LGBTQ+ Rainbow Crosswalk First in Tennessee, Symbolizes Equality

A local project is colorful and bright and sends a strong message of unity. One rainbow currently sits at the intersection of Cooper and Young, but after October 9th that will change.

Three more will be added to symbolize inclusion, equality, acceptance, and the LGBTQ+ community.

“I’ve had rocks thrown at me. I’ve been called names. I have been threatened to be killed,” said Jarred Price as he reflected on personal experiences being a member of the same-sex community. Price said he envisions a goal and plan for the future. Price is the commissioner and founder of Memphis City Beautiful, an agency that focuses on neighborhood improvement across Bluff City.

The Rainbow Crosswalk Project will be the first of its kind in the state of Tennessee, acting as a symbol of unity and peace. “It means a lot in a state that isn’t as LGBTQ-friendly with its policies.” Price, along with his many volunteers, are the driving force behind the mission and delivering the message of what it really means to be equal. “Some people are white; some people are black; some people are gay; some people are straight; some people are rich; some people are poor. That’s what makes us America,” said Price.

“The crazy thing about Cooper-Young a lot of people don’t know, it’s one of the highest concentrations of same-sex households in the Southeast United States.”

The project is receiving positive feedback from some residents and visitors to the area. “It makes my heart so happy to see the rainbow, to see the inclusion in this city,” said Andrea Franco, a visitor who said she fully supports the crosswalk effort.

Unfortunately, this very conversation is not always met with open arms and support. Friday night, a drag show event was canceled and shut down, before it even got started, following an appearance by the Proud Boys who protested the LGBTQ event.

LGBTQ+ Rainbow Crosswalk First in Tennessee, Symbolizes Equality
LGBTQ+ Rainbow Crosswalk First in Tennessee, Symbolizes Equality

The show was scheduled to happen at the Memphis Museum of Science & History (MoSH), but it never happened, museum staff, citing “armed protestors” as the reason for the cancellation. “That’s heartbreaking to me. I think that everyone should be allowed to be themselves,” said Franco. “Armed? why? Why weapons,” asked Dawn Winford, a Memphis native who said being positive and loving everyone is very much needed at this time. “You can protest just like they can, but why bring violence and weapons into it? That’s what’s wrong now. It’s terrible, makes me want to cry actually,” Winford said.

Meanwhile, Price said deciding to shut down the event, caused a missed security opportunity. “It should have been paused for a moment and had MPD come in and escort the Proud Boys off the premises and not the performers. Living in fear is not living at all,” said Price. “If we keep allowing these far-right extremist groups and what they are, terrorists basically, if we keep allowing them to control or dictate, they’re going to win, and we can’t allow that.”

MoSH issued the following statement following Friday’s protest:

“The safety of our guests and staff members is our primary concern. Out of an abundance of caution and to ensure the safety of all present, the Museum of Science & History made the decision to cancel all programming Friday evening due to the presence of armed protesters. Closing early involved the cancellation of the two events scheduled for the evening, a laser show in our Planetarium and the Memphis Proud drag show and dance party. We want to apologize to our guests and the Memphis community for the disruption. Attendees needing refunds can contact our box office or email”

Meantime, Phase II of the state’s first rainbow crosswalk is set to get underway at 7 a.m. Saturday, October 8th, and Sunday, October 9th. The installation begins at 7 a.m. at the Cooper-Young intersection. Volunteers are asked to email to sign up. The group will host a drag show and street party following the final installation on Sunday, October 9th at 3 p.m.

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