Cincinnati’s First Openly Gay Black Man Elected to City Council is a Retired Ballet Dancer

March 28, 2022

Reggie Harris got into politics to get to know Cincinnati. The former professional­ dancer moved to the Queen City in 2015 with his husband, a speech pathology professor, and started volunteering on political campaigns to meet people. “The only thing I knew about Cin­cinnati was the ballet company,” Harris says. Now, the Chicago native has gone all in for Cincinnati as the city’s first openly gay Black man elected to City Council.­ He launched his campaign with a dance video, and with the third-highest number of votes among candidates vying for nine seats, Harris sees the 2021 win as a sea change. “It says a lot about the evolution of Cincinnati as a city,” Harris says, “and to me, it says a lot about the future.”

“Young artists need to be down at City Hall. That’s where the influence is.” Reggie Harris

Reggie Harris. Photo by Damien Thompson, Courtesy Good Government Group LLC

Harris’ professional credits include The Joffrey Ballet, Ballet Austin and River North Dance Chicago. Upon retirement from performing, he pursued a career in social work while simultaneously working full-time as dance department head at Chicago High School for the Arts. “Working in a public performing arts school setting, I was really­ struck by the ways in which some of our kids were struggling despite being in a well-resourced school,” Harris says. Once in Cincinnati, Harris leveraged his political activism to advocate for his social work clients’ needs. “People really started to respond­ to me,” he says, noting his energy­ and tenacity as holdovers from years of dance training. “What do dancers do? They show up—on time. If I didn’t know something, I learned how to do it, and wanted to do it well.”