There’s a lot of Memphis Pride to celebrate. So much so, there are two Gay Pride events. The reason is perhaps not so surprising.
This need grew into a mission to provide the LGBTQ+ community with access to vital health and financial services.
Tri-State Black Pride (TBP) directors insist that beyond parades and parties, there is a purpose to unite the Black Queer community, while welcoming everyone during the event of 4 days.
When Terrell Buckner first organized Memphis Black Gay Pride in the mid-1990s, Tri-State Pride director Gwendolyn Clemmons said neither he nor other black gay men had much to say about the leadership activities. Buckner therefore created a new event.
“A lot of people think equality and LGBTQ go hand in hand, but we still find that there’s a gray area where prejudice still exists in the LGBTQ community between black and white LGBTQ people,” Gwen said.
Co-director Davin Clemmons said decades later the struggle continues to access the same corporate funding that Mid-South Pride enjoyed when planning the TBP.
“We still don’t get the same funding they’ve gotten to date. We have businesses here in the city that turn us down and say no to us. Big businesses that employ a lot of black people, so if we were treated the same way, we could have had a parade with 40,000 people, but we’re not treated the same because of our race. It’s sad to say but it’s the truth,” Davin said.
Yet the festival is constantly looking for ways to educate the black LGBTQ+ community. Gwen said the information is timely as HIV/AIDS infections are on the rise again in Shelby County.
Memphis joins the rest of the United States in violent incidents targeting trans women. This year alone, the Human Rights Campaign reports that there have been 14 deaths of transgender or gender non-conforming women. Trans woman and lawyer Kayla Gore herself suffers crimes against her.
“One instance of violence I experienced here in Memphis was being stabbed and having my hand cut open on New Years Eve,” Gore said.
She said access to services presented by TriState Black Pride provides the often underserved LGBTQ+ community with the resources they need, like the medical care Gore needed after the attack she describes.
“It gives us the opportunity to come together as a community to build. Whether it’s building relationships, building homes, building whatever they want to build.” said Gore.
She also said she needed psychotherapy in this case, an expense that many black and brown queer people might not be able to afford.
TBP director Rev. Darnell Gooch said event planning for the festival includes service of body and spirit.
“There were certain issues that were unresolved in the LGBTQ+ community: acceptance, love, people’s ability to be authentic or to be able to thrive without the negative stigma and some of the other nuances that go with it. “, said Gooch. .
Tri-State Black Pride welcomes the whole community on June 16th. The grand finale is June 19 with the music festival at Overton Park Shell with headliner Trina.