Thank you for such a warm welcome. My name is Ricardo Martinez and I am the incoming CEO for Equality Texas.
I want to start by thanking the staff and boards of Equality Texas for entrusting me with such an incredible honor. I can’t wait to get going on December 1st.
Thank you to Angela for her extraordinary leadership during her tenure. I look forward to working together as build and strategize ahead of the 2021 Texas Legislative Session.
I’d also like to thank my partner Kenny who is here with us. I stand here confidently tonight because he has agreed to allow Texas to become part of his story. For that, I will always be grateful. You have my public commitment that I will nurture your dreams as you have mine.
Lastly, thank you to all of you for making a choice to be here tonight — your commitment to this organization is what will propel us into the future.
It’s a bit unreal to be standing before you. Back in June, Texas was not on my radar. But as it is with fate, the universe is skilled at sending us signals that show where we need to go and what we need to do to create the life of our dreams, even when we don’t expect it. Specifically for me, the universe has always had a way to make clear where I need to go and when — to be of service to something greater than myself — to make a difference.
I felt and saw those signs five years ago when I decided to relocate to Phoenix. At the time, I was working as a Senior Field Manager for the Gay, Lesbian, Straight, Education Network. I traveled to a different city every two weeks for three years.
I went to Dayton, Ohio; Richmond, Virginia; Portland, Maine; Albany, New York; among many other cities, and bared witness to thriving LGBTQ communities in places where I didn’t think was possible. But there is was in front of me — resilience, courage and a palpable belief in possibility.
What was made clear to me during my travels is that there are a few ingredients required for a movement to flourish and change to occur
1) there must be a group of committed advocates who are willing to stand up to address community concerns and injustice,
2) there needs to be a clear vision of purpose — a solution to those concerns and injustice,
3) there must be opportunity for individuals to take action in support of that solution,
4) there must be unity amongst like minded organizations to compound power and influence,
5) we need to have available resources like money and people, and
6) there needs to be intention to ensure that the work is being done with a diverse and intersectional lens.
As Audrey Lorde once said “In our work and in our living, we must recognize that difference is a reason for celebration and growth, rather than a reason for destruction.” I think there are places across Texas that are ready for change, inclusion, and the pursuit of the common good.
Because if I have learned anything about this state in my short time here, it is that if you attack one Texan, you attack all Texans.
In my introduction, Angela spoke about how professionally this is a culminating moment for me.
Let me tell you why this is the case.
Thirty years ago (at around the same time that someone decided to create this organization) my mom sat at the kitchen table of our one bedroom house in Mexico City.
She had just put her three kids to bed. She sat alone contemplating whether to pursue a better future for her children in another country. She had to sacrifice her entire life for the possibility that we would achieve a brighter future than was possible for us in Mexico at the time.
My ascension to the role of CEO of Equality Texas has everything to do with her sacrifice and that decision-making moment that transformed the path before me. I want to dedicate this moment to my mother.
Sometimes we have to sacrifice comfort, the status quo, and short term gain for long term change and the possibility of something greater than ourselves. Our individual contributions help shape the future of thousands — even if it takes 30 years.
My mom taught me that. She may have cleaned houses, and worked three jobs to fully realize that vision, but today I can finally say I have paid the debt of her sacrifice in full.
I want to use this forum to promise that my leadership will be defined by clarity of purpose and led by the values of transparency, diversity, equity and inclusion, practical and strategic agitation, curiosity, humility and collaboration.
Since I know this is being recorded I have a final message for all immigrant children, LGBTQ youth, black and brown youth caught up in circumstance, those who are questioning their worth and not dreaming big…
Listen to me clearly: You are enough, there is a community out here that loves you, and dream bigger than you think is possible. One day you will walk onto stages like this one and much bigger. Mark my word. Thank you.