Philly’s Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer resigns

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Photo Courtesy of The Lower Merion Historical Society Youtube

On Friday, April 24, Nolan Atkinson resigned from his post in the Mayor’s office as Philadelphia’s Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Officer. His resignation will take effect on May 8, 2020.

When the Kenney Administration took over City Hall, the Mayor quickly created the Office of DEI in order to make sure Philly’s marginalized voices were heard. As per the city’s website, “The Kenney Administration is committed to building an inclusive government that looks like the City of Philadelphia. To that end, the Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer makes recommendations over the long term that work to build a more inclusive City workforce related to race, ethnicity, disability, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation.”

“When I established the City’s first Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in January of 2016,” said Mayor Jim Kenney, “I selected Nolan to build the Office from the ground up, drawing upon his years of advocacy and service for Philadelphia’s diverse communities. Under Nolan’s leadership, the Office has become a formidable advocate for diverse and equitable programs in City government, and I have relied on him to provide capable advice and counsel on sometimes sensitive diversity matters. Nolan has dedicated himself to making Philadelphia a more diverse, equitable and inclusive city, and leaves the Office well-positioned to have a positive impact on the City for years to come. We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.”

As Chief Officer, Atkinson acted as a liaison between the citizens who have endured discriminatory practices and their city’s government. Atkinson also ensured that divides were bridged so that every person and business had an equal opportunity for success, commerce was not disrupted between neighborhoods and the “leveraging [of] Philadelphia’s talent and diverse culture [made its] economy stronger.” 

The Office of LGBT Affairs and the Office for People with Disabilities falls under the purview of the Office of DEI. Celena Morrison, executive director of the Office of LGBT Affairs, said that “While Nolan and I were only able to work together for a short period of time, I am grateful for the time we’ve spent together. He has been a leader in the fight for diversity, equity and inclusion in Philadelphia for many years, and his impact on City government is commendable. Nolan helped to build out the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to what it is today — an office focused on an intersectional approach to DEI issues and committed to improving conditions for Philadelphia’s marginalized communities. I wish Nolan well and look forward to working with Acting Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Nefertiri Sickout in her new role.”As of May 8, Nefertiri Sickout, the Deputy Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, will step up as Acting Chief DEI Officer. Before earning her law degree at Villanova University, Sickout managed several community-based organizations, including SPARK at the National Black Child Institute in Washington D.C. Sickout has since spent almost four years in the Mayor’s office, three of those as Deputy DEI Officer. The Mayor’s office is currently searching for a permanent candidate to fill the Chief Officer’s position.