Mona Noriega has been appointed by Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel as commissioner of the Chicago Department on Human Relations ( CHR ) . A long-time lesbian activist, Noriega is former head of the Midwest office of Lambda Legal, and a key early leader of Amigas Latinas.
CHR oversees the city's work on diversity and human relations, including through eight advisory councils such as the Advisory Council on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Issues. Bill Greaves is the director the LGBT council, and as of now he appears to be keeping the post under the new mayoral administration.
"I'm delighted to welcome Mona Noriega as our new commissioner and look forward to working with her," Greaves said.
The Civil Rights Agenda ( TCR ) applauded Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel's appointment of Noriega.
"Mona is a perfect pick for this role," said TCRA Executive Director Anthony Martinez. "Mona has a long history of working for what is right and bringing the issues of minority communities to the forefront. You only have to look at her past work to see that Mona has a proven record of fighting for fairness, especially for those who need it the most."
David Ernesto Munar, president and COO of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, also applauded the selection: "Mona's depth of community experience and commitment to social justice make her an excellent choice for Chicago's Commissioner of Human Relations. She's a proven leader and dear friend and I'm thrilled for her and the people of Chicago."
"The appointment of Mona is excellent," said long-time activist Rick Garcia. "She has such a stellar reputation and she will be great for the City of Chicago. I was a strong supporter of her when she wanted to serve in the City Council because of her impeccable credentials and her strong commitment to fairness for all. This is a perfect position for her and she will do our community and the whole city proud."
In 2010, Noriega sought appointment by Mayor Richard Daley to the 1st Ward aldermanic seat vacated by Manny Flores. Daley did not tap Noriega for the post.
Noriega is a well-known community activist who has worked on LGBT and Latina issues since the late 1970s. She has been a volunteer, board member and staff member for a wide range of groups serving individuals across the region. She co-founded the Lambda Legal Midwest Office with attorney Pat Logue in 1993, and two years later co-founded the important Latina lesbian group Amigas Latinas.
"I have a history of bringing people together," Noriega said when she was seeking the aldermanic appointment. "When different types of people come together, they create a better vision than any one person can do. That may sound idealistic, but it's how things happen."
Born and raised in Chicago, Noriega's father was Mexican and her mother Irish. She raised two children and is partners with another long-time community activist, Evette Cardona. Both women are in Chicago's Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame.
Noriega's experience includes:
-- Co-founder and later Director of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund Midwest Regional Office.
-- Co-founder, Amigas Latinas in 1995, a group still serving the needs of Latinas.
-- Co-chair and later staff member for the original 2001 bid for the Gay Games coming to Chicago in 2006.
-- Former assistant publisher of Windy City Media Group ( publisher of Windy City Times ) .
-- Publisher of lesbians of color chapbooks in the 1980s.
-- Co-founder of Chicago's International Women's Day dances.
-- Member of LLENA, a lesbian Latina organization in the 1980s.
-- Former marketing staff for the Chicago Park District's Garfield Park Conservatory,
-- And involvement with Affinity Community Services, Lesbian Community Care Project, the Girl's Best Friend Foundation board, the National Society of Hispanic MBAs, Chicago Gay and Lesbian Task Force on Aging and the Horizons Community Services' Community Leadership Council.
Noriega has a bachelor's degree from Northeastern Illinois University and an MBA from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Kim Hunt, executive director of Affinity Community Services, said her organization "is thrilled to congratulate Mona Noreiga on her appointment as Commissioner of Human Relations. Mona's multiple perspectives as a community organizer, queer woman of color, single parent, and academic will serve her well in her new position. We also commend Mayor-elect Emanuel on such a fine choice."
"Mayor Emanuel made an outstanding selection that is a boost to LGBT morale," said Jacob Meister, president of TCRA's Board of Directors. "His selection proves that the Mayor-elect has set the bar high, and that he's listening to our mission that advocates for coalitions of every neighborhood, race and ethnicity."