By LGBTQ San Diego County News Staff
In an email to San Diego Pride staff and volunteers sent Monday night, Nov. 20, the organization’s board of directors announced that their executive director, Fernando Zweifach Lopez, Jr., had stepped down from their position, effective immediately.
The email was addressed to “All Users Email,” which includes all individuals with the organization’s internal email account — including staff and volunteers.
Screenshots of the email, signed by San Diego Pride co-chairs Melissa Malone-Montgomery and Noah Lomax, were shared with LGBTQ San Diego County News. The announcement read in part:
“To address any questions our staff may have, we will be hosting a Town Hall for them. During this session, the board and leadership team will provide additional information about the transition, our plans for the future, and address any inquiries. We ask that staff please make every effort to attend. Details will be sent separately. We value your input and want to ensure that you have the information you need during this time of transition.
“Additionally, we recognize the importance of involving our volunteers and community partners in this process.
“We will be scheduling a separate Town Hall specifically for volunteers and community partners at a later time. Details will be shared soon.”
The board expressed their gratitude for Lopez’s service to the organization in the email, as well as the contributions they made during their tenure. It also addressed plans for its transition.
“To ensure organizational continuity and stability, the board will maintain general oversight of the organization while supporting the existing leadership team in place and moving swiftly through the executive director search and selection process,” it said.
LGBTQ San Diego County News reached out to Lopez via text message, but were told they would speak publicly at a later date. We were instead directed to a public Facebook post Lopez had made several hours after the time stamp on the email announcement. Their post reads as follows:
“Dearest Pride Family,
I’m so eternally grateful to have had the privilege of serving San Diego Pride’s mission for nearly 13 years. I couldn’t be more proud of all we’ve accomplished together! I’m also excited for what’s next in my journey. A huge thank you to our Pride Family and everyone who has supported me and the important work of our movement all these years!
Always Yours, Love Always, Fern.”
Reactions to the announcement
LGBTQ San Diego County News spoke to community leaders for their reaction. One was Nicole Murray Ramirez, co-founder, San Diego Pride, 1974.
“When the history of San Diego Pride is written it will tell the story of a young Latin[e] named Fernando Lopez, who brought Pride into the 21st century and gave voice and visibility to so many in our community that never had it. I’ve had my differences with Fernando, but [their] love, passion, and advocacy for our LGBTQ community and our communities of color can not be denied … I believe that Fernando Lopez has a very bright future ahead of [them] and the best is yet to come.”
Councilmember Stephen Whitburn responded:
“I have seen Fernando participate in our community for nearly two decades,” wrote District 3 Councilmember Stephen Whitburn, who served as San Diego Pride executive director himself from 2013 to 2016, and as Lopez’s boss during that time. “[They were] active in our fight for marriage equality, and [they] had a long tenure at Pride. I’m sure [they] still have more to contribute, and I wish [them] the best in [their] next chapter.”
Others took to Facebook to comment on the announcement.
Susan Jester, former Pride board member posted:
“Sending love, gratitude and appreciation to my friend Fernando Zweifach López Jr., whose leadership of San Diego Pride over the past six years has made it the most effective and financially stable Pride organization in the USA.
“[Their] vision for LGBTQ outreach and education to all communities through the implementation of the Pride mission 365 days a year is unequaled anywhere. Fernando is an effective spokesperson for our community and is tireless in always showing up for the work of social justice and human rights for all. I’ve had the privilege of working side-by-side with [them] for the last several years and as a former board member of Pride, I’ve been amazed at how the organization has grown and matured under [their] leadership. Thank you Fernando for your courage and dedication to our community, we all have been blessed by it and better for it. I’m excited to see what is next on your journey and look forward to your continued success.”
Former San Diego Pride co-chair David Thompson Jr. wrote:
“One of the dopest opportunities I’ve had in my career and life has been to serve the mission of San Diego Pride as a volunteer: from youth programs, to managing community partners, to joining the board and being its co-chair through the pandemic roller coaster until I relocated to New York. My time with Pride, especially working alongside Fernando Zweifach López Jr as executive director, will be among my cherished memories and, as the organization and the person part ways, I look forward to hearing about and seeing the impact Fern and their talents have through the next phase of their journey.”
National City Vice-Mayor and City Councilmember Marcus Anthony Bush posted:
“Not long after I came out, Fernando Zweifach López Jr. inspired and empowered me to speak my truth and use my voice to challenge the systems designed to silence and oppress us. Fern, thank you for always listening, sharing your experiences, and for all your love and years of service to San Diego Pride and our Queer Community!”
Laurel McFarlane of McFarlane Productions, the event company contracted to help with some of the production at Pride’s signature event in Balboa Park wrote:
“It’s been an honor to work with you for over a decade on the SD Pride celebration!! Your next chapter will be even more amazing!!”
LGBTQ San Diego County News also reached out to San Diego Pride’s two co-chairs, Melissa Malone-Montgomery and Noah Lomax, but did not have responses from either by press time. The details of this sudden resignation is far from complete. As more information is released, we will update the community as it becomes available.
*Our original story has been updated to correctly reflect Lopez’s pronouns.
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