Ruth Ellis is celebrated as a Detroit icon for the LGBTQ community. After moving to Michigan in the mid-1930s with her partner, she became a successful entrepreneur and the couple later transformed their home into a place of respite, solace and fun for individuals who identify as LGBTQ+. Ellis, who passed away two decades ago at the age of 101, is recognized as one of the most respected advocates for the early gay and lesbian movement.
“She was a person with a vision. Some of the young people that she took in, she actually helped put them through school. She was really an incredible human being and lived a long, beautiful life,” says Nazarina Minaya, Senior Development Associate at Ruth Ellis Center in Highland Park, where Ellis’ legacy lives on.
“This year, we decided to kick off Pride [with the legacy walk] and so much of it when we think about Ruth Ellis’ legacy is what Pride is all about — it’s about love, authenticity, resilience and that’s very much a message not just for the LGBTQ community but for the human population overall.” —Nazarina Minaya, Ruth Ellis Center
The Ruth Ellis Center is a nonprofit organization established in the late 1990s with a mission to provide a nurturing space for LGBTQ+ individuals, and specifically to supply trauma-informed services for runaway, homeless and at-risk LGBTQ+ youth and young adults of color.
Part of maintaining Ellis’ advocacy is celebrated with the center’s annual Stride For Pride Legacy Walk that usually takes place in September, but this year it kicks off on June 4.
“This year, we decided to kick off Pride [with the legacy walk] and so much of it when we think about Ruth Ellis’ legacy is what Pride is all about — it’s about love, authenticity, resilience and that’s very much a message not just for the LGBTQ community but for the human population overall,” Minaya says. “But also, given that she was an African American woman, a lesbian and an icon, what a perfect way to kick off Pride Month, for us, as an organization. Really celebrating her and the work that she’s left us to continue. We’re so thankful for her. ”
Sign up to participate in Stride For Pride here.
Listen: Learn more about the Ruth Ellis Center and services provided for LGBTQ+ youth and young adults.