Why She’s Interesting: Harris inspires Cleveland’s LGBTQ community to live out loud by providing health and wellness services, counseling, family support services, youth programming and more at the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland. Last year, she shined new light on the community by opening a state-of-the-art two-story center in the Gordon Square Arts District.
Speak Now: Harris got her first taste of activism in eighth grade as a student at Glenville’s St. Aloysius School. When a teacher publicly called out students for poor hygiene, Harris spoke up, telling the teacher she thought that behavior wasn’t nice. The teacher never did it again. “That was the first time I felt like using my voice and being a leader had an impact.”
Building Blocks: Harris moved to San Francisco in 1992, where she worked as a Walgreens pharmacy technician at the height of the AIDS epidemic. The experience inspired her to come back and work with the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland and Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, followed by four years as the vice president of programs for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cleveland. “I had great role models who taught me what it means to be a proud woman, proud to be black, proud to be a lesbian.”
Lucky Seven: Friends know Harris as “Seven,” a moniker she adopted after realizing important moments in her life were occurring in seven-year increments. “If you’re an introvert and someone asks you what your name is, and you say ‘Seven,’ they lean in. They go, ‘Oh, that’s interesting,’ and they expect a story.”
Village People: Over the last eight years, Harris has grown the Center’s staff from three to 15 and increased the annual operating budget from $268,000 to $1.1 million. That’s due in part to leading key moments in Cleveland’s LGBTQ community, such as building the two-story center. “I’m getting to know a whole new team and team building is super important. They keep me laughing and grounded.”
We Are Family: Harris, who co-parents alongside her former partner Kristen Schmidt, has a 14-year-old daughter Jaden and a 22-year-old son Austin. “That saying that it takes a village is not tired. It is so true and applicable to all sorts of situations and designs of one’s parenting.”
While living in San Francisco, Harris roller-skated with Queen Latifah before the rapper and actress starred in Living Single and Set It Off.