story & photos by Chellie Bowman
I personally admit that I haven’t been to Memphis pride in a few years. As I get older and the earth gets hotter, I’ve found myself making more and more excuses to forego its warm weather festivities. Additionally, I had only ever been aware of Mid-South Pride which celebrates in early fall. Since I began working for Focus earlier this year I became aware of separate black pride events–which included events put on by Tri-State Black Pride (their first year!) and other local LGBTQ black organizations.
Regardless, I’ve heard many folks disparage the separation. But in a city –and a country for that matter–in which black lives and black pride don’t seem to matter as much– supporting and encouraging such celebrations just seems to make sense. Black pride was not about exclusivity, but about focusing on black gay lives. I felt welcomed in that space, but would have understood if I wasn’t. And being newly single, I very much enjoyed the vibe of the parties– joyful, spontaneous, and uninhibited. I had a blast and met some amazing people. I was grateful for the chance to participate in the events and report back on my experience.
We started the weekend off by visiting The Haven’s Hospitality Suite at the Sheraton Downtown. The Haven is a subsidiary of Friends for Life which acts as a drop-in facility that provides services for men of color in Memphis. They had assembled several street teams to pass out safe sex information and products, and were offering free, confidential HIV testing throughout the weekend.
Jamarco Lang & Eric Clemons helping out at the The Haven Hospitality Suite
The Haven Hospitality Suite
That evening we headed to Loflin Yard for the Fashion Mixer featuring stylist B. Smith, actor and host Gary Lavard (otherwise known as the most gorgeous man I’ve ever met), and our favorite local musician Brennan Villines. DJ Space Age opened and closed the show. And killed it.
Pre-gaming in the courtyard before the fashion mixer
DJ Space Age & local Young Democrat George Boyington
Brennan Villines playing during the fashion show
Fashion show cutiessssssss
Why is Jamie Tipton always at the center of shenanigans?
Here’s some looks showcased on the fashion runway:
The next day while more events and break out sessions were going on downtown I recuperated and then headed out to the women’s Pride Take Over event at Side Street Grill that night. The whole block of Florence in between Monroe and Trimble Place was shut down and everyone gathered in the street to dance and listen to some great live music. I guess you can’t bring down the house if you’re out in the street. But Cherisse Scott did just that.
Shutting the block down and wearing amazing hats
Cherisse Scott performing at Pride Take Over. Shirt reads: Patriarchy is a Bitch.
But don’t get me wrong, these events were about more than just having fun. They included safe sex education and free HIV testing, showcased local black designers, musicians, authors, and encouraged and spoke up about reproductive health for women. I hope to see these events continue to grow and flourish in Memphis.