Equality California
Equality California Names Roland Palencia Executive Director
May 16, 2011

Noted community leader to begin role in July

San Francisco – Equality California and its Board of Directors announced today that Roland Palencia, a trailblazing LGBT activist with extensive experience in leading and managing multi-million dollar non-profit organizations, will serve as the new executive director for Equality California and Equality California Institute. Palencia will begin his tenure on July 5.

“I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve California’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and to build upon Equality California’s tremendous success,” said Palencia, who currently serves as the Community Benefits Director for L.A. Care Health Plan, a $1.2 billion public health plan. “I am committed to creating a better future for all LGBT Californians and to connecting the LGBT movement to the broader movement for socio-economic justice. Although permanently ending discrimination against LGBT people can be a daunting task, I am confident that together we will prevail. I look forward to getting to know and working with our dedicated membership, legislators and coalition partners as we strive to further Equality California’s mission to achieve full equality for all LGBT Californians.”

With more than two decades of activism and expertise with LGBT and healthcare issues, Palencia has long worked to provide resources to underserved communities, including LGBT communities, undocumented immigrants and the uninsured. From 1992 to 1998, Palencia was the Chief of Operations and Vice President of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, an international HIV/AIDS healthcare organization where he played a key role in building the much needed medical infrastructure and financial resources to support HIV/AIDS services. Subsequently, he served as the Executive Director at Clinica Monseñor Oscar A. Romero, which primarily serves Central American and Mexican immigrants. In 2003, Palencia was appointed as the Greater Los Angeles Area Regional Director for the California Endowment, a private foundation that annually grants more than $170 million to California-based entities in the area of health. Palencia directed a multi-county department and funded dozens of community-based organizations per year.

“On behalf of the Board of Directors, we are thrilled that Roland will lead the next chapter of Equality California,” said Board Chairs Cathy Schwamberger and Clarissa Filgioun. “Roland is an inspiring leader who has done groundbreaking work for the LGBT community and beyond. His impressive track record of advancing equality and justice makes him a perfect fit for the organization.”

Palencia was forced to leave his native Guatemala, which was ruled in the mid-1970s by a brutal military regime, after paramilitary forces assassinated his father, a small business owner and a revolutionary who fought for democratic change in Guatemala. Palencia came to California and attended UCLA where he earned a degree in history.

“I don’t take our rights and progress for granted, as heroes like my father, Martin Luther King and Harvey Milk have made the ultimate sacrifice so we can live in a more just world,” Palencia said.

Reacting to the announcement that Palencia will head Equality California, Dolores Huerta, Equality California board member, said “Roland is an outstanding leader whose ability to build bridges with many communities will help take Equality California to the next level, enabling the organization to bring our message of equality to an even greater audience.”

Palencia is a co-founder of pioneering community-based organization, Gay and Lesbian Latinos Unidos (GLLU), the first major Latino LGBT advocacy group, which later led to the establishment of Bienestar Human Services, serving the Latino community with 11 locations. He is currently an Advisory Board Member of HONOR PAC, an LGBT Latino Political Action Committee that supported and led efforts in East Los Angeles to fight Proposition 8.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa appointed Palencia to Los Angeles County’s Quality and Productivity Commission, and L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina appointed him to the Los Angeles County Hospitals and Healthcare Delivery Commission. He also held an advisory role to the multi-billion dollar Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.

Palencia has received several awards recognizing his outstanding record of service to the community, including the Community Service Award given by former Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn; Outstanding Contributions to the Community Award, given by Gil Cedillo, State Assemblymember and former Chair of the California State Senate Committee on Health Access; Local Hero by Union Bank of California and KCET and the Solidarity Award, presented by the Korean Immigrant Workers Advocates.

Palencia was selected by Equality California and Equality California Institute’s Board of Directors after an extensive, national search conducted by executive search firm Morris & Berger.