In honor of Women’s History Month 2021, Between The Lines is featuring some of Michigan’s most prominent LGBTQ+ women leaders. Though our state is full of powerful women leaders using their skills, time and effort to advance LGBTQ+ equality and raise awareness of issues specific to our community, we asked these seven to share a fellow woman leader who inspires them in their work. These were their answers:
Julisa Abad works as the director of transgender outreach and advocacy at Fair Michigan — and LGBTQ+-specific legal advocacy organization. Her work focuses on working side-by-side with like-minded organizations to advance LGBTQ+-affirming policy.
“My mother! Being Puerto Rican and Dominican Afro-Latina back [when I was growing up], there wasn’t Jennifer Lopez or Adrienne Bailon, and there was no Hispanic representation. She was the first image of beauty strength and perseverance I had ever seen.”
Erin Knott works as the executive director of Equality Michigan, Michigan’s statewide LGBTQ+ anti-violence advocacy organization.
“Honorable Mary Brown (D-Kalamazoo) served in the Michigan House of Representatives for 18 years (1976-1994). During her tenure, she secured significant gains for women from the creation of the school-age parents’ program and passage of the Married Women’s Property Act to the prohibition of probation in rape cases and the development of testimony guidelines for child victims of criminal sexual conduct. She was the first legislator to hold hearings on key women’s issues such as pay equity and domestic violence. Upon retiring from the Legislature, Mary continued her public service and engagement in Kalamazoo and mentored many young women to become strong leaders.”
Michelle E. Brown is a longtime public speaker, activist and author who has advocated for LGBTQ+ rights across Michigan for decades. She has contributed to BTL and her blog radio podcast “Collections By Michelle Brown” airs every Thursday at 7 p.m.
“Although she died in 2015, Grace Lee Boggs continues to inspire me. I can not tell you how many of the guests I have interviewed for my radio show who point back to Boggs’ role in their life. One even said meeting her changed the ‘trajectory’ of their life. She did that for me as well.”
Angie Perone is the director of SAGE Metro Detroit, an affiliate of the national Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders organization. In her role, she advocates for LGBTQ+ elders across the Metro Detroit region.
“My mom constantly inspires me. As a young child, I learned some of my earliest lessons in tenacity, diligence and leadership as I watched her work full time as a social worker during the day and canvas our neighborhood about a local ballot issue in the evenings. She hates the spotlight but loves supporting people and has shown me how a leader can embrace both and still effect change.”
Amy Hunter is the executive director of OutFront Kalamazoo, leading one of West Michigan’s largest hubs for LGBTQ+ resources, advocacy and acceptance.
“Kamala Harris: She’s smart, articulate and direct. She always gets right to the point when she speaks about policy and doesn’t cloak her meaning in politician speak. She’ll make a good president soon.”
Nicole Denson has been a longtime LGBTQ+ activist; is the founder of the Mosaic Collective, which advocates for marginalized BIPOC communities; and a board member for the Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan.
Tamika Mallory. I believe she is one of the best examples of a civil rights leader in our era. She has a powerful voice and leads intentionally. I had the pleasure of working under Tamika Mallory’s leadership through the Women’s March in 2018. I was amazed at her courage as well as her tenacity to not lose focus on our mission toward equity and justice.
Alanna Maguire serves as the president of Fair Michigan, an organization that is dedicated to advocacy, education and outreach regarding LGBTQ+ civil rights in the state of Michigan. She is also married to Attorney General Dana Nessel.
I have two women in my life who inspire me: my mother, Mary Maguire, and my wife, Dana Nessel. My mother was my first and earliest role model for strong female leadership. I have watched her work tirelessly over the years in community organizing. My wife, Dana Nessel, is the other most important and inspirational woman in my life. Dana is brave, bold and earnestly dedicated to doing what’s right no matter what. Dana is and always has been a barrier-breaker.