Deep in the Bible Belt of the southern United States, the belief in righteousness and power of Christianity is passionate and deep.
Churches large and small are integral parts of everyday life. Sadly, though, many LGBTQ people of faith are not welcome to practice their religious beliefs in these places of worship due to bigotry and discrimination.
African-Americans and other persons of color are particularly at risk since they can suffer from race-based discrimination as well. But where there is a need, local leaders can often be found to rise and lead the fight.
Gwendolyn Clemons and her son, Davin, may not be the warriors the traditional white patriarchal system wanted to face, but they are the heroes the LGBTQ and Black communities of Memphis need and deserve.
Gwendolyn is a 55 year-old, Black, masculine of center lesbian. She’s Christian, which makes sense because she’s also an ordained Elder and member of the Cathedral of Praise Church in Memphis, Tenn. She’s also happily married to RaShandra M. Campbell-Clemons.
Her son, Davin, has a Doctoral Degree in Ministry from the Memphis Theological Seminary. He’s also gay and, along with his husband, Dr. Darnell Gooch, Jr., the co-founder of the Cathedral of Praise Church. Their church is open and welcoming to all, where everyone is encouraged to worship and join in the fellowship.
In addition to his work within his church, Dr. Davin Clemons works as an Instructor at the Training Academy and LGBT Liaison for the Memphis Police Department. He is also running for the District 6 seat in the upcoming Memphis City Council elections.
“We must challenge injustice in the world, particularly on behalf of vulnerable and oppressed groups and individuals,” Dr. Clemons says. “It is incumbent upon myself to speak against the injustices of the citizens at large.”
Clearly, Dr. Clemons’ activism runs in the family. Mom Gwendolyn set a high standard of commitment and outreach for her son to emulate. She is the publisher of the national bi-monthly The Unleashed Voice magazine and co-host with her son of the weekly radio version of The Unleashed Voice that airs Saturdays on the local CBS-affiliate, KWAM 990. The pair also founded the non-profit Relationship Unleashed, where they host monthly programs designed to help improve relationships within the Black LGBTQ community.
While the Black and LGBTQ communities face daily struggles in the south, Gwendolyn and Dr. Davin Clemons are down for the cause providing refuge and pathways to empowerment not usually available to the marginalized and oppressed.