The Legacy Series: Ruth Ellis

During the month of February, Kappa Theta Epsilon not only celebrates our Founding Day; we celebrate the contributions of African-American lesbian women. In honor of the accomplishments of these distinguished individuals, the Sorority is proud to present The Legacy Series.

LEADER. ACTIVIST. ENTREPRENEUR. ICON.

Born in 1899, Ruth Ellis was known as America’s longest living openly lesbian woman. During her lifetime, she would accomplish many “firsts,” including being the first female proprietor of a printing company in the city of Detroit.

She learned about standing up for herself from her father – who was the first African American mail carrier in the city of Springfield, IL.

Ruth attended Springfield High – an “all-white” school – and faced derision and ostracism
from her classmates. After high school, she went to work for a white man in a print shop. There she learned the trade that would become her livelihood.

At the urging of her older brother, she moved to Detriot in 1937. Ruth went into business for herself, opening up a print shop and servicing the Detroit business and religious communities.

Not long after relocating, she met Ceciline “Babe” Franklin, her partner of more than 35 years. The couple decided to open their home to Black gays and lesbians as a safe haven & a place to socialize. It quickly became known as “the gay spot,” and took on popularity with LGBT
people across the region.

Later in life, Ruth volunteered helping other seniors. In her 80s, she became a sought
after public speaker on LGBT rights and issues.

Today, the Ruth Ellis Center in Detroit, Michigan serves homeless LGBT youth in need of a safe haven in her honor.

Ruth was a pioneer – as a Black woman, an openly queer woman of color, and an entrepreneur.
What makes the life of Ruth Ellis so unique, and so significant, is her self-determinism.

She made the decision to define herself and live authentically in a time when that was almost unheard of for African-American women.

Ms. Ellis passed away peacefully on October 5th, 2000. She was 101 years old.

To learn more about the Legacy Series and Kappa Theta Epsilon Sorority, visit the hub at http://KappaThetaEpsilon.com/legacyseries.

The Legacy Series: Pat Parker

During the month of February, Kappa Theta Epsilon not only celebrates our Founding Day; we celebrate the contributions of African-American lesbian women. In honor of the accomplishments of these distinguished individuals, the Sorority is proud to present The Legacy Series.

POET. ACTIVIST. REVOLUTIONARY. ICON.

Born in 1944, Pat Parker was a legendary Black lesbian feminist poet and activist. Her work captured the essence of the “otherness” of the Black queer experience, and sought to overcome the challenges #womenlikeus faced.

Through her work with the Black Panther Party and collaborations with other queer writers and artists, Parker left a lasting impression on the queer woman of color experience. Some of her moving, passion-filled performances can be hear on Youtube today.

Womanslaughter, her most well-known work, tells of the experience of her family after losing a sister to homicide at the hands of her abusive ex-husband.

Ms. Parker passed away of complications from breast cancer in 1989. She was 45 years old.

To learn more about the Legacy Series and Kappa Theta Epsilon Sorority, visit the hub at http://KappaThetaEpsilon.com/legacyseries.

The Legacy Series: Lorraine Hansberry

During the month of February, Kappa Theta Epsilon not only celebrates our Founding Day; we celebrate the contributions of African-American lesbian women. In honor of the accomplishments of these distinguished individuals, the Sorority is proud to present The Legacy Series.

ARTIST. ACTIVIST. INTELLECTUAL. ICON.

Born into a prominent family on May 19th, 1930, Lorraine Vivian Hansberry’s life could have been one of relative ease, given the times.

Instead, she devoted her efforts to fighting for freedom and justice for people of all backgrounds…

After the death of her father when she was 16, Lorraine became politically active.

She dropped out of university, and after moving to New York, joined Paul Robeson’s activist newspaper, FREEDOM.

A gifted writer and critically acclaimed playwright, Hansberry penned the world-renowned play A Raisin in the Sun. She was the first African-American woman to have a work run on Broadway.

Though she married in the early 1950s, Hansberry questioned her sexuality soon after.

In 1957, she began writing for The Ladder, a lesbian publication created by the Daughters of Bilitis. Out of fear of public backlash, she signed her letters with her initials.

Sadly, Lorraine was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the height of her career. Shortly after her diagnosis, she said:

‘I wish to live because life has within it that which is good, that which is beautiful, and that which is love. Therefore, since I have known all of these things, I have found them to be reason enough and – I wish to live.

Moreover, because this is so, I wish others to live for generations and generations and generations and generations.’

Nina Simone’s 1970 hit To Be Young, Gifted and Black, was written in her honor.