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BW alumna leads LGBTQ center, named a 2020 Most Interesting Person

Photo of Phyllis HarrisAlumna, advocate and one of Cleveland's Most Interesting People 2020, Phyllis "Seven" Harris '01 drives inclusion within the Cleveland nonprofit sector.

A Proud Yellow Jacket

Harris was a full-time, working mother when she decided to pursue an undergraduate degree in communication studies. Since she spent much of her time as an educator confronting topics such as reproductive justice, rape culture and HIV prevention, Harris was eager to find classes that had real-world application and would enrich her advocacy work.

To be successful, Harris needed weekend and evening class offerings that fit her busy schedule. At Baldwin Wallace, she found just that. "I found the class selections to be accommodating," Harris said. "The smaller class setting allowed me to thrive, and I became a proud Yellow Jacket," Harris said.

Advocacy, Expansion and Recognition

Harris continued her education in nonprofit management and has led a successful 25-plus-year career in the Cleveland nonprofit sector. Harris honed her expertise through her work with the Cleveland Sight Center, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cleveland and Planned Parenthood of Northeast Ohio.

She was appointed director of the LGBTQ Community Center of Greater Cleveland (The Center) in 2012 and recently led the organization through a major expansion and relocation. During her tenure at The Center, Phyllis also oversaw the creation of Pride in the CLE, a family-oriented and community-driven LGBTQ pride festival.

Identity-Driven Leadership

Harris' identity as an out-lesbian black woman has deeply shaped the way she approaches leadership. "This manifests in how I am compensated, how much power I have in board meetings and who is willing to partner with me [on] community projects," says Harris.

Harris adds, her position at the helm of The Center has provided an opportunity to successfully steer the conversation within Cleveland's LGBTQ+ community toward one of intersectionality and inclusion.

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