Mem­phis mother and son run LGBTQ mag­a­zine, ra­dio show


MEM­PHIS — 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 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 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.

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 fea­tures reg­u­lar folks.

“I’m not into who you are; I think all of us are phe­nom­e­nal,” Gwen­dolyn said.

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

Flip­ping 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 also are 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.’”

The ra­dio show fea­tures in­ter­views with lo­cal play­wrights, po­lit­i­cal can­di­dates, Mem­phis The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary pro­fes­sors, com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions, ac­tivists — even a medium.

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.

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