Memphis mother and son run LGBTQ magazine, radio show

By : wire report
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) | Gwendolyn Clemons and her son Davin have a lot in common.

They both are gay.

They both work in criminal justice: she is a counseling supervisor for the Shelby County Division of Corrections, and he is a tactical unit police officer and Memphis Police Department LGBTQ liaison.

They both are ministers.

And, together, they have founded and run a nationally distributed, bimonthly multicultural LGBTQ magazine and host a weekly LGBTQ radio show. “The Unleashed Voice” radio show debuted in 2014. It airs at 5 p.m. on Saturdays on KWAM 990. “The Unleashed Voice” magazine debuted a year later.

After reading Steve Harvey’s book “Act Like a Success, Think Like a Success,” Gwendolyn was inspired to start a magazine with “empowering, engaging conversations about our community.”

“We’re able to have a media platform and educate people,” she said. “We have had people call (the radio show) and say, Hey, can you describe what you mean by pansexual? and hang up. We say we have three equal principles: education, empowerment and enrichment… One big barrier between prejudices and stigmas and biases is education.”

Davin said that the magazine and radio show have saved lives. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death for those ages 15 to 24. LGBTQ youth have significantly higher suicide rates than the rest of that group.

“They kill themselves because of people in society saying, `You’re not worthy. You’re going to hell,”’ Davin said. “If a 13-year-old picks up our magazine and reads it, they can get liberated and free from an issue that says love yourself.”

With a circulation of 20,000, print issues are distributed in mostly LGBTQ community centers in 36 cities, as well as coffee shops and grocery stores. People can also subscribe for home delivery.

Davin Clemons and his mother, Gwendolyn Clemons, run a bimonthly LGBTQ magazine and host a weekly LGBTQ radio show on KWAM 990 in Memphis.

The November/December 2018 issue of “The Unleashed Voice” features Academy Award winning actress and comedian Mo’Nique on the cover and her interview and photo shoot inside.

Typically, though, the cover stars are regular folks.

“I’m not into who you are; I think all of us are phenomenal,” Gwendolyn said. “Even without getting the platforms… We just have ordinary, everyday people on the cover of this magazine and celebrate them in their uniqueness and the things they are doing.”

The magazine has regular features from a transgender correspondent and an HIV/AIDS correspondent.

A flip through several issues shows articles on topics including literature, financial advice, an interview with a drag queen, health and fitness advice, fashion, HIV criminalization, profiles of entrepreneurs and various types of artists across the country, politics, religion, relationship advice and gay history.

There are also articles featuring local resources such as OUT Memphis, the Family Safety Center of Memphis and Shelby County, Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi and the local Ryan White Program.

“We’re very intentional about our content,” Gwendolyn said. “We center a lot of our stories about HIV and AIDS awareness. The report came out (in December) that we’re still in the top 10 for infection rates in the city and then mostly in the African-American community and women. Women are coming up the ranks fast.

“The mainstream media only does it when it’s a topic, but we make sure that every issue, we have a story in there, with a writer that’s from some of these social agencies around the city. We dedicate a section to community agencies to talk about what they’re doing.”

Being in the South, and specifically being in Memphis, sometimes is a challenge for the magazine, Davin said.

When the radio show started, he recalled getting hate mail and hateful calls regularly.

“People are hesitant about putting their business in the magazine sometimes, because they don’t want to be labeled as LGBTQ — stigma — so, we have to go and reassure people, that `Hey, this is not a LGBTQ publication, this is a publication that highlights this.’ Because we have other publications here in the city that are diverse and (businesses) are in those. So, what’s the difference, ours and theirs?”

The radio show features interviews with local playwrights, political candidates, Memphis Theological Seminary professors, community organizations, activists — even a medium. Everyday life issues are also highlighted.

In 2017, The G-Listed awarded the magazine its “Black LGBTQ Media of the Year” honor in its Power 100. The urban queer pop culture website chooses honorees based on factors including cultural impact and social influence.

In 2018, Davin was named one of Memphis’ Top 40 Under 40 Urban Elite Professionals. He has also applied for the Memphis City Council for the District 6 seat appointment.

Davin said the greatest success the magazine has seen is that the narrative has changed regarding black LGBTQ people and that its founders are now seen as credible entrepreneurs in the city.

“I like the fact that the wall has been broken down,” he said. “Because we have developed friendships and relationships and business ventures with individuals who would have not, who did not, want us in the very beginning.”

Gwendolyn added the magazine has been able to confront religious bias against LGBTQ people.

“We have a lot of spirituality pieces in the magazine,” she said.

One of the magazine’s regular contributors writes about Catholicism from a LGBTQ perspective.

She also points to Cathedral of Praise Church of Memphis that Davin co-founded with his husband, Rev. Darnell Gooch Jr. Gooch serves as pastor of the church. Gwendolyn is a minister of the church, which shares a building with Buntyn Presbyterian Church.

“God is inclusive,” Davin said.

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