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Although they’re the two largest cities of a decidedly conservative state, Memphis (memphistravel.com) and especially Nashville (visitmusiccity.com) have developed into popular destinations among gay and lesbian travelers in recent years. Both cities have sizable GLBT communities, are steeped in American music lore, and have noteworthy restaurant scenes — not just barbecue and Southern fare, which is legitimately outstanding in these parts, but sophisticated contemporary cuisine. In both cities, fans of dancing and clubbing will also find a nice range of gay nightlife options.
Here are some key exploring, dining, nightlife, and hotel highlights in these two cities just 215 miles apart via Interstate 40.
There’s much to keep visitors busy this city famous for blues, Elvis, and the tragic assassination in 1968 that Dr. Martin Luther King. Today the Lorraine Motel, where King was shot, is the home of the National Civil Rights Museum, whose collections to the story of America’s Civil Rights history. The surrounding South Main Street neighborhood is a good spot for a stroll, with several cool shops and cafes. A short drive south, you’ll find the one of the city’s lesser-known cultural gems, the National Museum of Ornamental Metal, whose galleries and outdoor sculpture garden sit on a hilltop overlooking a scenic bend in the Mississippi River.
Along with King, the name most associated with Memphis these days is Elvis Presley, whose palatial — and decidedly kitschy — mansion, Graceland, is a must-see — allow at least two hours to tour the home, his custom jets, the car museum, and the several other exhibits that make up this impressive compound a 15-minute drive south of downtown Memphis.
Downtown Memphis, where W.C. Handy helped to turn Beale Street into the nation’s blue capital, abounds with live-music clubs, lively restaurants, and a number of excellent hotels. Beale Street’s vibe is fairly touristy, and you won’t find any gay hangouts here, but the city’s Mid-South Gay Pride festival does take place here in October. You can tour the outstanding Memphis Rock & Soul Museum, which traces the region’s vibrant music heritage, as well as the Gibson Guitar Factory. Other attractions that music buffs should check out include Sun Studio, where Elvis cut the early demo tape that launched his career, and Stax Museum of American Soul Music.
Memphis extends well east from downtown, toward Midtown, which has many of the area businesses most popular with gay visitors. In the Overton Park section, you can tour the excellent Memphis Zoo and the acclaimed Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. A short drive south, the hip and funky Cooper-Young neighborhood abounds with distinctive restaurants and quirky shops, including Inz & Outz, which carries Pride gifts, underwear, erotica, and the like.
Cooper-Young is home to one of the best barbecue joints in town, Central BBQ (cbqmemphis.com), which turns out fiendishly delicious ribs and pulled pork. Other neighborhood hot spots, all with a fairly strong gay following, include Tsunami (tsunamimemphis.com) for Asian-fusion cooking; Alchemy (alchemymemphis.com), with its tasty tapas and well-crafted cocktails; Sweet Grass (sweetgrassmemphis.com), known for inventive regional American cuisine; and the campy Beauty Shop (thebeautyshoprestaurant.com) and neighboring Do Sushi Bar and Noodle Shop. For great coffee and plenty of room to socialize or curl up with book, Otherlands (otherlandscoffeebar.com) is one of the best indie coffeehouses in town.
In downtown Memphis, Local Gastropub (localgastropub.com) and — for fantastic soul food — Lunch Box Eats (lunchboxeats.com) both serve excellent edibles, and the swanky and historic Peabody Hotel (peabodymemphis.com) is home to a pair of celebrated restaurants, Chez Philippe and Capriccio Grill.
South of downtown, the 901 Complex is one of the largest gay clubs catering primarily to African-American patrons in the country — the club also hosts Memphis Black Pride in June. Other gay favorites fairly close to downtown include elegant Mollie Fontaine (molliefontainelounge.com), a trendy, mixed gay-straight lounge set in a historic house in the city’s Victorian Village Historic District; and a massive dance club called Club Spectrum (thespectrummemphis.com). Most of the city’s gay bars are in Midtown, where you’ll find several locals-oriented neighborhood bars, clustered mostly around the 1300 to 1500 blocks of Madison and Poplar avenues - these include the Pumping Station (pumpingstationmemphis.com), lesbian-popular Dru’s Place (drusplace.com), and Crossroads Bar.
Many visitors to Memphis would never think of staying anywhere but that classy downtown grande dame, The Peabody (peabodymemphis.com), which has luxurious rooms, a fine spa and fitness center, and a lobby in which ducks famously parade to and from a gurgling fountain each day. A more intimate but no-less pleasing option is the River Inn of Harbor Town (riverinnmemphis.com), a charming 28-room property on pretty (don’t let the name fool you) Mud Island — just a short drive from downtown. Other reliable options include the gay-friendly Talbot Heirs Guesthouse (talbotheirs.com), the smartly furnished and centrally location Westin Memphis (westinmemphisbealestreet.com), and the reasonably priced Hampton Inn at Beale Street (hamptoninn.com).
The most progressive city in the so-called Bible Belt, Nashville has developed into one of the South’s gay-friendliest destinations over the past decade, as it now buzzes with diverting retail and entertainment districts, several energetic gay nightspots, and a wealth of cultural attractions.
Downtown Nashville is set around the courtly Greek Revival-style Capitol, which is perched atop the highest hill in the city. You can learn a thing or two about the state’s history at the nearby Tennessee State Museum. A block over, 5th Avenue was the site throughout the ‘60s of Civil Rights demonstrations, the success of which inspired similar protests throughout the South. These days, 5th Avenue has become rather artsy - it’s the site of several excellent galleries and the nearby Frist Center for the Visual Arts, which occupies a handsomely restored, art deco post office building.
A few blocks east, toward the Cumberland River, you’ll come to Nashville’s old Market Street, now 2nd Avenue, where a long row of redbrick Victorian warehouses converted into restaurants, music clubs, and brew pubs. Downtown’s most impressive attraction is the Country Music Hall of Fame, a handsome, modern structure whose exhibits not only honor dozens of legendary musicians (Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, and Dolly Parton among them). The nearby Ryman Auditorium is one of the grand music icons of downtown, often hosting Grand Ole Opry shows.
It’s a short drive from downtown to reach Midtown and its main drag, West End Avenue - you’ll pass several of the city’s schools and medical facilities, including Vanderbilt University, as well as an art-filled, full-scale replica of the Parthenon. A few blocks from here is the city’s gay nightlife strip, along Church Street. West End Avenue eventually leads into ritzy Belle Meade, home to Belle Meade Plantation, once the site of a 5,300-acre Thoroughbred breeding farm, and Cheekwood, a 1925 Georgian-style house that’s home to the Tennessee Botanical Gardens & Museum.
Nashville’s dining scene is earning plenty of kudos these days. Downtown has plenty of options, from long-
running Merchants (merchantsrestaurant.com), which is set inside a masterfully restored 1892 brick building, to trendy Watermark (watermark-restaurant.com), which offers the most extensive wine list in the city.
But it’s best to venture a bit outside of downtown for some of the most interesting — and gay-popular — dining. The hip 12th Avenue South neighborhood is a great food destination, home to the trendy Burger Up (burger-up.com), known for bison, lamb, and salmon burgers; and Las Paletas, which sells refreshing and oddly flavored popsicles (chai tea, cucumber-pepper, chocolate-wasabi).
East Nashville is another cool neighborhood for eating and exploring. It’s home to lesbian-owned Margot (margotcafe.com), which turns out delicious French bistro fare — the same owners run the nearby coffeehouse and bakery, Marche (marcheartisanfoods.com), which serves up all sorts of tasty snacks. The inviting Rumours Wine Bar (rumourseast.com) is great for sipping and dining, and Ugly Mugs (uglymugsnashville.com) is a terrific coffeehouse.
For gay nightlife, head to Church Street in the West End. Arguably the neighborhood’s hottest gay bar, Tribe (tribenashville.com) is a hip spot with a full restaurant, an open-air deck, and a decent-size dance floor. If you’re seeking a more high-energy experience, venture next door to Play (playdancebar.com), a sprawling dance club that packs in huge crowds on weekends. Just down the street is Blue Gene’s, a relaxed neighborhood joint.
Over in East Nashville you’ll find one of the liveliest lesbian bars in the South, Lipstick Lounge (thelipsticklounge.com), set inside a brightly colored and attractively furnished old house. On the main level there’s a small dance bar, and live music is often featured. A couple of gay neighborhood bars worth going out of your way for are Trax, a hard-to-find little dive bar in a somewhat industrial neighborhood south of downtown; and the nearby Stirrup (stirrupnashville.com), a warm and welcoming bar that caters to a diverse crowd.
Nashville’s hotel selection has become increasingly interesting over the years, thanks in part to the open of the stylish and contemporary Hutton Hotel (huttonhotel.com), a couple of blocks from the West End gay bars. It’s quickly become a favorite address of visiting celebs and musicians. The nearby Hotel Indigo (hotelindigo.com) is a gay-friendly, moderately priced, and sleekly designed mid-rise. Another favorite of design-minded, hip travelers is the Hotel Preston (hotelpreston.com) — just keep in mind that it’s 10 miles southeast of downtown, by the airport. If you’d rather be downtown, consider the gracious Union Station Hotel (unionstationhotelnashville.com), which adjoins turn-of-the-20th-century Union Station and has a gorgeous lobby and warmly furnished rooms.
Andrew Collins covers gay travel for the New York Times-owned website GayTravel.About.com and is the author of Fodor’s Gay Guide to the USA. He can be reached at OutofTown@qsyndicate.com.
Worldwide opera star Renée Fleming will perform in Kansas City on Thursday night, November 18, but the day before, she'll be part of a panel discussion for "Music and the Mind" — a conversation about how music affects the brain, cognitive development, healing and quality of life.
WHAT: Music and the Mind with Renée Fleming
WHEN: Wednesday, Nov 17, 2021
TIME: 4:00-5:30 PM
WHERE: The 1900 Building, 1900 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Mission Woods, KS, 66205
Music has a profound impact and the ability to shape 86 billion neurons in the brain for cognitive development, healing, and therapy. Science research has clearly shown that music therapy interventions can improve quality of life across nearly all neurological disorders. And there is tremendous public-interest in applying music to creative aging, childhood development, and community wellness.
But scientists want to know more.
Join soprano Renée Fleming and a distinguished panel of local Kansas City experts in neurology, music therapy, music and healing, and more for this cutting-edge discussion. Audience members will be able to participate in a Q&A following the panel discussion.
*Please note this Music and the Mind Event is not a musical performance*
As Artistic Advisor at Large to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Renée Fleming has spearheaded a collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, with the participation of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The Sound Health initiative explores and brings attention to research and practice at the intersection of music, health, and neuroscience. This collaboration has led to workshops at the NIH, and events and performances at the Kennedy Center. This initiative has also led the NIH to recently award $20 million dollars in funding for music and neuroscience research over five years.
As part of her advocacy, Fleming is also advisor to the recently launched NEA/UCSF Sound Health Network and co-chair of the Aspen Institute/Johns Hopkins NeuroArts Blueprint, both working to advance the field of arts and health.
This event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Please call the Harriman-Jewell Series at 816-415-5025 to reserve your seat.
WHAT: Renée Fleming, soprano in recital
WHEN: Thursday, Nov 18, 2021
TIME: 7:00 PM
WHERE: Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
COST: Tickets from $25.00 *discounts available for students, educators, first responders, active duty military and veterans with valid I.D.
Pair a glorious voice with a winning personality and you have a diva for the ages. Renée Fleming is a longstanding Harriman-Jewell Series favorite. With her many television and Broadway appearances, Fleming has been embraced by music lovers of all genres.
Whether singing at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the Olympics, or Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, Renée Fleming represents opera to the world. In addition to her numerous operatic performances, Fleming often works classic show tunes and the Great American Songbook into her recitals. Fleming’s trademark rapport with audiences will give her Kansas City performance a warmth that is personal and sincere.
Rob Ainsley is pianist for the recital. His diverse career as a musician, conductor, educator, and administrator has taken him to top organizations and colleges from coast to coast. He now serves as Director of the Washington National Opera’s Cafritz Young Artists and American Opera Initiative. Ainsley performed with Renée Fleming in The Metropolitan Opera’s August 2020 “Met Stars Live in Concert” that was streamed worldwide.
ABOUT THE HARRIMAN-JEWELL SERIES
Renée Fleming's recital will mark the 977th performance since the Series was founded in 1965. From free education events that allow interaction with musicians and dancers, to our free Discovery Concerts that are open to the community, the Harriman-Jewell Series continues to offer life-enriching opportunities for its community's youth and lifelong learners.
Whether you're spreading truth, information, or love, traveling abroad for humanitarian reasons can have risks. Detained American journalist in Myanmar, Danny Fenster, is to be released from jail, and to fly home soon. But it doesn't always end well for every foreign national attempting to do good in a foreign country.
The missionaries consisting of sixteen Americans and one Canadian kidnapped by the Haitian “400 Mawozo” gang on October 16, is extremely scary. The gang has threatened to kill the humanitarian Christians if a million dollar per person ransom is not fulfilled. The group consists of men, women, children and an eight-month-old baby.
These missionaries have sacrificed their time and paid their own way to go to the poorest place in the Western hemisphere to try to spread God’s love and save some souls. In turn, the missionaries are experiencing a nightmare like they’ve never imagined. They’re imprisoned and being threatened with a bullet in the head.
Most of us will never get over seeing journalists being beheaded and tortured in Syria and Iraq by the barbaric Islamic extremist group called ISIL. Burning people alive and beheading others were too graphic and gruesome to ever be forgotten.
Years ago, I traveled to a third world country on a “missionary trip” with others thinking it would be a nice break. I’ve never worked so hard in my life.
Sadly, the 17 missionaries in Haiti are undergoing a cruel experience that may end with the cost of their very lives. What are they thinking now? What is going through the minds of the little children who traveled to a world to help others and spread God’s love?
Haiti has been the site of years of humanitarian efforts. The United States and other countries have given billions of dollars to help Haiti. Sadly, hurricanes, political unrest, underdevelopment and extreme poverty have all made for a sad scenario.
How much money would the world have to give to Haiti to make life better for this nation? This is a question no one can answer because usually aid is a short-term solution. We spent a trillion dollars in Afghanistan and they aren’t any better off today.
Good missionary people went to Haiti with good hearts for helping others in the name of God’s love. They went to share a message they hoped would bring about change and better lives. They may now lose their lives.
Christians point to Jesus as the model for such missionary efforts. He came preaching and teaching in an effort to demonstrate and spread God’s love and it cost him plenty – his life, executed in public on a cross.
There are some Christians today who, like Jesus, are willing to risk their lives for the sake of others. Did these men and women literally go to Haiti taking their children with them truly believe they could be killed? Would they purposefully do this to their children? Who convinced these people that such a trip with small children was a good idea?
My goal here is to simply say, think about such trips to places like Haiti. Afghanistan, Iraq, Northern Nigeria and numerous others countries are not vacation spots. Foreign travel may sound exotic and adventurous but consider the possible cost.
Many missionaries and Christian workers have paid the ultimate price in order to spread the gospel of Christ. Only eternity will reveal what their selfless sacrifice has meant to those whose lives they impacted.
By chance, if you decide such an international trip is not for you, don’t feel bad. Consider helping in an American inner city, Appalachia or maybe your own neighborhood. Service at home is needed across America.
Let’s pray for the safety of these missionaries and for those negotiating their release. May God help them and all who may consider such endeavors.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Glenn Mollette is a graduate of numerous schools including Georgetown College, Southern and Lexington Seminaries in Kentucky. He is the author of 13 books including Uncommon Sense, Grandpa's Store, Minister's Guidebook: insights from a fellow minister. His column is published weekly in over 600 publications in all 50 states. Glenn Mollette has been on numerous International humanitarian and missionary group trips. Hear Glenn Mollette every weekday morning EST at 8:56 on XM radio 131. Editor-If you need to tweak or do a small edit for you paper or website that is okay. Please respond to this email if you need a picture for this column. Scroll down for additional biographical info. Buy his latest recording titled "Black Coffee" on iTunes. Learn more at www.glennmollette.com
The Black Trans Fund, incubated at Groundswell Fund, and Grantmakers for Girls of Color launched the Holding a Sister Initiative, the first-ever national fund explicitly dedicated to transgender girls and gender-expansive youth of color.
Dr. Monique W. Morris, president and CEO of Grantmakers for Girls of Color, and Bré Rivera, program director of the Black Trans Fund are together spearheading the Holding a Sister Initiative to bring attention and resources to organizations supporting trans girls of color, normalize concern and investment in their success, and create learning opportunities for cis and trans girls of color to move in deeper community with one another.
The initiative will award $1 million in grants in the first year, and will ultimately engage trans girls and gender-expansive youth of color in the decision-making process for selecting grantees on an ongoing basis.
While there has been an increase in donor attention to work led by people of color, it has yet to translate into significant gains in funding for trans and gender-expansive youth of color.
According to recent regional studies in Detroit, South Florida and New Orleans, trans women of color face higher levels of hunger, homelessness, unemployment, incarceration and discrimination. At the same time, the majority of this year's record-breaking anti-trans legislation are targeted to affect youth, including bills that prevent transgender athletes from playing in school sports and the "Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act." Research has show sharp rises in suicide attempts among trans youth during 2020 and 2021.
"The reality is transgender and gender-expansive youth of color require more attention, and resources to interrupt the staggering intersections of trauma and crises they experience," said Bré Rivera.
The initiative joins existing funding intermediaries who have been leading the work to resource trans communities and engage trans people in the direction and distribution of resources, including the Third Wave Fund, the Black Trans Travel Fund, and Fund for Trans Generations. As funding partners, the Black Trans Fund and Grantmakers for Girls of Color aim to expand and transform philanthropy's investments in trans and gender-nonconforming youth. The initiative will move resources to organizations serving and led by trans girls and young women of color. It will also amplify narratives that elevate the humanity, dignity and leadership of trans and gender-expansive youth of color, as well as the ways their experiences and contributions have been overlooked, minimized and targeted by oppositional and systemic forces, and larger social justice movements.
The Holding a Sister Initiative will be led by a manager, who will steward culture change through grantmaking, capacity building, narrative shifting and philanthropic organizing. The position is currently open for applicants.
About Grantmakers for Girls of Color
Fiscally-sponsored by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Grantmakers for Girls of Color (G4GC) works to mobilize resources and amplify transformative organizing work to dismantle systems of oppression led by girls and gender-expansive youth of color. Grantmakers for Girls of Color openly invites partners and stakeholders to co-create an inclusive space in support of girls, young women, and gender-expansive youth of color across programmatic issues and geographic areas. Learn more by visiting Grantmakers for Girls of Color.
About the Black Trans Fund
The Black Trans Fund is a groundbreaking endeavor: the first national fund in the country dedicated to uplifting and resourcing Black trans social justice leaders. BTF seeks to address the lack of funding for Black trans communities in the U.S. through direct grantmaking, capacity building support, and funder organizing to transform philanthropy. Learn more by visiting Black Trans Fund.