Lisa Weir, a neighborhood and community advocate, moves on
By Morgan M. Hurley | SDUN Assistant Editor
The Hillcrest Business Association (HBA) recently lost an important part of its staff, when Marketing + Communications Director Lisa Weir relocated to Oakland, Calif. last month.
Weir, who had been with the nonprofit for nearly four years, was part of the organization’s triad team of staff that also consisted of Executive Director Benjamin Nicholls and Sponsorship + Concessions Manager Cassandra Ramhap.
Nicholls, who announced his future departure from the HBA at the organization’s board meeting Tuesday, Aug. 13, credits Weir with establishing a consistent brand for the three-decades-old nonprofit. “It was new, yet familiar,” he said.
The Silver Springs, Md. native said she moved west in 2005 in search of what she called “the strongest graduate program in women’s studies in the country” at San Diego State University. There, she not only received her master’s degree, but went on to become an adjunct lecturer for the department, teaching both women’s and LGBT studies.
Weir said she was able to parlay her teaching focus of social justice in terms of race, class, gender and sexuality into her other career as a marketing executive, helping nonprofits grasp not only the power behind their content but how to strengthen their message, design and presentation.
“I would be lecturing on the landscape of power, privilege and oppression in the media, and then emailing a press release, soliciting that same media, encouraging them to use their power of voice to cover a news piece on something happening in the nonprofit arena I was emerged in, all in the same day,” Weir said. “It’s this fluid world of possibility, connection and relationships that we’re constantly moving through, in a way that is kind of messy, that inspired me.”
During Weir’s time at the HBA, the organization was responsible for some huge changes within the Hillcrest community. A pride flag with its new historical monument added this year, the new block party and the growth of its farmers market are things she will always be proud of and able to hang her hat on, but she said she does not like being in the limelight. Instead, she said she appreciated the “subversive, collaborative” effort of her role.
Nicholls said Weir worked hard to put together a “dream team” to meet the HBA’s marketing goals.
“She organized a team of store owners, restaurateurs and service providers, and with them created a consistent and well-supported neighborhood brand,” he said, and gives Weir credit elsewhere as well.
“Some of the unique projects she’ll be remembered for include the design of the LGBT historical monument at the base of the Hillcrest Pride Flag, the Hillcrest neighborhood map and [the] ‘Your Guide to Fabulous’ [publication],” he said.
Crest Cafe owner and HBA board member Cecelia Moreno also recognized Weir’s contributions. Last month, Moreno surprised Weir with a personalized tile – in Weir and her partner’s name – on the Hillcrest flag’s base, where all the donors to the LGBT historical monument were identified. Weir called Moreno’s donation the most generous gift she had ever received.
“I just stood back from life and saw how held I was, and felt how much infinite love there is swirling around us,” she said. “It was such a perfect representation of honor and pride and such a fitting bookend to my time in Hillcrest.”
The pride flag and the challenges the organization went through to see it through to fruition offers Weir yet another deep connection to this community.
“What a – literally – monumental accomplishment, and what a symbolic representation of my time in San Diego. This city is where I came out to my parents who live back east, it’s where I built the most supportive chosen family I could have ever imagined and it’s where my heart flourished,” she said.
Weir called her time at the HBA “an incredibly full cup,” filled with “joy, passion, connection and the art of the communities,” where she continually pushed and tested herself.
“Community work is about a lot of things, and it’s also about getting things done,” she said. “We can strategize for decades in academia and be eloquently theoretical and I love that, [but] I love that in neighborhood work, you’re accountable; you have to work hard at things that sometimes seem so vast and unattainable.”
Though her beloved Hillcrest community and Golden Hill home were both hard to leave, Weir, who was recently replaced at the HBA by Megan Gamwell, her intern of six months, was able to justify her departure.
“I’ve lived in San Diego … just long enough for one to absolutely fall in love with Southern California, and also just long enough to give yourself permission to leave,” she said.
Weir said she has dreamed of spending her 30s in Northern California, but it was her partner Lauren who kicked that dream into reality when she was accepted into a graduate program for social work in the Bay Area.
“I’m so excited about the energy in the Bay Area, the change-makers here, and the spiritual connections I’ve already made to the city and the people,” Weir said.
She and Lauren were best friends for five years, standing on the sidelines of each other’s relationships and offering support when needed, until realizing they had peeled back enough layers over those years together to find a perfect fit with each other.
“We transgressed the friendship boundary and our light together just threw us into this incredibly loving, supportive and inspirational relationship to be our best selves, independently and together,” Weir said.
The couple plans to make their domestic partnership a marriage when Lauren is finished with her graduate work, but in the meantime, they are settling into their new digs with their dog Beasley.
Weir still has a toe dipped into the San Diego community, helping a local “social change-making” organization with their branding transition, while she continues to get her feet wet in Oakland.
“I’m hoping that this new move and transitional consulting work gives me the space to set peaceful intentions for my next season,” she said. “I want to build a life up here and build family with my wife. It’s important that I slow down right now and take it all in.”