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AJ Hikes

Deputy Executive Director for Strategy & Culture


Pronouns: they/them


AJ Hikes (they/them) is a social justice advocate, community organizer, TED Talk Speaker, and unapologetically queer and Black. As Deputy Executive Director for Strategy & Culture, AJ serves as chief counselor and principal partner to the executive director, overseeing the critical functions of organization strategic planning and programmatic priority setting. In this capacity, AJ also provides executive-level senior leadership and management oversight across the ACLU.

Previously, they served as the ACLU’s first Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer, providing vision, leadership, and direction for the ACLU’s nationwide strategy to support equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) across all aspects of the organization’s work and efforts. AJ was both the internal and external ambassador on the importance of EDI as a crucial cornerstone of the ACLU’s culture of belonging.

In 2017, AJ introduced the world to the More Color, More Pride flag, launching a global conversation around anti-racism in the LGBTQ community. On the heels of this monumental work, AJ released a TED Talk helping all of us be better mentors, sponsors, and believers in collective liberation. With two million views, AJ’s TED Talk has built a network of intersectional accomplices changing the landscape of equity, inclusion, and belonging in the workplace.

Prior to joining the ACLU, AJ served as the executive director of the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs where they developed policy and served as the principal advisor to the mayor on issues that affect the LGBTQ community. At the mayor’s office, AJ set their sights on fighting and advocating for the most impacted populations within the LGBTQ community – specifically youth, elders, immigrants, transgender people, and people of color. In their time leading the office, AJ advocated for anti-discrimination legislation at the municipal level, passed one of the nation’s most trans-inclusive police policies and added black and brown stripes to the rainbow flag, prompting an international conversation about race and discrimination within the LGBTQ community.

A community organizer from an early age, AJ’s full-time career began in education access advocacy — as the youngest Upward Bound director in the country — at the University of Pennsylvania. The moral compass of AJ’s work, intersectional inclusion, can be traced throughout their organizing and their work supporting and facilitating the pursuit of postsecondary education for youth of color experiencing poverty and homelessness.

AJ has been recognized nationally by OUT Magazine as “Community Organizer of the Year” in the 2018 OUT 100 and by Business Equality Pride as one of the 40 LGBTQ Leaders Under 40. Hikes earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania and Psychology and English degrees from the University of Delaware.

AJ believes in employing an intersectional lens in all aspects of community work and leans daily on the words of sister Audre Lorde: “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle, because we do not live single-issue lives.”

You can also find AJ on Instagram.