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This year's legislative session may be over but that does not mean the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) rests on it laurels. If anything they are kicking this summer into high gear planning to rebuke Traditional Marriage Day with their own Tennessee Marriage Equality Day on August 31, securing auction items for July's Forward Friday and planning Olympus' September return.
With all these events in the works, it's no wonder TEP needs an army of volunteers to help make a difference. Last month, TEP named Bleu Copas their principal officer for East Tennessee. O&AN caught up with Bleu to chat about his commitment to community, his DADT discharge and how he manages to do it all.
First, congratulations on being named principal officer for East TN for the Tennessee Equality project. Can you tell us a little bit about what you’ll be responsible for?
I will be the communication link between TEP and the East Tennessee TEP County Committee Chairs, currently including the Tri-Cities, Knoxville, and Chattanooga. I will also serve as a point of contact when requests or questions arise from media outlets, community and State leaders, and basically any East Tennessean who needs input from TEP regarding LGBT issues. I will also keep my ear close to the ground to stay alert in anticipation or reaction to situations that warrant a presence from TEP. I want to make sure every East Tennessean knows that TEP is a resource of strong support that is available to them.
You were discharged honorably under DADT, is this where your passion for equality comes from?
My discharge from the Army under DADT was the beginning of a lot of things for me. Before then, my self-esteem level was pretty low and the courage to use my voice was basically non-existent. After my discharge however, I realized the power of one voice, the power of community coming together, and the power in knowing that you’re not alone and there is always support available. I’ve worn my “advocacy hat” every day since then, and it’s become a permanent part of my wardrobe. Additionally, knowing that a little ole’ Tennessean played a part in getting rid of DADT successfully, makes me want to inspire my neighbors here to find something they’re equally passionate about.
You were discharged in 2006 and since then DADT has been repealed, how do you look back on that situation now that a good deal of time has passed?
I knew all along that there was a lot of fuss over nothing coming from the opponents of DADT repeal. The fact that there has been no collapse or demise of our military is a testament of the human spirit and good always winning out. However, the repeal has exposed even more inequalities in regards to family members of LGB service members and the total disregard to issues concerning our transgendered community. Needless to say, we aren’t finished in the battle for LGBT equality in the military.
After being discharged, is it correct that you pursued an advanced degree for counseling? Are you using that currently?
I received my master’s degree in Counseling from ETSU. I was also recently certified by the State as a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist, and hope I can combine the things learned in both programs to make me a better advocate for the LGBT community, but especially in my daily job serving Veterans in the East Tennessee region.
You are very active in the East Tennessee community working with TEP and as the president of the Knoxville Gay Men’s Chorus, what else are you involved in?
I am also the Secretary and an active player in the K-Town Softball League, playing Sundays in the Spring and Fall with my fellow LGBT (and straight ally) athlete friends. I regularly attend PFLAG events in Maryville and Knoxville, head up the organizing of the military contingency to march in the Knoxville Pridefest parade, and also try to continue to contribute my voice to make our LGBT youth and students feel safe.
How do you do it all?
I’m operating on a nuclear battery, on loan to me from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory…that’s the only possible logical explanation, but we are still awaiting the results from studies conducted to measure the resiliency of Bleu Copas.
Assuming you have free time, what does Bleu Copas like to do to unwind?
I love to find the next community theatre musical to occupy my life in 3-month chunks. I love a good $2 craft beer night at my local Aubrey’s in Maryville with my friend family. I am not ashamed to admit that I obsess over my nephew Bleu Harper, who is about to turn one year old this month.
Where do you see Tennessee in 10 years?
I think Tennessee will be a vibrant place for LGBT folks to settle, what with all of the music and mountains and the four seasons each year. I believe as our current LGBT youth are completing their college degrees and entering their careers, we will be shocked at how well the LGBT and ally communities will co-exist and thrive. I think we will be able to look back and say that although we had to fight hard—real hard—at times and we had several setbacks, the rewards will be worth it all. The South does community better than anyone else, in my opinion, and once given the opportunity to get past some fears and forgiveness, our true colors will shine!
For more information on how you can get involved with TEP visit their website and 'like' their Facebook page for up-to-date event information.
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.