Statement on Passing of Longtime Activist Carmen Vázquez

The National LGBTQ+ Task Force is deeply saddened to announce the death of Carmen Vázquez, long-time LGBTQ+ and social justice activist. Carmen died on January 27, 2021 of COVID related complications.

Said Rea Carey, National LGBTQ+ Task Force Executive Director: “The loss of Carmen 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.

Carmen was Task Force family, having served on our board of directors, and as a colleague, advisor, and friend to a long line of executive directors. That laugh. Those cowboy boots. The ties. I never thought I’d say this, but part of me is glad we aren’t in person for Creating Change this year because I don’t think I could bear not seeing her there. And yet, the cruelty of having to mourn her loss, while not being together as a community she loved so much, is overwhelming. Rest in power, Carmen. We will continue your work for liberation.”

With our Creating Change Conference starting today, the Task Force will be finding ways to honor her in the coming days.

At the 2020 Creating Change conference in Dallas, TX, she was awarded the SAGE Award for Excellence in Leadership on Aging Issues.

In her acceptance speech she said, “Change is never about one person alone, there are countless others who paved the way for my activism, and countless others who will follow me and build a bridge to the future…we are and always will be an intergenerational movement and we should act that way…equality is not enough, justice and liberation are where our hearts and minds should lead us.”

The full speech can be found here>>

Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE, 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. It’s unimaginable that Carmen has passed, but the spirit of someone as fierce as Carmen lives forever and continues to inspire us. Honoring her legacy, it’s fitting that we re-name the award Carmen received last year with the name it will carry from this day forward – the Carmen Vázquez SAGE Award for Leadership in Aging. Rest in power Carmen.”

Carmen Vázquez was born in Puerto Rico and grew up in Harlem, New York. Among her many accomplishments, Vázquez was the Founding Director of the Women’s Building in San Francisco, helped found the Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center in San Francisco, and the LGBTQ+ Health & Human Services Network. She was a founder and principal author of Causes in Common (a national coalition of Reproductive Justice and LGBTQ+ Liberation activists). Her essays have been published in several anthologies and she made scores of keynote presentations at conferences and college campuses across the United States. Vázquez was the Co-Chair of the Woodhull Freedom Foundation Board of Directors and the former Director of LGBTQ+ Health and Human Services.

SAGE and AARP Disrupting Disparities LGBTQ+ Aging Report