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Tri-State Black Pride celebrates the Mid-South's LGBTQ+ community

There's plenty of Memphis Pride to celebrate. So much so, there are two Gay Pride events. The reason might not be so surprising.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis celebrates Pride Month with two festivals. Organizers of Tri-State Black Pride say their event was created 30 years out of necessity. 

That need has grown into a mission of off providing the LGBTQ+ community access to vital health and financial services. 

Directors of Tri-State Black Pride (TBP) insist the beyond the parades and parties, there's a purpose of uniting the Black Queer community, while welcoming everybody during the 4-day event.

When Terrell Buckner first organized Memphis Black Gay Pride in the mid 90's, Tri-State Pride Director Gwendolyn Clemmons said neither he or other Black gay people were allowed much say in the direction of activities, so Buckner created a new event.

"A lot of people have this assumption that equality and LGBTQ goes together, but we still find there is a gray area where prejudices still exist in the LGBTQ community between Black and white LGBTQ individuals," said Gwen.

Co-Director Davin Clemmons said decades later, the struggle continues to access the same corporate funding enjoyed by Mid-South Pride when planning TBP.

"We still don't receive the same funding that they received as of today. We have companies here in the city who deny us and tells us no. Major corporations who employ plenty of Black folks, so if we were treated equally we could have a parade with 40k people, but we're not treated the same because of our race. It's sad to say but it's the truth," said Davin.

Still, the festival constantly looks for ways to educate the Black LGBTQ+ community. Gwen said delivering that information is timely with HIV/AIDS infections are once again of the rise in Shelby County.

Memphis joins the rest of the U.S. in violent incidents targeting Trans women. This year alone, the Human Rights Campaign reports there have been 14 deaths of transgender or gender non-conforming women. Trans woman and advocate Kayla Gore herself is experiencing crimes against her.

"One instance of violence that I experienced here in Memphis was being stabbed and having my hand slit open on New Year's Eve," said Gore.

She said the access to services presented by TriState Black Pride equips the many times underserved LGBTQ+ community with the resources they need like the medical attention Gore needed following the attack she describes.

"It gives us an opportunity to come back together as community to build. Whether that's build relationship, build houses, just build whatever they want to build." said Gore.

She also said she needed psychotherapy in that case, an expense many Black and Brown queer people may not be able to afford.

TBP director Pastor Darnell Gooch said planning events for the festival includes serving the body and the spirit.

"There were some issues that were unaddressed in the LGBTQ+ community: acceptance, love, the ability for people to be their authentic selves or being able to thrive without the negative stigma and some of the other nuances that come along with that," Gooch said.

Tri-State Black Pride welcomes the entire community June 16. The big finale is June 19 with the music festival at the Overton Park Shell featuring headliner Trina.

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