Affirmations Interim Executive Director Resigns, Joins Ruth Ellis Center

Ellen Shanna Knoppow
By | 2018-11-14T16:11:23-04:00 November 14th, 2018|Michigan, News|

Affirmations Interim Executive Director Lilianna Angel Reyes has resigned from the organization, effective Thursday, Nov. 15. She made the announcement via social media Nov. 9.
Reyes will be joining the Ruth Ellis Center later this month as the new second stories director. According to Reyes, she was offered the permanent position of executive director at Affirmations several weeks ago, but turned it down.
“One of hardest things I had to do was to leave Affirmations,” said Reyes, the first transgender Latina to lead an LGBTQ+ organization in Michigan. “Mostly because any time you go to a place and really give it your all, you really believe in the mission, it’s always hard to leave. These are trying times for LGBT people of color, trans women of color, and I’m young enough in my career to figure out where I need to move my skills and help grow.”
For that reason, Reyes said, she applied for the position at REC and later accepted their offer — one of many Reyes said she received. Ultimately, however, the choice was between Affirmations and Ruth Ellis.
Reyes made sure to emphasize her unyielding support for Affirmations, stating that the organization “has stood strong for years and years.”
“And Affirmations is not one person … it’s a collective voice. I want people to remember that Affirmations will stand strong,” Reyes said. “Affirmations is still my community center. Both Affirmations and Ruth Ellis have supported me in this transition.”
On Monday, Affirmations Development Director Katie Koch said, through tears, “On behalf of the staff of Affirmations, we would like to thank Lilianna for her guidance and leadership over the past four years. And as a member of our family, she will be sorely missed.”
An announcement through Affirmations regarding Reyes’ replacement will be made on Friday, according to board president Mike Flores. Reyes was named interim executive director in March following the resignation of Susan Erspamer, who left amid staff concerns and reports of financial misconduct. This summer, the board launched a national search for a permanent executive director.
“On behalf of Affirmations, we would like to congratulate Lilianna on the new role,” Flores said. “We believe this is a role that is not only good for Lilianna, but will continue to strengthen the relationship between the Ruth Ellis Center and Affirmations.”
In her four years at Affirmations, first as Youth Program Manager, then as Program Director before being named interim executive director, Reyes was instrumental in broadening the range of youth and general programming at the center. Additionally, she played a leadership role in Affirmations’ corporate inclusion awareness and training, and helped to create new avenues for Affirmations to serve the community.
The details of Reyes’ resignation were unveiled to the board a few days before her public announcement, according to Flores, who reiterated that he is happy for her.
“We really do see this as an opportunity for us, we don’t see this as a negative at all,” Flores said. “We see it as an opportunity for Affirmations and the Ruth Ellis Center to continue to be partners in the community.”
To find out more about Affirmations, go online to More information about the Ruth Ellis Center can be found at

About the Author:

Ellen Shanna Knoppow
Ellen Knoppow is a writer, editor and activist. She also volunteers for the Human Rights Campaign and Affirmations.