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Happening in Nashville
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Coming out can be one of the hardest things a member of the GLBT community will ever do. While the results of the conversation with his mother turned out how he hoped, Nashville’s Josh Robbins says he had to have the talk with her twice.
“She kind of forgot,” he explains, as she had had a memory-effecting illness at the time. “Six months later, she called me confused about the first conversation we had, and then I had to come out to her the second time over the phone!”
Since that conversation years ago, Robbins has become a poster boy for community activism and HIV awareness — literally. As a volunteer with the Vanderbilt HIV Vaccine Program, Robbins’ face has beamed down on many a club-goer around town. He has been highly visible community activist in regards to HIV awareness and prevention, educating others about proper safer sex techniques and practicing those techniques himself. However, one small slip and his own HIV diagnosis earlier this year changed how he saw the disease and how those affected with it see themselves.
“I am luckier than most because I knew exactly when I was exposed,” Robbins says of the sexual encounter in December 2011 that led to his infection. “And because I became ill and was tested so quickly, I didn’t infect anyone else. But where I wasn’t as lucky, at least right after my diagnosis, was in knowing any people who were positive.”
While there’s no shortage of support groups and other services from Nashville CARES and other community organizations, Robbins says it was hard for him to find an immediate contact. It was then he decided to blend his professional career as a promoter with his role in community activism and create the blog imstilljosh.com. Through that route, he began to not only tell his story, but also link readers to community resources.
When he began receiving social media messages saying things like “you’re too cute to be HIV positive,” he knew that there was work to be done and that he might be uniquely qualified to do it.
“I knew I wasn’t going to go back in the closet, so I thought I’d start to do what I could to increase awareness and let my story maybe help someone else who feels alone when they find out,” he says. “I don’t want anyone to do something tragic because, even though there is a lot of support out there, they think they are by themselves in this.”
Robbins says he spent the time between testing and diagnosis doing further research into HIV. He then realized that, even though he had been “doing all the right things” as far as being careful and advocating safer sex, HIV exposure had happened to him, and it was more likely than not happening to others in his peer group.
“I’m 29, and I couldn’t find a website that showed anybody relatively young,” he says. “I didn’t start the blog to champion anything but to get information out there to people who are around my age, to send them to places where they can get more information and not feel the loneliness that I did.”
While he admits that the under-30 crowd may not be paying as much attention to HIV as older gay men do, he does not think it is because they have been overexposed to the prevention message.
“Young people will be young people,” Robbins says. “They do see the message, and they do know what it means. But they also think it will never happen to them. It’s easy to think of it like a DUI; everybody drives drunk sometimes, but not everybody gets caught. Thinking like that or ignoring the issue are [the things] I want to address in my blog.”
He also wants to do what he can get lessen the stigma of being HIV positive, especially for younger people.
“I went to some group therapy, and some guys I met feel a little defeated because the stigma is so bad,” he says. “I want to help break that wall down, if I can. The people who silently live with this disease are brave. The people who raise money and awareness are brave. I’m just saying that if someone is 19 and infected, his or her life doesn’t have to be over. That’s the message I want to put out.”
Vic Sorrel, a community educator with Vanderbilt and Nashville CARES, says such a personal appeal has a strong affect simply because it ties a face to an issue.
“If one person has the courage to be forthcoming with their own story, then others are going to identify with that,” Sorrell says. “If they see someone get tested, it makes it easier for them to get tested. This type of thing helps lessen the mystery around testing and around a positive diagnosis because it shows someone who has already been there.”
More to the point, he adds, “Having a positive diagnosis happen to someone you know puts a name to HIV and creates an experience that’s much more relevant to a group of people. And that, in turn, gets them to take better care of themselves. It’s not about scaring them but about providing the impetus for them to look at their own behavior and make changes.”
That is key for younger people, who did not see the decimation AIDS caused in the years before current drug therapies became viable and began extending the lives of those who become HIV positive.
“The message here is that it’s not about taking a pill once a day,” Sorrell says. “That’s not the extent of having HIV. When someone like this comes forward and shares his story, then his peer group realizes that it’s a very real possibility for them. And by seeing what he’s going through, they learn much more about what HIV really is.”
If sheer volume is any indicator, that has been true for Robbins. His blog has had thousands of hits since he launched it, has taken what he calls the worst day of life, when he got his diagnosis, and has made it something much different.
“A few weeks ago, I didn’t know one person who was positive who had told me about their status,” he says. “Now I know a lot of people. Getting HIV may have, in a twisted way, saved my life. I wasn’t protecting myself and looking at myself in the way I do now. I want to go out to the bar, to see friends and have fun, but also let people know that they need to protect themselves. I didn’t have to talk about this, but I did, and it’s made a huge difference for me. I hope it can for others as well.”
For those with a thirst to celebrate, Red Bull Unlocked is the key. In city after city, the most exciting bars, clubs, mixologists, performing artists, and more take over a local landmark building to showcase their signature ambiance while also collaborating for a must-see mashup. And now it's Music City’s turn to seize the spotlight, as the event brings 10 bars together in East Nashville’s Five Points neighborhood.
Fueled by the best of Nashville’s thriving music scene, Red Bull Unlocked has curated an eclectic night of show-stopping entertainment performances including a pop-up Whiskey Jam show, DJ sets, musicians, and more. The full lineup is here:
- Whiskey Jam (feat. Dozzi, Willie Shaw, and Johnny Hayes)
- A.B. Eastwood
- Daisha / Rap Girl
- Boom Bap (DJ Collective feat. DJ-Rate, Case Bloom)
- Whiskey Disco (DJ Collective feat. Coach, Jim O'Shea)
- Old Crow Medicine Show’s Jerry Pentercost (DJ Set)
- DJ Stretch
- DJ Griffin Green
- The Play Mates (Drag Show feat. Sasha, Vanity, Deception, Aura Mayari, Corlis Todd, and Carmin Triple C)
Counting down to the epic celebration, Daisha shares, “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to perform in so many of Nashville’s top spots all in the same night. Fans can expect a lot of bops and high energy. I want people to dance and have a good time.”
Ward Guenther, Whiskey Jam Founder, adds, “Red Bull has been enjoyed at Whiskey Jam since the very first night, so it's only fitting Whiskey Jam is enjoyed at Nashville's first Red Bull Unlocked. Looking forward to this!”
Red Bull Unlocked Istanbul
Photo courtesy of Red Bull
Local favorites including Pearl Diver, Tin Roof, Lipstick Lounge, White Limozeen, and more will join forces for one epic night. Full list of bars and partners below:
- The Dive Motel
- Lipstick Lounge
- Pearl Diver
- Play Dance Bar
- Rosemary & Beauty Queen
- The Stage
- Tin Roof
- Whiskey Jam
- White Limozeen
- Woolworth Theatre – Opening Fall 2022!
- Eleven Eleven - Opening 2023!
Date: August 21, 2022
Time: 6 PM – 11PM CT
Location: 1102 Forrest Ave, Nashville, TN 37206
Entrance: Ticked event
Rumble Boxing, the boxing-inspired group fitness studio, opened its doors for the first time in Nashville on June 20 at 609 Overton St, Nashville, TN. The hottest workout on the block is hosting its official grand opening from August 4th-7th with daily classes, membership specials, and prizes from local vendors. The new Rumble Boxing studio is currently offering a buy one class, get one free promotion for the Nashville community.
Rumble Boxing delivers 45-minute, 10-round, strength and conditioning group workouts, crafted around teardrop-style aqua boxing bags and high-intensity strength training circuits. This brings all fitness levels together to experience what Rumble is known for: combining the sweet science of boxing with high energy and positive vibes.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
This boutique fitness brand offers serious benefits like increased stamina and strength, with cardio that’s actually fun. The seasoned trainers at the new studio are thrilled to serve their local community while offering this fun, new modern approach to boxing and welcome members of all fitness levels to the Rumble family.
The new Rumble Boxing studio is owned and operated by Blake Baskin and Antonio Compton. With their background in the fitness industry, this dynamic duo is excited to bring their passion for boxing and group fitness to Nashville. As business and life partners, Blake and Antonio aim to create a strong community within their new Rumble Boxing studio and share their message of non-apologetic inclusivity.
Black and Gay-Owned Business
Rumble Boxing Store with Dolly Parton Mural
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“We own who we are, and this brand aligns with that perfectly,” said Antonio. “This is what we want to create and bring to this community: a fitness class that is designed for anyone and a place for people to be who they are. As a Black and gay-owned business, we want to help lower the division we see in the world right now. Our goal is to bring people together through Rumble, set everything aside, and have fun.”
To echo their message of acceptance and inclusion, Blake and Antonio commissioned a local Nashville artist to paint an 11 X 6-ft. mural of Nashville icon and philanthropist, Dolly Parton. The massive portrait features the country star in Rumble Boxing gear in the lobby of the studio.
The excitement and buzz around Rumble allowed Blake and Antonio to recruit top-tier trainers to head up the new studio, including Head Trainer Oronde Jones, a well-known celebrity trainer in the Nashville market.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“Compared to other fitness classes, Rumble is a class you can truly get lost in for 45 minutes. With the dark room, you don’t have to worry if anyone is paying attention to you. The music is awesome and inspiring, and the beat drops right when you need it the most. Also, with boxing being a sport you can never truly master, you’re always improving and crafting your skill. On the floor, you’re consistently doing something new, which prevents you from ever hitting a plateau.” Said Oronde Jones about his favorite part of Rumble.
Rumble has massive brand loyalty and widespread appeal, partly thanks to attracting top names like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, Jason Derulo, David Beckham, and Kevin Hart to its studios.
About Rumble Boxing
Founded in New York City in 2017, Rumble is a group fitness concept delivering a mix (or combination) of boxing-inspired circuits and the transformative power of resistance training. Pro and amateur fighters glove up together, no matter their fitness level or skill, to reveal their inner fighter. The experience is a 45-minute, 10-round, full-body cardio and strength workout crafted around specially designed water-filled, teardrop-style boxing bags. Rumble was founded by Noah Neiman (former Barry’s Bootcamp Master Trainer, and cast member of Bravo’s Work Out New York), Eugene Remm (Co-Founder of Catch Hospitality Group (Catch Restaurants, CATCH STEAK, Lexington Brass), Andy Stenzler (Co-Founder Cosí, Kidville), and Anthony DiMarco (13-time IRONMAN, former Managing Director, Google).
Who would have thought that we would have to get through a pandemic in order to appreciate the small things we have, such as the ability to simply pack our bags and hit the road?
For two years, there’s been nothing left for us travel junkies to do but sit at home and try to find new destinations that we will conquer once we defeat what appears to be the biggest villain of the 21st century. But once that happens, hold your bags tight because we will be up for some of the most interesting travel experiences. Take a look at some ideas for your post-COVID traveling plans:
A Gay Cruise
One of the best options to have in mind when all of this passes is a good, nice and long (pun intended) gay cruise. Or cruise in general, for that matter. Bear in mind, social distancing will still be a thing in the post-COVID world. But COVID-19 likely doesn’t mean that cruises will cease to exist. On the contrary, though cruise ships will probably keep the number of passengers smaller than before, it is believed that they will become an even bigger hit in the following period, especially because they are all going to go a lot more environmentally-friendly. On the bright side, is there any better way of celebrating the end of the pandemic than by cruising around some magnificent seas, stopping by at great cities and having romantic dinner nights at nice restaurants?
A getaway in nature
On the other hand, there is always the option of stepping away from the hustle and bustle of large cities, and spending some time in a place that’s not only healthy, but also beautiful. Some of the destinations that plenty of people will look for are the ones that can cater for both peace of mind and amazing things to see or do. One such destination is New Zealand, one of the greenest countries on Earth right now. Not only will you be visiting the magnificent country that gave us the beautiful Shire from Lord of the Rings; this is also a destination that’s excellent for everyone who prefers relaxing to partying. If you’re up for some partying, you will be able to hit Auckland, while if you’re for something calmer, there’s plenty of amazing places that you can see and visit.
Dancing Around at Pride
Pride parades are also events that you want to have in mind for the post-COVID world. Such events have always been quite important, but it seems that they are now more important than ever. The virus has canceled more than 75 Pride parades all around the world, which is one of the reasons why we must support the ones that will see the light of day once the pandemic stops. Truth be told, the upcoming Prides will perhaps be the best Prides ever organized. Give the gays a couple of weeks of quarantine, then let them outside and see what kind of party they are able to throw!
A road trip
If you’re, as well, waiting for the day to wake up and say “long gone are the days when we were not allowed to go wherever we wanted?”, and if staying at one place gave you a lot to think about, then your first post-COVID travel experience should definitely be a nice road trip. You can practically choose which country you want to tour, and you can either take your own car (you have probably missed it so much), or rent one at your destination. Australia is an amazing country for this, though, as it offers the possibility of seeing the Great Ocean Road, which is an amazing thing to see and experience. On the other hand, if you do not want or cannot leave your country, you can also choose to go on a domestic road trip – there are amazing things to see in your vicinity as well.
Holiday for a single guy
If you’re single, or you’re traveling someplace with another single friend, then you should definitely organize a nice vacation for yourself or for you and your single friend, and hit one of the best European cities. Europe has been greatly affected by the virus, which means that now it’s time to pay it back and get it back on its feet by traveling there and seeing all the amazing things it offers. Any city you choose in Europe – you will not make a mistake. Apart from being able to see great landmarks, you will also have the chance to have a drink at great gay clubs and pubs, and join unforgettable gay parties. And if the gay scenery is not your forte, worry not, as Europe indeed has to offer so many different and magnificent things.