"I think the significance of this award still hasn't quite hit me."
Those of you who know San Diego Pride’s Director of Operations Fernando Zweifach Lopez Jr., understand how far he has come in the last 16 years.
Those who don't may not understand his boundless efforts to bring an entire community together.
This year, Lopez will be honored with a City of San Diego Human Relations Commission Commendation which will be awarded on Wednesday, November 16.
Having arrived in America’s Finest City as a homeless youth, Lopez has elevated himself to become one of the most prominent and well-respected members of the LGBT community the world over.
“It was Benny Cartwright who found me sitting on the sidewalk in Hillcrest sixteen years ago,” Lopez tells SDGLN, “when I was crying at my most desperate time and asked me, ‘What's wrong? What can I do to help?’ Those simple words still resonate with me, and it's how I try to live my life. I'm completely humbled and honored by how far those words have carried me.”
And carried him they did. Lopez became a community leader helping organizations such as Equality California, and worked tirelessly to help pass marriage equality.
His work with San Diego Pride continues to forge the way for acceptance and diversity. He created the Youth Leadership Academy, Pride Youth Internship Program, and Pride Youth Marching Band.
What's more, he has helped local schools with inclusive LGBT curriculum, chairs the Community Leadership Council’s LGBTQ Youth Services and Advocacy Committee and is a member of the San Diego Unified School District’s LGBTQ Community Advisory Committee.
Lopez's service spans across oceans as well, increasing international relations for San Diego Pride by meeting 252 delegates from 99 countries each year.
He received the official award notification letter from Joel Day, Executive Director of the City San Diego Human Relations.
It read in part. “Your work at Pride has become part of the fabric of who we are as a City and we are grateful for your tireless commitment to making San Diego a ‘World Class City for All."
Falling in line with the Human Relation Commission’s dedication to protect basic human and civil rights, and bring together all members of the San Diego community, Lopez’s award is a symbol of his efforts in following that creed.
The letter concludes, “We see that the work you are doing demonstrates a commitment and dedication to similar goals.”
San Diego Pride Director of Development, Sarafina Scapicchio, said she is proud of Lopez’s work with Pride, and his constant work with organizations such as Pride World, GSA, Pride Youth Brunch and public schools is making the world a safer place, “We could not be prouder.”
Bianca Burt, Co-Chair, San Diego Pride said, “We are so lucky to have Fernando at Pride. On behalf of the San Diego Pride board of directors, congratulations Fernando and thank you for all of the amazing work you do!”
Josh Coyne, Co-Chair of the Trevor Project also sends Lopez congratulations mirroring his peer’s sentiments about his work, “Our collaboration over the last few years has not only benefited The Trevor Project, but has allowed us to better the lives of LGBTQIA+ youth. I’m proud to call him a mentor, colleague, and, most importantly, a friend.”
Maureen Steiner, Board President of Lambda Archives of San Diego says she is pleased Lopez is getting recognized, “Fernando's own story is an inspiration, and the fact that he so freely shares it to inspire others is his gift to us all."
Lopez, humbled by all of the accolades, says getting notified of the honor was a complete surprise.
“I live my life with the harsh memories of the various forms of discrimination I've faced at different junctures of my journey,” he said, “and those experiences never leave my mind in the work that I do. I find myself constantly trying to create the things I wish I had as an LGBTQ person, and attempting to fix the systems that are broken for our community.”
It’s been 16 years of dedication and hard work spurred by just a few words from a concerned stranger.
With all that he has done, and all that he will continue to do, Lopez may not realize that in his search for acceptance and direction he has also done the same for the community.
"I think the significance of this award still hasn't quite hit me," he said.
The San Diego Human Relations Commission Commendation will be presented on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016, at the City’s Central Library Shiley Special Events Suite with the theme “I See You.”
The event is free and open to the public.
The reception begins at 5:30 pm with the award ceremony lasting until 7 pm.