NOTE: The building that held this mural has been torn down
Gloria Casarez (1971 – 2014) was an American civil rights leader and LGBT activist born and raised in the Kensington neighborhood of North Philadelphia, then Westmont, New Jersey.
In college at West Chester University, Casarez was active in student government and political activism, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice and a second Bachelor of Science in Political Science in 1993. She was President of the Latino Student Union and a representative to the Commission on the Status of Women, a network of students from state universities examining women’s issues on campus. From 1991-1996, Casarez was a founding member and community organizer for Empty the Shelters, a national student and youth-led housing rights and economic justice organization. Casarez worked in North Philadelphia, leading grassroots campaigns and advocating for legislation supporting anti-poverty, economic justice, and welfare rights for poor people.
From 1995-1998, Casarez was the Program Coordinator for the LGBT Center at the University of Pennsylvania, one of the oldest and most active centers of its kind in the United States. She developed innovative student-mentorship and programming for LGBT students of color, transgender and queer students on campus. Out Magazine named Casarez one of the “100 Most Influential Leaders of the New Millennium” in 1999.
At the age of 27, Casarez became the Executive Director of the Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative (GALAEI) in Philadelphia. Casarez led GALAEI from 1999-2008, tripling the organization’s funding and developing nationally recognized programs serving men of color and transgender communities, including Philadelphia’s first mobile HIV testing centers and the Trans-health information project – the first multi-serve transgender health program.
Casarez became the City of Philadelphia’s first director of LGBT affairs, appointed in 2008. During her tenure as director, Philadelphia adopted the broadest LGBT rights protections in the nation and ranked as the number one city nationwide for LGBT equality. She married her long-time partner Tricia Dressel in 2011. Casarez passed away on October 19, 2014, at the age of 42, after a valiant battle with breast cancer.