LGBTQ+ communities in Western Ky., Tennessee plan Pride celebrations

People from across Western Kentucky and Northwest Tennessee are coming together to support the LGBTQ+ community with a month of pride events.

From Paducah, Kentucky to Clarksville, Tennessee, allies and members of LGTBQ+ communities are planning inclusive celebrations during June, federally recognized Pride Month.

June is a historically important month in LGBTQ+ history. The Stonewall Uprising – a series of events between police and LGBTQ+ protesters – began in New York City in June 1969. What is believed to be June’s first Pride parade took place a year after Stonewall, marking the anniversary in June. The federal government’s recognition of the month as a time of commemoration for the community happened in phases. In 1999, President Bill Clinton declared June as “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.” In 2009, President Barack Obama renamed the month “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Pride Month.” Finally, in 2021, President Joe Biden gave the month its current name: “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer (LGBTQ+) Pride Month.”

Pride festivals in both Paducah and Clarksville have scored a roster of drag performers, live musicians and vendors to provide festival-goers with entertainment and merchandise.

Paducah Pride: United Together is the organizing body for this year’s pride activities in the far western Kentucky city.

In March of this year, it was announced that previous PrideFest plans had been canceled due to lack of funding for Paducah PrideFest. That’s when the community took action to ensure their city would still celebrate pride and acceptance for their local LGBTQ+ community.

Rafiel Banks-Nailing is the chairman of Paducah Pride: United Together and said the woes of the past won’t stop his city from participating in Pride Month.

“Following a potential dismantling and cancellation of Pride, we are structuring to ensure that our community and our regional area know that we are united together, no matter what we are experiencing,” Banks-Nailing said. “No matter what kind of problem situations we face, we still love each other and treat each other with respect.”

Paducah Pride: United Together plans to hold a two-day celebration, starting with a Pride Block Party taking place this Friday at 3rd and 4th Streets on Broadway in Paducah. The event lasts from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM and the entrance fee is $5 dollars. Afterwards, Hotel 1857 will host an afterparty from 8 p.m. to midnight for ages 21 and older, with an additional admission fee of $5 dollars. The weekend’s events conclude on Saturday evening with a Pride Ball, hosted by O & A Piano Bar. Tickets for the June 1 event are available online.

Banks-Nailing said he considers himself a member of the LGBTQ+ community and believes events like Paducah Pride are essential for promoting love and acceptance in the next generation.

“Pride events like this are so important for our community to feel inclusivity, to feel like the members and citizens of the area have a voice and can be whoever they want to be,” Banks-Nailing said. “It’s really important for the kids and teens … to know that they have a community that supports them and loves them no matter what they are and who they are.”

The group is also partnering with the Paducah Film Society and Maiden Alley Cinema to provide a screening of “To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar” – a classic camp film from the 90s that follows a trio of drag queens on a road trip across America. Attendees of the June 11 screening are encouraged to dress in drag and “come as you are,” Banks-Nailing said. Tickets for the screening are available on the Maiden Alley Cinema website.

Unrelated to June’s Paducah Pride United Together festivities, Paducah Beer Werks will host an independently organized Pride At PBW event on Saturday, June 8, featuring local and regional drag artists. Doors for the all-ages event open at 7:30 PM and the show is scheduled to start at 9:00 PM. There is a $10 cover charge.

Later in June, about two hours southeast of Paducah, Clarksville will host its own Pride festival.

C-Pride, the organizing group for Clarksville’s Pride activities, is planning a full day of activities at the Wilma Rudolph Event Center on June 29 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The less than year-old nonprofit organization is hosting its first Pride in the northwestern Tennessee city, including drag performances, live music and vendors. According to Clarksville Now, the city’s first documented Pride festival took place in 2005.

Other pride events in the state of Kentucky can be found on the Fairness Campaign website.

This story is republished with permission from WKMS. Read the original.

Zacharie Lamb is a student at Murray State University studying for a Bachelor of Music – Musical Theater degree. He graduated from Graves County High School in 2021.

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