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National LGBTQ Task Force Announces Longtime Executive Director Rea Carey Stepping Down in 2021

Rea Carey and Kierra Johnson on stage at Creating Change Conference 2020


(Washington, DC, September 23, 2020)

The National LGBTQ Task Force today announced that longtime Executive Director Rea Carey will be stepping down in early 2021. Carey has been with the organization since 2003 as a Senior Strategist, then Deputy Executive Director, and became its Executive Director in 2008. The Board of Directors has unanimously selected Kierra Johnson, who has served as Deputy Executive Director since 2018, as its next Executive Director beginning February 1, 2021.

Carey is one of the most respected leaders in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) movement. Through her leadership, she has advanced a vision of freedom for LGBTQ people and their families that is broad, inclusive and progressive and has grown the organization in depth, influence and reach.

On her departure, Carey said, “From overturning discriminatory policies and passing LGBTQ inclusive laws to celebrating marriage at the Supreme Court, to being arrested alongside immigration activists, to the energy of our Creating Change Conferences, it has been a remarkable ride. Just to be alive during a time of such progress over the last many years has been astounding, and to serve the LGBTQ community in my 17 years at the National LGBTQ Task Force has been the joy and honor of a lifetime. We have faced down many obstacles together and made tangible progress for LGBTQ people and our families. I have worked to ensure that we can be all of who we are in our multiple identities as immigrants, as people of color, as parents, as people experiencing homelessness, as voters, as people of faith, as trans and bi, as workers. Together, we have fought to love who we want to love, for sexual freedom, to be free of violence and oppression in all its forms, to be seen, valued, and celebrated as fully human. The Task Force is and always will be my activist home. As I move on, I am happy to leave the Task Force in a stable, sustainable place and am excited for our community and country to benefit from all that Kierra will bring to this role. She is the perfect person for the times, to lead the Task Force and the movement to adapt and to achieve the new dreams our future holds.” Rea’s full letter to the Task Force community can be found here.

Said Kierra Johnson: “I am thrilled to join the long, proud legacy of the many powerful activists that have led this amazing organization. While the world grapples with the convergence of so many storms rooted in injustice, we are proud to stand at the center as an LGBTQ+ voice across our many identities and issues. I am inspired by the multitudes of Black, Brown and Indigenous people that have unapologetically claimed space, power and influence to make change so desperately needed for our communities. I am moved to action by the defiance, creativity and persistence of transgender, non-binary, genderqueer, bisexual, and intersex people that push us to demand a world where we all thrive. The Task Force will work to create a world where checking boxes is obsolete, but health, wellness, equity, justice, joy and pleasure are accessible to everyone. I look forward to building on the powerful legacy of the National LGBTQ Task Force. Through devastating defeats and glorious victories, the Task Force has always been there for our entire community. Whether we are in the streets or in the halls of Congress, we will lead and leverage our LGBTQ+ power alongside our allies and colleagues to rebuild our democracy, combat discrimination in all forms, and ensure economic stability and equity for all.”

The Task Force Board of Directors celebrated Carey’s tenure and Johnson’s incoming leadership by saying, “Combining fiery advocacy with integrity and self-described nerdy fastidiousness, Rea Carey has enabled the Task Force to lead a generation’s contribution towards social justice. She has led the Task Force during one of the largest expansions of rights for LGBTQ people in our nation’s history and has shown that progress comes through collaboration, a range of strategies, and a focus on the connections between the many ways LGBTQ people live their lives. She believes that freedom for any oppressed people requires freedom for all who experience bias, stigma, and cruelty from others. She has brought charm and wit to her job, has served to convene the other leaders of the LGBTQ movement, and has spoken profound truths with a clarion voice that echoes in today’s broader move toward equality, equity, and freedom. We will miss her generosity and brilliance but are fortunate to now join together to support Kierra Johnson, who speaks to this moment with fierceness and compassion that are entirely her own. Kierra is an activist, an artist and an advocate for all that is righteous. Her background in reproductive justice speaks to the breadth and intersectionality of the Task Force’s mission, and her experiences as a BIPOC will resonate with so many in our economically, racially, sexually, and otherwise diverse community. Her expertise, passion and dedication will enhance and grow the strong organization that Rea has helped to build, and her gift for laughter and kindness will radiate into the LGBTQ lives we seek to lift up. Our next chapter could not shine brighter than it will with Kierra.”

During Carey’s tenure, she has led the Task Force to conduct its work through a racial, economic, gender and social justice lens, and to serve as a progressive voice in the LGBTQ community and an LGBTQ voice on progressive issues. She has emphasized and led organizational collaboration across the LGBTQ movement and with non-LGBTQ civil rights, women’s, racial justice and other progressive partner organizations. Her approach to leadership has delivered results as diverse as LGBTQ inclusion in broader legislation; passage of an LGBTQ-inclusive federal hate crimes prevention law; defeating multiple state anti-LGBT ballot measures; fighting discrimination against transgender people; winning marriage equality; successfully securing scores of changes in federal agency policies to attend to the needs of the LGBTQ community; centering immigration, voting rights, and access to abortion and reproductive justice as LGBTQ issues; and, serving as the watchdog on the Trump Administration’s attacks on LGBTQ people and their families.

More recently, the Task Force’s highly successful and impactful campaigns, including the Queer the Census and Queer the Vote initiatives, have been critical to ensuring LGBTQ voices are heard publicly and behind the scenes with policymakers at federal agencies.

Prior to her work with the Task Force, Carey worked extensively in HIV/AIDS prevention and activism on issues affecting youth experiencing homelessness and LGBTQ youth, and in organization and leadership development. Carey is a Hunt Alternatives’ Prime Movers Fellow, served on the board of the Alliance for Justice, and currently serves on the boards of directors for the Flamboyan Foundation and the Freeman Foundation.

The Task Force’s next Executive Director, Kierra Johnson, joined the Task Force in 2018 as Deputy Executive Director but was already engaged with the organization, having previously served on the National LGBTQ Task Force’s board of directors and on its National Action Council. Johnson came to the Task Force, after serving as URGE’s Executive Director with a wealth of experience in organizational leadership and management, program development, youth leadership and reproductive justice. She is recognized as a national expert on queer and reproductive rights issues and has testified in front of the U.S. House of Representatives and has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Fox News, and National Public Radio. Johnson also serves on the boards of directors of the General Service Foundation, Groundswell Fund, and Guttmacher Institute. As a, pansexual Black woman, Johnson will become one of few out queer-identified women of color at the helm of a national LGBTQ organization.


“Rea has done an extraordinary job building upon the Task Force’s proud history of advocating for the power and dignity of LGBTQ people who are so often disenfranchised because of their race, economic status, and gender identity. But more than that, she has forged incredibly strong ties to other social justice movements by never wavering on the principle that the struggle for ‘gay rights’ is inextricably part of the struggle for the rights of women, people of color, immigrants, and workers. Rea has been the glue that’s held our movement together in rough times. While Kierra has big shoes to fill, I have complete confidence in her ability to do that and more.”

Matt Foreman, Senior Program Director, Haas Jr. Fund; former Task Force Executive Director

“For decades, The Task Force has been my political north star as a gay man of color. In large part, that’s because of the visionary, soulful, principled and effective leadership that Rea Carey has brought as leader of the organization for 17 years. Our movements, families and communities owe her a profound debt of gratitude for all the progress we’ve made on issues—and for building a stronger, more diverse and more resilient movement. I can think of no one better to take on the mantle of leadership in this moment of history than Kierra Johnson, whose intersectional approach to social change and broad and deep experience across many issues and social movements make her perfectly positioned to drive a next generation of progress for LGBTQ people. She’s got the vision, integrity and savvy we need to lead us through unprecedented challenges.”

Deepak Bhargava, Distinguished Lecturer of Urban Studies, School of Labor and Urban Studies, CUNY; Fellow, Roosevelt Institute; former President of Community Change

“Few leaders in our movement have had the grit and determination of Rea Carey, who has dedicated most of her adult life to fighting for freedom, justice, equality and equity for LGBTQ people. She never lost sight of the fact that ours is an intersectional movement, as she worked to build vital coalitions with progressive partners. And throughout it all, Rea always treated her colleagues with respect and kindness. She will be deeply missed but, thankfully, she is leaving the Task Force in Kiera Johnson’s capable hands. Here’s to the next stage of the Task Force’s journey!”

Lorri L. Jean, Chief Executive Officer, Los Angeles LGBT Center; former Task Force Executive Director

“Rea Carey, the LGBTQ movement is better off because of your leadership. Your actions helped to turn us from independent agencies that were fighting for turf and power into a movement of collaborators. The HIV community owes you a huge debt for bringing our issues back into the LGBTQ agenda. You will be missed. NMAC is very excited to work with Kiera Johnson. As the first Black executive director of the Task Force, she is a much-needed voice during these challenging times.”

Paul Kawata, Executive Director, NMAC (National Minority AIDS Council

“Today, we recognize and celebrate Rea Carey for her many contributions to strengthening and broadening the impact of the National LGBTQ Task Force. Rea has developed smart strategies, built deep and diverse partnerships, and worked to advance a whole person approach that ensures that LGBTQ people are able to advocate for themselves to end discrimination in every aspect of their lives. She has also been a key strategist in the broader progressive movement, making important connections across issues and movements. Today, we also celebrate the announcement of the incoming Executive Director, Kierra Johnson. Kierra is a brilliant, visionary, and collaborative leader who has a long history of leading in reproductive justice and the LGBTQ movements. She will bring forward an audacious vision and lead The Task Force towards a future where every LGBTQ person can be free to be their entire selves. Having known Kierra and Rea for many years now, we should all feel comforted and hopeful by this leadership transition between these two, amazing people.”

Sarita Gupta, former Co-Director of Jobs With Justice and Caring Across Generations; Director| Future of Work(ers) Program