By Anita Moyt, with contributions by Joy Doss | photos courtesy of Tristate Black Pride and Terryl Buckner
Terryl Buckner was honored by Tristate Black Pride on June 15, 2017 at the National Civil Rights Museum during the opening ceremonies of Tristate Black Pride 2017. Buckner was presented with the group’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Terryl is a nightlife veteran, having recently retired after 25 years in what can be a rough and tumble game. He captured a viable market in a way that no one else had at the time, and gave the black LGBT community in Memphis what it needed – a safe space with great music and great entertainment.
Buckner at his club, N-Cognito, in the 1990s.
He began his club business days with Club Escape on Monroe, then moved to 338 South Front where he changed the name to Club N-cognito, which was where I (Joy) first met him while hanging out with my DJ friend. If you don’t know, the gay clubs have the best music in the city! Also as a woman, there was no one leering or being grabby – bonus!
The more I hung out, the more I began to see familiar faces that weren’t “supposed” to be there, I, of course, honored the code. You will never hear a peep out of me. I say that to say that this is how I know that I know that this was a safe space in the midst of a community that may not always be so accepting–southern, black families. One long-time club goer says, “It was one of the first gay clubs I went to in Memphis. My crew had mixed emotions about it because most of us had professional jobs and were successful. But it was a place where I go in touch with myself. I’m still friends with some of the guys I met there.”
Later another transition would put “the club” in Frayser in the Northgate Shopping Center under the name Club Allusion. One last move saw “901” move back to downtown Memphis.
Probably the most important piece of this puzzle is that Terryl was the founder of Memphis Black Pride over 20 years ago. It was a long weekend of events throughout the city with top notch entertainment, J-setters competing, literary festivals and educational activities.
On Sundays, Terryl would rent out the entire Te-To-Tam Ranch in South Memphis for a leisurely day of cookouts, hayrides, horseback riding, volleyball and the water gun fights. He once said that he rented the entire ranch out so that his “kids” could have a place to go where they could be themselves without risk of discrimination or harassment.
Buckner and guests at one of the early Memphis Black Pride weekends at the Te-To-Tam
Ranch in South Memphis
Buckner was appreciative of his award, one that he didn’t expect. “It really did feel good,” Buckner commented, “how they (Tristate Pride) acknowledged and appreciated me. Everything I was doing for my community was from my heart and I didn’t think I needed to be acknowledged. But after the day, it really did feel good for someone to say thank you and we appreciate you. It was just so well put together.”
“From my heart I’d like to thank Memphis and all who supported me for 25 years,” Buckner concluded. “It is time for someone else to carry on for the future generations.”
However, Buckner may be out of the club business, but he continues to work with the public in his line of work in real estate. And he still has plans to put together the occasional event that only Buckner knows how to do.