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March 3, 2021

Diversity Center sees new leadership, celebrates victories

Organization moves into permanent home

Diversity Center Santa Cruz County, an organization aiming to support the local LGBTQ+ community, has had a busy few months. From winning a lawsuit against the Trump Administration to buying a brand new building, the nonprofit is looking at an even bigger and brighter future.

In late December the center announced that it had succeeded in blocking former President Donald Trump’s ban on workplace diversity training. The Executive Order, issued in September, aimed to block diversity training by federal contractors and grantees that confronted topics like structural racism, homophobia, transphobia and sexism.

The Diversity Center v. Trump was the organization’s first federal lawsuit in its history, filed with Lambda Legal and partnering with other groups such as the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and the Los Angeles LGBT Center. On Dec. 22, U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman issued a preliminary injunction barring the administration from enforcing the ban.

“[We were] proud to challenge this hateful and discriminatory presidential executive order,” Diversity Center’s Sharon Papo wrote in an official statement. “We are relieved that we won this lawsuit and that this executive order was never able to be implemented.”

The victory is a big one for Papo, who left her position as executive director on Jan. 15 after eight years. Papo is passing the torch to interim co-directors Ashlyn Adams and Deanna Zachary. In an open letter to the community, she thanked the two for stepping up, and reflected on her time with the organization. 

“I am proud of what I accomplished during this time, in partnership with the board, staff and volunteers,” she said. “I deeply wish for the Diversity Center’s continued success.”

Adams has been the Diversity Center’s Youth Coordinator for two years. Last year, she created a 24/7 online platform with the goal of supporting local LGBTQ+ youth during the pandemic. Zachary has been the Community Relations Director for two-and-a-half years, leading a successful fundraising campaign in 2020 that allowed the center to buy a new building.

“I am thrilled that Ashlyn and Deanna are interim co-directors,” Papo said. “They are excellent thinkers, visionaries, problem solvers, and hard workers.”

Marc Zammit, Diversity Center’s Chair of the Board of Directors, said in a prepared statement that the pair has “big plans” for the organization, including elevating the county’s people of color.

“It is my pleasure to welcome these exceptional leaders,” he wrote.

The Diversity Center’s new location, 1115-1117 Soquel Ave., was purchased in December after it raised $1,045,000 through a fundraising campaign. The building is the organization’s first permanent home in its 32 years active.

In an announcement on the center’s website, Papo and Zachary thanked the community for its “kindness and generosity” during the campaign.

“Though this year has been difficult, we are thrilled to be wrapping up 2020 with a place to call our own,” the statement said.

For information, visit diversitycenter.org.

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