Memphis Pride Fest Promises Full Weekend of Celebration, Love, and Community

Memphis Pride Fest is kicking off today and promising one of the biggest events for the LGBTQ community of the Mid-South. There seems to be something for everyone this year with a full weekend of events all over the city. With over 10,000 people expected to attend, this year’s Memphis Pride Fest will be the biggest yet in its 14 year history.

“Pride means Love. Love for my community, love for my wife, and love for the service I do to make this city a better place…”

This year’s Memphis Pride Fest will begin with the Big Gay Dance Party hosted by Status: Memphis at the New Daisy Theater tonight. The party will begin at 8 pm as Friends For Life “transforms the New Daisy Theatre for ONE NIGHT ONLY … And kick off Memphis Pride Fest in the loudest and proudest way possible!”, according to the Facebook event.

Tomorrow is the main event with the 14th Annual Memphis Pride Festival in Robert Church Park starting at 10 am, followed by the parade down Memphis’ historic Beale Street at 1 pm. Numerous organizations and groups from the Memphis area will be marching together along with every day community members, some Pride veterans and others Pride virgins.

Things will wrap up on Sunday at Celtic Crossing with the Brunch Crawl starting at 1pm, eventually ending at Railgarten at 4pm.

Earlier this week, the Pacific Tribune spoke with Vanessa Rodley, president of Mid-South Pride who is excited about the upcoming event and shared some details about what to expect this weekend. What used to be a one day festival was expanded to a 3-day event last year to offer a variety of Pride events to participate in, according to Rodley. “The community spoke out and we listened.”, she said. “We expect to grow interest in the organization and expand the celebration because it couldn’t be contained to just one day. Next year we plan to expand even more, so keep a look out.”

Memphis power couple Vanessa Rodley and her wife Jennifer Murry-Rodley work year round to create a welcoming and memorable Pride fest

Being as most major cities host their Pride events in the month of June to commemorate the Stonewall Riots, quite a few people have been asking why Memphis Pride Fest is no longer done at this time. Rodley had this to say, “The heat was a major factor in the decision, and also, we wanted less competition with the major cities’ Prides. When we originally moved the date, it was decided to base it around October which is LGBTQ History Month. Now, we have it in Sept for ideal weather odds.”

The events of this weekend will kick off an entire month of LGBTQ events around the world such as Spirit Day on October 10th, on this day people worldwide dress in the color purple (which symbolizes Spirit in the Gay Pride flag) to raise awareness for LGBTQ suicide and to combat bullying. This is followed by National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11th. As well, the LGBTQ community’s observance of the anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard, who was brutally murdered in Laramie, Wyoming on October 12, 1998.

Members of the LGBTQ community of Memphis are definitely excited about Memphis Pride Fest. Hunter Burton is a gay male who has never attended Memphis Pride Fest and said, “It’s the one event where I can be me and show how I feel about this day. A place where I can make new friends and contacts. It’s the one time a year for us to enjoy and celebrate!”

Burton later added, “Pride represents what being gay is; the struggle we have fought in the past. We have come so far from where we use to stand. Also, people are a so much more accepting of it now. Although, of course, you’re gonna have that percent that still refuses to accept it. That’s when we just come back stronger and keep spreading how proud we are to live here.”

Local drag performer Aubrey Ombre said of her six years having attended Memphis Pride Fest, “The best part to me is the performances and watching the kids smile and sing because we hardly have things in the community for kids like shows.”

Justin Andrew, a local gay man who has been attending this festival for the last ten years and grew up in and around the Memphis gay community said, “Pride means to me being strong, and confident in- and for, not only yourself but, for anyone that may need standing up for against any adversity.” He continued to say, “I most love the part of Pride when everyone is walking around enjoying the booths, booze, socializing, and catching the outside shows.”

Justin Andrew and myself at 2016’s Memphis Pride Fest

Often Pride events get somewhat of a bad rep for not always being inclusive and diverse, however, Mid-South Pride works very hard with the community to ensure everyone feels welcome and invited. Rodley explained what they do to ensure an inclusive event, “Our festival has always been an all-inclusive celebration. We pride ourselves in being a safe place for all to express themselves. We work with many many ethnicity’s, not only at the festival, but year-round at multiple events. This year Latino Memphis has a large tent housing multiple groups to reach out to our Latino brothers and sisters. We fully support Black Prides here in Memphis and attended mostly all of the events held in June offering support and doing live broadcast to promote their cause. Tri-State Black Pride will have a booth at our festival as well. We stand beside our Trans community and attended and helped with the production of the Trans Rally this year at Overton Park. Also, Kayla Gore, a Trans woman and community activist, is one of our Grand Marshals because we believe she embodies the spirit of a strong and true leader and she has the heart of a warrior.”

When asked if Aubrey Ombre has ever felt unwelcome as a Trans woman of color she emphatically stated, “For me honestly, I never felt any kind of bad or uneasy feeling being at Pride; it’s our biggest part of the year. Although I do wish one day that both prides will combine and make everyone happy, but until then, we are happy with what we as a community have already.”

Vanessa, alongside her wife Jennifer Murry-Rodley, has worked for Mid-South Pride for the past ten years, “We saw the need years ago and when we opened our mouths to give ideas, we were handed a clip board and told to help.,” she laughed. “On top of that, we have a natural urge to help and give back to the community. This work is not for the faint at heart and it is quite difficult to do year-round, but when your heart tells you to serve, you listen.”

Rodley concluded by saying, “We want people to know that our festival is not just for the LGBTQIA Community. It is for our children, our straight allies, those whom don’t subscribe to a letter in the alphabet, and those who have pride in their heart. Pride has been a long standing celebration throughout history of both good and bad. It is about the triumphs and the battles we had to fight to get those triumphs, so i would tell them that they should come and celebrate Pride and whatever that means to them. Pride means Love. Love for my community, love for my wife, and love for the service I do to make this city a better place each and every day.”

For any more information, please check out where you can sign up to volunteer, donate, and learn about the hard working organization that makes Memphis Pride Fest possible.

Border City, County Sue Texas Over “Sanctuary” Law

Senate Bill 4 has drawn its first lawsuit.

The League of United Latin American Citizens, Maverick County and the city of El Cenizo sued the state of Texas on Monday, claiming that SB 4 has failed to properly define a “sanctuary city,” and that the city and county — both on the border with Mexico — have kept their residents safe by choosing to operate as sanctuaries since 1999.

El Cenizo, in Webb County, has about 3,300 residents, many of whom are undocumented immigrants. The lawsuit claims that “Plaintiffs are safer when all people, including undocumented immigrants, feel safe when their local law enforcement officers can be trusted for reporting crimes or just speaking with them about issues in the community.”

SB 4, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law on Sunday, allows peace officers to question the immigration status of people they legally detain or arrest, and it also allows for the punishment of department heads and elected officials who don’t cooperate with federal immigration agents. Abbott and other supporters of the bill insist it’s needed to enforce the rule of law and deter people who are already in the country illegally from committing more crimes.

El Cenizo and Maverick County’s lawsuit, filed in a San Antonio federal court, argues that the new law violates both the Texas and U.S. constitutions.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of state Attorney General Ken Paxton’s preemptive lawsuit, filed Monday less than 24 hours after Abbott signed SB 4 into law. Paxton’s lawsuit asks a federal court to declare the law constitutional.

El Cenizo and Maverick County say detaining people longer to allow U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to decide whether to take them into federal custody — SB 4 requires local jurisdictions to honor federal detainer requests — ties up scarce law enforcement personnel and resources.


El Cenizo, Maverick County, LULAC lawsuit(1.4 MB) DOWNLOAD

Cities and States Announce Plans To Defy Trump on Immigration Executive Order

Just hours after President Donald Trump signed a wide ranging executive order on immigration, cities and states across the country have announced plans to defy the order.

Trump signed the order this morning authorizing the construction of a border wall along the southern border with Mexico, and withholding funding from cities that refuse to denounce their sanctuary city status.

In response, city and state leaders have announced that not only do they intend to defend their sanctuary city statuses, but many of them also plan to file federal lawsuits to defend the federal funding they get for state and local programs.

California Announces Plans To Defy Trump

In his state of the state speech before both bodies of California’s legislators, Governor Jerry Brown had some fiery words for Mr. Trump. The title of the speech, which Mr. Brown wrote himself, said much about its subject: “California Is Not Turning Back, Not Now, Not Ever.” In 15 minutes Mr. Brown offered what is by now a familiar litany of resistance from California Democratic lawmakers: Pledging to fight Mr. Trump on efforts to roll back climate change laws and to crack down on immigrants.

California is home to an estimated 2.3 million of the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants. Not only does the state allow such immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, but it also offers them in-state college tuition and allows them to hold professional licenses to work as lawyers, architects and nurses. A state law passed in 2014 limits counties’ cooperation with federal officials.

At an afternoon press conference, the democratic leadership of the California Senate and General assembly announced plans not only to defy the Trump administration, but also to fast track two bills intended to thwart coordination and cooperation between state and local law enforcement, homeland security, and the federal immigration and customs enforcement.

The first of those bills, Senate Bill 54, states that local law enforcement and other agencies shall not act as immigration enforcement agents. That includes questioning people about their immigration status or sharing private information held by state agencies about their status for immigration enforcement purposes. It also prohibits giving federal immigration authorities access to people who are in state or local custody for immigration enforcement purposes. The second bill, SB 6, would create a state program that would pay for legal representation for people facing deportation.

Considering that democrats hold supermajorities in both houses of California’s legislature, the bills are sure to be pass promptly and, based on earlier statement’s he’s made, are almost guaranteed to be signed by the state’s democratic governor, Jerry Brown.

Washington State “Will Not Be Intimidated”

Washington State’s Governor, Jay Inslee said “The president this week has reminded us that people’s voices are more important than ever. Together, we will resist any effort that would violate Washington’s values, take away the opportunity for higher education or break up hard-working families.” in a statement posted on Medium.

Washington is among a number of states that allow undocumented people to obtain driver’s licenses, state tuition grants for higher education, and licensing for highly skilled career professionals.

Major City Mayors Intend To Defy Trump

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said at a press conference that “the City of Seattle will not be bullied by the Trump administration” and will take all legal remedies to block the federal government from coercing the city through the withholding of federal funds. When questioned about the possibility the city may lose federal funding, Mayor Murray said “I am willing to lose every single penny to protect [undocumented immigrants].” He said that of Seattle’s nearly $5 billion annual budget, only about $87 million comes by way of Federal grants.

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio said “We will not deport law abiding New Yorkers. We will not tear families apart. We will not divide children from their parents. We will not take breadwinners from families with no one else,”. Of all the sanctuary cities, New York has possibly the most to lose from Trump’s directive as it receives nearly $7 billion in federal funding for local programs.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said “I am here today to say we are still a sanctuary city,”  “We stand by our sanctuary city because we want everybody to feel safe and utilize the services they deserve, including education and health care. … It is my obligation to keep our city united, keep it strong … crime doesn’t know documentation. Disease doesn’t know documentation.” Of San Francisco’s $9.6 billion annual budget, the city stands to lose about $1 billion in federal funding for defying the Trump directive.

Washington D.C. During a news conference Wednesday night, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser said the District would remain a sanctuary city, even as she said the impact to the city remained entirely unclear. “Our city and our values did not change on Election Day,” Bowser said. “Being a sanctuary city means we are not an agent of the federal government … It means that our police can focus on serving D.C. residents — protecting and serving them — no matter their immigration status.”

Philadelphia A spokeswoman for Mayor Jim Kenney says the city has no plans to change its immigration policy. “Given that today’s [executive order] was simply a directive and did not even make clear if there were any significant funding streams that the Trump administration could cut off to Philadelphia, we have no plans to change our immigration policy at this time,” Lauren Hitt said in a statement. Adding that Philadelphia has a “responsibility” to keep “undocumented human beings” safe.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said “We will continue to foster trusting relationship between law enforcement and the immigrant community, and we will not waste vital police resources on misguied federal actions,”. He went on to say “We will not be intimidated by the threat to federal funding,” he said. “We have each other’s backs. And we have the Constitution of the United States of America on our side.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said “We’re gonna stay a sanctuary city,”. Chicago Alderman Joe Moore said “Even if it means that our federal funding is threatened, now is the time to stand up for what is right, now is the time to stand up for our values, now is the time to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves,”. “We should not give into any demagogue who happens to somehow accidentally find his way into the White House.” It was not immediately clear how much of the cities budget depends of federal funding.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said “Splitting up families and cutting funding to any city — especially Los Angeles, where 40% of the nation’s goods enter the U.S. at our port, and more than 80 million passengers traveled through our airport last year — puts the personal safety and economic health of our entire nation at risk. It is not the way forward for the United States.”

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock was adamant after the election that Denver was “not going to do the job of the federal government” by enforcing immigration laws or reversing policies that limit cooperation with immigration officials.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Council Member Greg Casar said they would fight to protect undocumented residents from Donald Trump’s immigration policies. At the rally shortly after the election, Casar vowed he will fight to ensure that no Austin city employee or police officer will do anything to tear immigrant families apart. “We are here as a city to take care of one another,” he said. “This is the beginning of the new organized resistance against Trump.”

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton says his city will fight the federal government’s attempt “to turn the Phoenix Police Department into a mass deportation force.”

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said “We will not be complicit in the deportation of our neighbors. Under my leadership as Mayor, the City of Portland will remain a welcoming, safe place for all people regardless of immigration status.” in a statement released this afternoon. “This approach is consistent with the Oregon state law and the 4th and 10th Amendments of the United States Constitution. We will not compromise our values as a city or as Americans and will resist these policies.”

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said Wednesday that “They will be safe to [call police] and their immigration status will not be questioned,” “That will stand in the city of Minneapolis as long as I am mayor.”

Smaller Municipalities Unite Against Trump

States and Major metropolitan cities were not the only ones to weigh in on the subject. The mayors of many smaller sanctuary cities gave rather concise denunciations as well.

Lawrence, MA “Shame on him,” Mayor Daniel Rivera said in a statement. “There’s so many other things to worry about. Nobody in a red state is going to get a job or have their life become better because he victimizes these immigrants.”

Northhampton, MA Mayor David Narkewicz told The Boston Globe he felt stripping funding from sanctuary cities would be easier said than done and that he believes Trump will find that it is not easy to strip cities and towns of federal funding, since much of it is tied to civil-rights lawsuits and federal laws.

Aurora, CO Police Chief Nick Metz said “Officers will not enforce, investigate or detain individuals based on their immigration status,” in a statement late last year. “Our policy is not based on politics or personal philosophy. It is based on public safety. It is our goal to ensure that all individuals within Aurora feel safe in reporting emergencies and working closely with the APD to ensure our city remains a safe place for all.” 

Relying on Trusted Ally: The U.S. Constitution

Many of the city and state leaders cited above have pointed the 10th amendment of the United States Constitution which states “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

The 10th Amendment has been widely construed by both liberals and conservatives throughout history to defend the principle of federalism, which strictly supports the entire plan of the original Constitution for the United States of America, by stating that the federal government possesses only those powers delegated to it by the United States Constitution. All remaining powers are reserved for the states or the people.

In the modern era, the Supreme Court has declared laws unconstitutional only in instances where the federal government compels the states to enforce federal statutes – as is the case here.

In 1992, in New York v. United States, 505 U.S. 144 (1992), for only the second time in 55 years, the Supreme Court invalidated a portion of a federal law for violating the Tenth Amendment. The case challenged a portion of the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1985. The act provided three incentives for states to comply with statutory obligations to provide for the disposal of low-level radioactive waste. The first two incentives were monetary. The third, which was challenged in the case, obliged states to take title to any waste within their borders that was not disposed of prior to January 1, 1996, and made each state liable for all damages directly related to the waste. The Court, in a 6–3 decision, ruled that the imposition of that obligation on the states violated the Tenth Amendment. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote that the federal government can encourage the states to adopt certain regulations through the spending power (e.g. by attaching conditions to the receipt of federal funds, see South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203 (1987), or through the commerce power (by directly pre-empting state law). However, Congress cannot directly compel states to enforce federal regulations.

In 1998, the Court again ruled in Printz v. United States that the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act violated the Tenth Amendment. The act required state and local law enforcement officials to conduct background checks on people attempting to purchase handguns. Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, applied New York v. United States to show that the law violated the Tenth Amendment. Since the act “forced participation of the State’s executive in the actual administration of a federal program”, it was unconstitutional.

last case to reach the court in 2012, National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the Court, held that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as the ACA or Obamacare) improperly coerced the States to expand Medicaid.

This last case is key to the sanctuary city fight, because Justice Roberts wrote for the court that part of the Affordable Care Act was coercive because it conditioned continued federal funding on states complying with the mandate to expand medicaid for everyone who falls below 133% of the poverty line, thus putting the law in direct conflict with the 10th Amendment.

Below is a copy of the executive order President Donald Trump signed today.

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Memphis Women’s March Sees Thousands Step Out in Solidarity

In Downtown Memphis, an estimated 10,000 women, men, children, and other joined their voices to the fight at the Memphis Women’s March. The march ended at the National Civil Rights Museum where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot in 1968. The Memphis Women’s March was a sea of diversity Saturday afternoon, as people from all walks of life gathered in one place to share a common message of peace, resistance, and solidarity.

We reached out to the organizers of this event but, were unable to receive comment in time for the publishing of this article. However, I was able to speak with a few of those who marched and what I gathered was one solid message of unity with our sisters.

Tammy Green showing off the signs she made the night before the march photo provided via facebook

Tammy Green of Memphis (pictured in yellow), is a gay woman and mother who said, “I am marching so my daughter knows that her future is worth fighting for,” she continued by making a call out to the younger women of today, “Join us. Your female heritage has been waiting for you.”

An estimated 4.7 million people gathered in Washington DC and in cities around the globe Saturday in protest of the inauguration of Trump. What started as a Facebook post by a Hawaii retiree became the largest and most unprecedented international rebuke of a new president in the history of our nation, showing that one person can make a difference by only speaking up.

The Memphis Women’s March held specific significance as, not only did it culminate at the spot where Dr. King lost his life, but it marked what many are heralding as a turning point in American politics. Being as the official White House website has now deleted the pages where once stood information on Civil Rights, HIV/AIDS, and LGBTQ rights, to many, the future is uncertain as to how those rights will be protected in the years to come.

Rachel Mouton and her three children photo provided via facebook

Rachel Mouton (pictured right), a Memphis native now living in Louisiana, brought her three children with her to the Memphis Women’s March saying, “I am here for my children because I hope they can see these events and gain a voice. I want them to know that they can do something when they are faced with injustice and they do not have to be silent.” Her children added to that sentiment, “We are here to witness and be a part of history as we march for the people of Standing Rock, as well for those who live with disabilities.” Rachel’s oldest daughter is a patient at Memphis’ St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, so the subject of disability rights is one of deep significance to her.

Betty Herron holds her sign with pride, not fear photo credit Jeff B. White The Pacific Tribune

Betty Herron (left) made it clear why she chose to march on this day, “I wanted to stand with my sisters and protest incoming President Trump and to let him know that I am not going back to the way things were,” she added, “after living through both Bush’s and Reagan, today I want young people to refer to my sign and to know that we are ‘Stronger than Fear’.” I asked Betty if this was her first march such as this and she laughed, “I haven’t marched since the 1970’s alongside Rev. Jesse Jackson, but that is how important this is to me. I didn’t march for President Obama and I didn’t march with #BlackLivesMatter, but something stirred in me when I saw Mr. Trump win. I knew I owed it to myself to get out and let my voice be heard.”

The crowds were heard giving chants of “This is what Equality looks like!” and ” Black Lives Matter” as they marched down Memphis’ Second Avenue in a common voice and a common resistance of the misogyny and racism that has gripped our nation in recent months. Signs showing support for Trans lives and Planned Parenthood were seen everywhere, as well as women hoping to show the world that they will not be taken back to the subservient days of the 1950’s.

David shows what type of rolls belong in a civilized society photo credit: Jeff B White The Pacific Tribune

Of course, though this was the Memphis Women’s March, numerous men were seen among the crowd showing support for the women in their lives. I spoke with David (pictured right) who held a sign that read, “Sushi Rolls, Not Gender Roles”, and asked him why he was at the Memphis Women’s March. “I am here to show support for women and everyone who deserves to live their lives as they see fit,” he added, “It is time for men to realize the ability to normalize a nonconformist view to gender roles in America.”

This day is one of obvious historical importance, not only for those who marched, but for those who were unable to be a part of Saturday’s events due to disability, being undocumented, or fears of repercussion from Mr. Trump’s administration. It is unlikely the fervor and passion shown by those involved in Saturday’s protests will be culled anytime soon. One thing that is certain, nearly all marginalized groups were represented on this day at the Memphis Women’s March and all around the world, and that is something for which we all can be proud.

Did you march somewhere today? Help #WomensMarch gain a count. Text the words “count me” to 89800 and follow the directions in the received text.

Making a Murderer’s Brendan Dassey to be Released from Prison

Brendan Dassey, 27, became a household name in 2005 for his alleged involvement in the murder of Teresa Halbach. His case was featured last year on Netflix’s 10-part documentary Making a Murderer. Today, he has been made a free man after Judge William Duffin released him citing prosecutors made “false promises” in telling Dassey he “had nothing to worry about” when they coerced him into confessing to helping his uncle rape and murder the victim.

Dassey, who has learning difficulties, and his uncle Steven Avery were convicted of murdering Halbach, in 2005. Avery and Dassey, who was 16 at the time, were sentenced to life in prison. Dassey’s murder conviction was overturned this summer, however, prosecutors are appealing. Meanwhile, his uncle still sits in prison awaiting DNA evidence to clear him of this crime.

Teresa Halbach image credit: Netflix

Judge William Duffin ordered that Bendan Dassey be freed from prison under supervision until the next steps in the case become clear, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Under his release conditions, he must submit to the probation and parole office by midday on Tuesday the address where he plans to reside. Dassey also must not have any contact with Ms Halbach’s family, or co-defendant Avery.

State Attorney General Brad Schimel quickly moved to block the release, at least temporarily. His office announced it would file an emergency motion asking a federal appeals court to stay the release order. Wisconsin’s attorney general had asked that Dassey not be released pending the appeal. Dassey was not released Monday, as many of his supporters had speculated, but his legal team is hoping for a short timeline according to one of his attorneys, Steven Drizin.

“It’s not going to happen today but we are very hopeful we will have Brendan home by Thanksgiving, if not sooner,” Drizin said, “That’s what I’m focused on right now, getting him home, getting him with his family and then helping him to re-integrate back into society while his appeal plays out.”

Avery was accused and found guilty of murdering Ms. Halbach, a photographer for Auto Trader Magazine. Her charred remains were found at Avery’s car salvage yard a week after she went there to photograph a minivan for sale.

Steven Avery, co-defendant       image credit: Netflix

The documentary series focused on the conduct of law officials in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. They had been facing a huge financial penalty over an earlier case in which Avery was wrongfully imprisoned for 18 years for sexual assault. The filmmakers cast doubt on the legal process used to convict Brendan Dassey and Steven Avery.

We may never know the truth of what happened to Ms. Halbach over eleven years ago. This case, and so many like it, should at least give pause to anyone who trusts fully the American legal system. Whether Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey are guilty or not, it is clear by the events shown in the Netflix docuseries that something is wrong in Wisconsin.

Follow this link to read an update on this story