CULLMAN, Ala. – Cullman Comes Out, an LGBTQA+ community event that has sparked controversy online since it was announced, will take place at Depot Park on Saturday, Oct 8, from 6-10 p.m.
Organized by resident Rickey H. Foster Jr., who goes by the name “Gilly Shine,” and local band Hassleinone, the event will feature the band and DJ Tony Alabama. Jesse Priest was originally set to perform but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts.
Gilly Shine, who creates online content as the “Sunshine Wizard,” will also conduct what he calls a “Wizard Ceremony,” which he said he hopes everyone will attend to see for themselves.
Cullman Police Chief Kenny Culpepper is scheduled to speak about the need for a police presence at the event.
“As Cullman Police chief, it’s my duty and responsibility to provide a police presence to make sure events on City property are orderly and safe when the event is being held by a protected category (race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, sexual identity or expression or physical or mental disability) per Alabama code 13A-5-13,” Culpepper said. “I will explain the City’s and police department’s expectations for safety and the Cullman Police Department policies and state and federal law as it pertains to that particular group.”
The event is free and open to all ages.
Said Shine, “We want the folks of our great city to come out and have a big time! Cullman is for everyone, and everyone is invited! I see cities with folks of all kinds getting along just fine, and I want my home to be like that! So many folks leave Cullman the first chance they get, and I think if we all worked a bit harder to understand and love each other, folks would stay here and do great things here instead of somewhere else!”
Organizer Matthew Sanford of the band Hassleinone spoke about his goal and inspiration for the event, saying, “The goal for this event is to bring the people of Cullman together. Straight, gay, non-binary, black, brown. Just whoever wants to enjoy our community and wants to grow within our community. What inspired me, individually, is being biracial/bisexual and growing up in Cullman. Our goal as a band is to help not only kids, but everyone through our music. We want to show people that you can be anything you want to be and still do good not only for yourself, but the community.”
The organizers have received both overwhelming support and serious backlash since the announcement of Cullman Comes Out.
The Facebook page Cullman Against Groomers (www.facebook.com/Cullman-Against-Groomers-102687145948851) has made allegations against Gilly Shine of him being a child groomer. After investigating Shine’s Twitter follows, the page shared that Shine follows two users who share explicit pornographic material that Cullman Against Groomers claims depicts underage characters.
The page shared a post stating, “If this is what Mr. Shine follows on his public accounts, we can only speculate what he might be viewing in private…We wouldn’t allow a heterosexual person who indulges in this material to organize any public event (especially if it is promoted as all ages), why do homosexuals almost always seem to get a pass? We’ve seen some groomer defenders write this stuff off in the past as harmless ‘kink’ material, something that’s totally normal. we know this is not normal, it is depraved.”
Shine said the allegations are unfounded, saying, “Yes, I am following the two accounts mentioned in those posts. I do not share their content on any of my social media, and I am not responsible for what others do with their social media. There is precisely zero evidence that I am a groomer because I am not a groomer.”
The Facebook page noted that Priest dropped out of the event; however, Priest said the reason is he is not participating is a scheduling conflict.
Said Priest, “I agreed to play because it’s just an event in Cullman, and I try to be proactive in helping and supporting our community with anything they do by playing my music when asked. I dropped out because I have a show at Moe’s BBQ during the same time and I had it booked first, so I have to make right on my word and play it.”
Cullman Comes Out organizers say they have not been discouraged by negative feedback. Sanford added that, overall, “We have had such a positive, supportive response to our event! Of course, there has been some hateful ones, but we don’t pay attention to any of that!”
Shine spoke about his start creating content as the Sunshine Wizard, saying, “I was first inspired by Caleb The Sign Guy Snell who would stand on the side of the road with a sign that said, ‘You are loved.’ When I asked him how regular people could do amazing things like him, he laughed and told me to get a poster board and write on it! My social media is my posterboard to share love, magic and sunshine! I started living my best wizard life a few short months ago, and I can honestly say, when you choose to be your True Shining Self, the universe opens up around you! I was inspired by the fact that wizards are rad, and it was another way to spread positivity and also just be my super weird self!”
Shine’s inspiration for hosting this event was to create a way for others to feel comfortable being themselves, too. “Our goal is for anyone who attends our event to feel accepted and have a great time! This idea was born of a desire to celebrate queer acceptance in Cullman, Alabama!”
Sanford said the event will allow the LGBTQA+ community to meet and see those who are welcoming to them. “Oct. 11 is National Coming Out Day, and we wanted to celebrate that a few days early with the people in our community who align with that day!”
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