmen’s passing, and her incredible work on behalf of so many is also described in this article from the Bay Area Reporter https://www.ebar.com/news/latest_news/301529

We share our condolences with all of Carmen’s friends and family. She will be missed.

Carmen Vázquez, ¡Presente!