Y’all means all in Natchez, Mississippi
Words by Ashley Locke
All year round, visitors make their way to Natchez, Mississippi to tour beautiful antebellum homes, eat delicious food, and explore the quaint southern town. But one weekend each year—The Weekend—Natchez transforms.
Shortly after John Grady Burns returned to his hometown of Natchez, tragedy struck—a local 25-year-old gay man committed suicide. He had been thrown out of his house at age 15 because of his sexuality, and he had been struggling ever since. The event led Burns to look into the mental health of LGBTQ youth. What he found was devastating—youth ages 18 to 25 that identified as LGBTQ were fives times as likely to attempt suicide as their heterosexual peers. “We had no support or help when we were young, and dealing with being gay can be very daunting,” said Burns.
He began having conversations with people in the community, wondering if there was a way to prevent the tragic event from happening again. Those conversations were the beginning of Y’all Means All Natchez, a nonprofit founded by Burns in 2018. Originally formed to focus on suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth, they expanded their mission to include everyone in need in their community, fully embracing the organization’s name—y’all tuly does mean all.
YMAN raises funds through events such as drag brunches and their “gayrage sale,” which relies on community donations. Though the events are successful, the true star of the show is the annual festival, The Weekend. “Our first year we had Nina West from RuPaul's Drag Race and six local straight men who dressed in drag to compete for the title ‘Ms Fableau.’ It was a riot,” said Burns. “Everyone had a blast, and we raised around $40,000 for mental health that year.” Not a small feat for a town with a population of 15,000!
The Weekend is a loud and proud event at the crossroads of fun and activism. Over the course of three days, attendees play drag bingo, get fancy for a cocktail party, and tour historic homes. The party keeps going with a drag brunch and lively after-parties. “Last year we had Mrs. Kasha Davis from RuPauls Drag Race and Leslie Jordan as guests,” said Burns. “We know she will return again this year, and we’re hoping that Leslie will as well!”
Though The Weekend steals the spotlight, Natchez is a welcoming home for the LGBTQ community year round—and Y’all Means All Natchez loves that their town is a place that really cares. “Natchez is very accepting and supportive of our community,” said Burns. “We are so excited to have more people moving here who are comfortable being “out" with their lifestyles.”
This year’s event, which will be October 20-22, is benefiting NAMI Four Rivers (MS). For a full list of events or to get involved, visit www.yallmeansallnatchez.org