Carla Pena has dedicated her professional and personal life to social advocacy. As a graduate of NYU, her background is in healthcare and social services. She is also a former Public Allies AmeriCorps member and City Year program manager. With experience in youth work as the former program assistant for the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, no enterprise has had such a deeply personal connection and commitment for her than that of social advocacy and education especially as it pertains to LGBT issues and community organizing.
Born and raised in New York City to a Cuban father and Nuyorican mother, Carla has made Miami home since 2016.
It is not only her personal narrative that makes Carla a devoted public servant but her singular desire to serve with compassion and humility.
I am originally from New York City – one of the most diverse and socially progressive cities in the world. It was in NYC that I got my start in LGBT activism and advocacy. When I was 19 my family moved to Miami and they have been here for the past 12 years. In these12 years I have seen how Miami has struggled and evolved into a more inclusive city. It was not until moving here in 2016 that I was able to see first-hand as a resident, and no longer a visitor, the intricacies and nuances of LGBT life in a battleground state. LGBT rights are civil rights. LGBT rights are human rights. They should not be considered a partisan issue. My decision to invest into this community is an investment across the aisle, an investment into every intersecting identity that makes Miami so unique, particularly the LGBT community; a community I am a part of and for which I continue to advocate.
Currently, as an organization, SAVE is continuing the work towards the full protection of LGBT rights for South Floridians. We are working to end conversion therapy at the municipal and state level. In Florida, this fraudulent practice is still happening. 76% of the LGBT population live in states where there are no laws banning conversion therapy. Criminalization of HIV is also a reality; if you know your HIV status and transmit the virus, it is considered a felony crime, regardless of intent. Furthermore, anti-LGBT elected officials continue to push forth discriminatory legislation.
SAVE has helped draft and introduce a bill at the statewide level to end conversion therapy following past successes at the municipal level in S. FLA towns including Miami Beach and El Portal. We are also working to decriminalize HIV by introducing a bill to change the law as it stands now.
As the public education manager, I work closely with volunteers and community members to reduce prejudice through deep canvassing that has been proven to reduce bias for up to 9 months. Additionally, I provide information to ensure that our community is learning and advocating for our LGBT brothers, sisters and gender non-conforming folks.
The SAVE team continues to build a coalition through volunteer recruitment and leadership development as well. SAVE’s mission, one with which I am very much aligned personally and professionally, is to protect all LGBT people, to ensure our right to survive and thrive. The movement is far from over and there is no overarching, one-size fits all solution. But the more we can ban together, the greater our chances to effect change and dismantle oppression across all communities/identities.