DRAMA: Amber Hikes, Kenney Aide, Lambasts the City’s Leading Gay Journalist


Whatever your feelings on Ernest Owens are, you will agree with me here: something is seriously wrong

Ernest Owens is a columnist and reporter for Philadelphia Magazine.   His editorials and exposés are widely read across the city.    As a black gay journalist he has unearthed several hidden controversies like (this, and this, and this) and failings of Philadelphias gay population to come to grips with a long-term problem that it refuses to address: a rampant racial divide that separates black LGBT people from the rest of the gay population in the city.

That divide was exposed raw for the entire world to see when Darryl DePiano, owner of the iCandy bar was caught on tape calling his black patrons the N-word.  As a consequence, the Black and Brown Workers Collective formed and focused intently on the leaders and businesses that operate within the city’s historic gay district.  The City’s LGBT liaisons put together a marketing campaign that included adding two new colors to the rainbow pride flag that flies outside City Hall.  This made international news.

Slapping two extra colors on the flag apparently satiated everyone into thinking that the racial issues in Philadelphia’s Gayborhood have been healed and all is now well.  Except that hasn’t happened.  Further, a startling private conversation from a Kenney aide now reveals that the mayor’s own personal irreverence for the press has spread throughout the Kenney administration.

Here’s where it gets crazy

Amber Hikes. Photo credit | Ashlee Kulp

Amber Hikes was appointed to run the mayor’s office of LGBT Affairs after interpersonal disagreements led to the ousting of Nellie Fitzpatrick, the former occupant of the office who was reeling from criticism for her handling of the City’s response to iCandy and other instances of discrimination against blacks and Hispanics at Gayborhood businesses.  The replacement to Ms. Hikes resulted in praise from most everyone in the LGBT community believing it to be a wise decision.

At the end of last month Mark Dobbins, a mentally-unstable former Philadelphia resident approached Hikes claiming that Owens was threatening to harm him.   Dobbins frequents most of Philadelphia’s neighborhood and political Facebook groups and maintains a presence on Twitter.  He has been electronically harassing Owens since the beginning of Owens’ coverage of the Gayborhood and has attempted to have Owens fired from Philadelphia Magazine without success.   The Philly Mag reporter has since retained an attorney and delivered a cease and desist letter to Dobbins’ home in Connecticut.

Dobbins posted select screenshots of his interaction with Hikes to his social media profile, leading to Owens discovering that his far-away serial stalker and harasser hasn’t given up his infatuation and has taken it to the Kenney administration.  But there’s a twist:

During that conversation, Hikes claims that Owens has led a “smear campaign” against her and the Office of LGBT Affairs.   A simple Google search reveals only positive or neutral factoid articles from Owens over the last 12 months about Hikes and the LGBT Affairs office since her elevation.

Owens responded directly to Hikes’ claim that he was running a smear campaign against Hikes and the LGBT Affairs office from his position as a columnist and reporter at Philadelphia Magazine.  Hikes responded with this video, where she doesn’t even mention Owens’ name and claims nothing untoward occurred.

What’s really going on

It’s pretty easy to see that Hikes’ inflated claims that she’s being mistreated by the city’s gay press is meritless since there isn’t any critique to be found of her by any established publication in the city, least of all from Mr. Owens’s reporting.

What’s really going on is that Mayor Kenney considers Ernest Owens to be a threat.

Left out of this little internet drama are two articles that Owens authored that directly attack the mayor and his policy he campaigned for as mayor: the Philadelphia Beverage Tax which was practically the only sales pitch Jim Kenney had when he was a candidate in the mayoral race, and Ernest Owens exposing Rodney Mohammad, the head of the Philadelphia NAACP who was caught in documents being a paid campaigner championing the soda tax.

Exposing our city’s mayor using the leader of the NAACP as a paid stooge to promote a soda tax that is designed to be regressive and disproportionally impacts low income people, which is mainly black and brown people given the city’s demographics is of course going to make our mayor…the same one who is super sensitive to criticism in the press…mad.

If you want to stay in Kenney’s good graces that means Ernest Owens is your enemy as well, or as Amber puts it “his behavior” needs to be “corrected”.

And that’s why Amber Hikes attacks him so.