July 9, 2015 at 9:12 am EST | by Brandiilyne Dear
Making history in Mississippi
Mississippi, gay news, Washington Blade

Rev. Brandiilyne Dear officiates the first same-sex marriage in Mississippi on the steps of the Forrest County Courthouse between Amber Hamilton and Annice Smith. (Photo by Kristie Dillstone)

Just south of the Mason-Dixon line there is a place cemented in time — welcome to Mississippi. This is where folks wave as they pass by on the road, laws protect the majestic magnolia trees, and sweet tea is the house wine. Down here people take pride in their heritage, which includes, but is not limited to, their “young’uns,” their pick-up trucks and their church. Although living in the Deep South has its charms, there are giants in the land that many continue to fight. Those giants include discrimination, close mindedness and racism.

Religion, the mother of all giants, is such an intricate part of the tapestry that is the south. Many of us were raised on a church pew and have been instructed on the laws of God. These laws were very clear, love God, respect your momma, don’t mix races, and homosexuality is the unpardonable sin. Many of these laws were never spoken aloud. They were just understood as the laws of the land, the foundation of southern heritage, and statues that would never change. Until June 26, 2015.

These southern regulations were so deeply engrained in my own identity that I did not accept my sexuality until I was 37. As soon as I broke free from religious misconceptions, I quickly founded The Dandelion Project, an LGBT advocacy group, and Joshua Generation MCC (Metropolitan Community Church), a radically inclusive church. These things were unheard of in southern Mississippi. We joined forces with others across the state and began to fight to tear down some of these decrees that were not only causing people harm, but were denying them equal rights. So when the ruling from the Supreme Court came down we rushed to the courthouse; this was one of the most surreal moments of my life.

Only minutes after the decision, there I stood, a lesbian pastor, on the steps of the Forrest County courthouse officiating, not only the first same-sex marriage in the state of Mississippi, but this was an interracial couple as well. As I prayed over the newlyweds, Amber Hamilton and Annice Smith, it was as if I could see many of those giants begin to fall. The social climate was changing right before my eyes. That was a victorious moment as we began breaking free from the “Old South” and her heritage. I wrapped my arms around Amber and Annice and we wept. We not only made history, but we overcame it!

There were more couples that began to come in that day to apply for a marriage license; only two more were issued. The fourth couple was denied. This giant was not going down easily. We were soon forced to halt all ceremonies; it was devastating. But there was no way that we were going to stop fighting now.

Despite the delays on Friday, we got the all-clear early on Monday and quickly rushed back to the courthouse where same-sex marriages resumed. The couples that were denied on Friday were first in line, each afraid that this window of opportunity would close as it had seemingly always done before. I have since, in less than one week, had the honor of officiating nearly 20 same-sex ceremonies from all walks of life. Some have waited three years to marry the one they love, while others have been waiting 30. However, whether 3 years or 30, we have waited a lifetime to overcome discrimination, bigotry, and the “heritage” that haunts the South.

Although the laws of the land have indeed changed and same-sex couples can now partake in the constitutional right of marriage, minds are not so easily swayed. There is still work that has to be done. We have made progress, albeit slow, we have progressed nonetheless.

As with any place, there are positives and negatives of living in Mississippi, but as things go here in the South, slowly and surely as the biscuits are rising in the oven on Sunday morning, the positive is overcoming the negative. I can still hear the faint echo of the old southern mantra, “the South shall rise again!” I’m not so sure she has ever been on top, but today I am certain that she is now rising freer from bigotry and hate because times, well, “they are a changing.” “Y’all come back now, ya hear?”

Rev. Brandiilyne (BB) Dear is founder of the Dandelion Project.

  • Jeff Whitey White

    This article feels as if it is you trying to pretend you were the one who created the movement in Mississippi while there were so many others who were involved other than you. It dismisses and erases the people and organizations that were on the front lines in Mississippi while this change was being created as if you were the sole force behind the history. There were numerous people on the ground before you came along, yet only you get the glory, the red carpet, the praise, and awards. This article isn’t about history or Mississippi, it is about Brandiilyne. As all things in this state are. Attention whoring as you do, it is amazing that more people have not caught on to your agenda.

    • msfreethinker

      You people here in Mississippi are ALL out to make celebrities of yourselves. You, this lady, and many others before you have self-appointed yourselves spokespeople for the LGBT community in Mississippi.

      – A professional organization working for the improvement of a community it represents doesn’t bask in making headlines. The fact that such a big deal is being made that you were on the news or made the front page of a paper shows just how small and immature the organizations (and the people in charge of them) are. I’d love to see more community interaction and outreach/volunteerism vs shared news stories with these head organizers mugs posted on the front of them. Show me the people you are helping!

      – A professional organization working for the improvement of a community it represents doesn’t self-promote while acting in the capacity of a minister of marriage for a wedded couple. The fact that the founder is using this a promotion material is disgusting. I had friends that used to attend The Dandelion Project meetings and the main organizers’ goal was to be on the Ellen show. My friends say they made no secret that they wanted to be celebrities. Hopefully the community can see through their celebrity dreams and see their activism is a farce for more self-promotion.

      – A professional organization working for the improvement of a community it represents doesn’t argue and name call on social media. No matter who does what, IGNORE IT! Higher-ups in an org should not stoop so low to argue with people. That is what attorneys are for and

      – A professional organization working for the improvement of a community it represents doesn’t take down another organization because their own voted them out as Executive Director. (I saw this one coming from 50 miles out. The way you treated people was horrible!) I will give you that you were the heart and soul of your project, but your professionalism was lacking. Your Rainbow Room or whatever will most likely shut its doors without you. I am sure, based on your comments on other websites, that is what you hope for.

      Working with the LGBT Community, OR ANY COMMUNITY, is a hard job. It requires patience, goals, money, volunteers, and respect. Sometimes your will be a target, other times you will feel neglected and under appreciated. It’s the nature of working for/with the public. But as time progresses, they will fall by the wayside like your old org will. They will become irrelevant as the biggest domino has fallen on the journey to equality for LGBT people.

      I expect you to keep playing victim as you still continue to lash out at the community you supposedly used to “lead.” But it tells the world that you are not moving on. You are still stuck! Kinda sad really.

      • Susan Mangum

        I would like to talk to you. Can you pm me on fb? My name
        Is Susan Mangum

        • msfreethinker

          After Googling you, I see that you are the other half of “The Dandelion Project.” I’d prefer not to sip from that pitcher of Kool-Aid. Google also returned that foul video of you cussing at some hate-filled man harassing you on the phone. Its sad that people like him exist in the world, but you brought yourself down to his level by responding to his taunts. The language you used was so classy. Again, where is the professionalism? As someone who has never been to one of your functions, what I see on the internet (your social media and videos) turns my stomach. I know you and your wife mean well and are putting yourselves out there for folks like me to judge as to whether I would want to associate with you in your cause, but your publicity is NOT SO GOOD. Realistically, this could be the reason for inconsistent participation within your org and also why only a handful of people (according to Facebook) take part in your events.

          I hope my feedback helps you become better as it is only my opinion and why I choose not to participate. It is not to tear you down or take away from your contributions toward the cause of LGBT Equality. I just think you guys are a PR nightmare. I would prefer to help my community in other ways than protesting one-on-one against people who have proclaimed themselves as haters and will never be open to logical and ethical reasoning (the KKK).

          God Bless

          • Susan Mangum

            Thank you for your scintillating review of my actions and life. I actually had no idea that I was being recorded and did not approve of that being posted.. But my wife has assured me that it has been removed from our channel. Every day we give ourselves to this community and we have no regrets. It’s easy to judge from your sofa,
            But thanks for the input. I know all about younthatbi need to know. Have a good night.

          • msfreethinker

            NEWSFLASH! When you present yourself as servants, spokespeople, heroes and advocates for a cause in the public domain, you unfortunately sign up to be judged. Judged continuously by your peers and people of your community as to whether or not they deem you worthy of joining your group or want to associate with you and your “project.” Again, I think you and Mr. White have a lot in common in the area of having the lack of experience and talent to successfully run an organization.

            The fact that you took this personally instead of as feedback to improve your business model tells me what I need to know about you as well. And I think I expressed my many thanks for putting yourselves out there for the cause. And yes, until I see an organization that has integrity and displays professionalism here locally (like GLAAD & HRC does on a national scale) I will gladly get up from my sofa and join them. But Rainbow Room and the Dandelion Project, not so much. Sorry that hurts your feelings.

          • Susan Mangum

            I’m curious.. Are you from Mississippi?

          • msfreethinker

            Yes.. I live in the Meridian vicinity of Lauderdale County. I have lived here all of my life…

          • Susan Mangum

            That’s not too far from us. Maybe we could sit down and talk about this one day. You have made some interesting points but the dandelion project isn’t all that we are about.

          • msfreethinker

            By all means what I am about to say is not picking on you, but take a look at your Facebook page ( your main means of connecting with people). When pulling it up all I see are pictures of you and your wife and what looks like your L-Word Mississippi photos. Where are the faces of the people in your community you represent or help? Are you a church or an LGBT advocacy group? Are your meetings your church services? It’s like there are 5 different things going on with your page.. It’s like a personal page meets a church page meets a community org page meets a news website.. If this is how you are trying to reach people like me, you are inadvertently sending the wrong message and are scaring people away.. It
            really seems all about you..

          • Susan Mangum

            My personal page? The dandelion page? Or the Joshua generation page?

            I don’t post much on mine.. But things get shared to it a lot. But it is a personal page. My wife loves to post on hers.. Lol.

            The dandelion page in primarily informational. We do post some l word info because the bulk of the over 6,000 members became a part of the page because of ghe documentary. The most recent l word post was when GLAAD came to Mississippi to screen the show and present the award for outstanding doc.

            Check out the Joshua Generation MCC page.

            I’m not offended at all but I am perplexed as to what you are saying. Our church is a 501 (c) 3… The dandelion project is not. We operate the church under the very strict procedures required by the Metropolitan Community Church.. The project page is to keep folks informed and, yes, to keep them updated on where our lives are.

          • Jeff Whitey White

            It’s amazing that as a leader Susan is allowed to attack people all across the Web and does so to the sound of praise. You’re a leader, Susan. You need to start acting like it or just be quiet. From your numerous personal attacks against people you admittedly do not know, to your disgusting words to that man who called after the movie debuted- you’re just a nasty person. And please, do not for one second try to pretend that you didn’t know that video was online when your wife put it out to the world as you all sought sympathy for your victimization. You women put it on the news and out in the media, you knew it was being recorded and you reveled in it. How did it to get to HuffPost? You women sent it. You used it to give yourselves national attention.
            In the grand scheme, you are no different or better than I am. You’re exactly the same yet get a free pass because you are a woman.
            The amount of vicious backstabbing that comes from The Dandelion Project far outweighs the good that any of you have done. You are selfish people who are looking to capitalize on the suffering community. You’re sad and I am so glad to know that others see it.

            Remember when I didn’t listen to the community or your wife when I was warned? Try not to make that same mistake. Listen. Pay attention. This is not about you or Bb. It is about our community. You people are not the only ones who have been working on this history. Yet you both always ignore the numerous people and organizations who have worked with you to create change here. Not just me and The Rainbow Center, but dozens of others from IFYBWS to ACLU and Prism there are so many who aren’t you that did this work. Where are they in this article about history being made? They are in your rear view because they are only the stones you women have stepped on in order to become the famous “activists” that you are today.

          • Jeff Whitey White

            Who flew put to Denver to meet with Ross in order to get GLAAD to come to Mississippi? Who provided them with the names on that list of six that were featured? It sure wasn’t any of you. That would be Jeff.

            See, I used my name to lift you all up despite the amount of hatred you people heaped upon me for years. I know that importance of a united leadership. You people only see the importance of yourselves. Our community suffers more due to the hateful actions of your so called church leaders. You are no different than any other Christians. You destroy anyone who you see as less holy. You’re ugly people with ugly hearts. This autofelatio of an article is just proof of that.

      • Jeff Whitey White

        I never wanted to be a celebrity. I never tried to be one. I wanted change to come to my state and I was lucky enough to take part in seeing it happen. I feel blessed for that, but I never did it to be famous. I’m not the one who hit the red carpet and whored myself out to the movies or begged to get on Ellen.
        I spent most of my time avoiding the spotlight as much as possible. I never allowed the hero worship or accepted the praise for my actions. Throughout my time in leadership I begged for my team and community members to speak on the news or in the papers- none of them would do it. They left it to me, so I did it. And because I did, that meant I was trying to be a celebrity? If you say so. I know that I’m not the one who gets plastered on every news paper in the state anytime something good hapoens- that would be the lovely pastor.

        I was never voted out. I stepped down. The last thing that I want to see is The Rainbow Center close. Unfortunately, the people who replaced me are not capable of running the organization properly. They have no clue what to do because they never showed up for work. It kills me to see it failing as it is. However, this was a long time coming as Brandiilyne is one of the leading antogonists in this state who made it her mission to tear down anyone who she deemed a threat. She was gunning for all of us for a long time, and now she is in control of more simply because she has everyone fooled into believing she cares about more than her own name.

        I never claimed to be professional nor have I ever attempted to take down another organization. I was just a guy who had had enough of the crap here and decided to do something. But I don’t fit in with Jackson gays or Laurel lesbians so I got ostracized by everyone until I finally gave up and stepped aside.
        I simply will not put up with the attacks that were heaped upon me by my community and those outside of it. My plan was to resign on July 16th of this year after having trained the Transgender Advocacy Director to take my place. The sad thing is, she never tried to learn the stuff.

        Lastly, I’m not playing the victim. I called this woman out for her self serving attitude. In no way did I whine or complain about what was done to me, nor did I mention it. Have I moved on yet? No. It still hurts and I’m still a bit lost as I rebuild.

        See, this wasn’t about me. It was about Brandiilyne using this event to further her celebrity status and feed her grotesque ego. But of course, I can never speak out against anything without someone accusing me of playing the victim.

        Before you ever speak to me again about these things, know first that you have no clue what was going on behind the scenes. You have no idea the amazing work that was done by me, yet you’ve heard the stories. I asked my name to be left out of certain things because the people I helped were more important than myself. There are dozens of articles put there about people who I’ve helped yet my name is no where in them, because it isn’t about me. So Do T Say We ALL were trying to be celebrities when some of us were actually in it to help the people who suffer.

  • Harshan

    “Just south of the Mason-Dixon line”? For the author: The actual Mason-Dixon line determines the southern border of Pennsylvania, then turns down about 90° to establish the western border of Delaware. It would take about 14 hours by interstate to drive from Jackson, MS to the Mason Dixon line.

  • cunzlosma

    I think BB has done great things for the community, along with ALL the others in the state that are involved in LGBTQ activism. The Washington Blade contacts people for these stories, I’m sure you are aware of that. Should they refuse to do a story for the Blade, would that be better? I don’t think so. I think that the more people speaking out, the more people involved the better.
    I have found BB great to work with – her motives are pure and she went through hell to get to where she is now (just like a lot of others). Recently the SCOTUS decision certainly made the news – should they have banned the reporters from the courthouse? News is news and in this case the marriages were the first in the state – I’m thankful someone as caring as BB was there that day to perform those ceremonies for each of the couples. She made a difference in their lives that will always be remembered – and isn’t that what we all want? I know some of these couples and they wanted the publicity in some cases – it was way past time that they were treated equally and they wanted others to see that!

    Shameless self promotion is certainly something that one of the posters understands. I’ve never seen a more self centered person running a non profit. However to compare the two is unfair, they are worlds apart. I think it’s a shame anyone feels the need to be negative about such a positive story. I think it says more about the people being negative than anything else.

    • msfreethinker

      I think it says a lot about people who don’t realize that the comments section was made for posting opinions and creating dialog. To label someone as “negative” you are yourself picking a side. I would characterize Mr. White as immature and lacking experience and professional knowledge on how to run a 501(c)3. Instead of letting the deeds and work he has done for the local LGBT community speak for themselves, he personally attacks someone while tactlessly announcing that he helped too! Continually posting on your social media account every time you are on TV or in a newspaper is the SAME thing. It is a little less aggressive but the SAME.

      For example, you don’t put a $100 bill in the Salvation Army kettle at Christmas time and then post a picture of your hand putting the money through the top slot on Facebook with the caption of, “I just helped the needy!” That is horrible and attention seeking. You just do it and move on. If you get recognition from the community, MOVE ON and smile and feel like you made a difference. Don’t BRAG!

      Did I explain myself better?

      • cunzlosma

        Thanks for the explanation however I’m still unsure what the issue is with BB’s article. The press presence after the SCOTUS decision was pretty thick. I don’t know how anyone could have an issue with these marriages being covered by the local news etc. The Blade likely contacted her for the story, I’m not sure on that, so why wouldn’t she agree to do it? I thought it was well written and a she described the after effects of SCOTUS along with her view of MS currently. I didn’t see anything self serving in it. I do think that Mr. White is being negative, but then I’ve rarely seen him to be anything else. He apparently was really good at getting attention, and seems like he might have been effective but the attacks he launched on others were just awful. So, in my response I was including his response as well by calling it negative. I hope that explains my position better.

      • Jeff Whitey White

        Hi. There are years of conversation between Bb and I about this topic. She did the same thing with this article that she accuses me of doing, so I called her out. I have that right.

        When I share news stories on my pages, it is to get the stories out there. Not to promote myself. I share it so my mom will see it. I’m sorry that you think that, but you don’t know me. I never cared about fame.

© Copyright Brown, Naff, Pitts Omnimedia, Inc. 2017. All rights reserved.
Blade Blast

Get the latest LGBTQ news to your inbox every Thursday!