A small band of Southern Decadence paraders defy the storm�s damage
New Orleans--Despite the official cancellation of Southern Decadence, the largest LGBT celebration in the South, about two dozen people marched behind a battered rainbow flag on September 4, defiant in the face of the city�s devastation by Hurricane Katrina.
The storm breached the levees protecting the city on August 29, flooding 80% of the city.
The French Quarter, the largely gay section of New Orleans where Southern Decadence is held every Labor Day weekend, is on higher ground and was spared the worst of the destruction.
"It's New Orleans, man. We're going to celebrate," one of the paraders, Matt Menold, told the Associated Press.
Much of the rest of the city, however, is below sea level, and it�s expected to take up to six months to pump the water out, three months to dry, and another year after that to rebuild.
The majority of people evacuated the city before the storm hit, and multitudes have been removed since. Those remaining are without electricity, phones or running water, and the mayor has ordered that everyone be forced to leave.
LGBT organizations across the country have sprung into action, starting funds to help queer people who have been displaced or opening their homes and facilities to evacuees from the city and the rest of the Gulf Coast devastated by the storm.
�We�ve gotten some calls and emails,� said Kellye Pinkleton, director of programming for Stonewall Columbus. �We�re hearing that we�ve been getting some evacuees in Columbus.�
�I�ve left messages with the Red Cross that Stonewall can offer some coordinated efforts here,� she continued.
Tim Marshall, communications director of the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center, said his organization has received many calls from people offering to open their homes to refugees.
In Houston, where hundreds of thousands of evacuees were relocated, the Montrose Clinic has offered itself as a temporary home for the New Orleans AIDS Task Force, who lost everything in the hurricane. The Montrose Clinic, in addition to providing social services to people with HIV and AIDS, also has medical and optical clinics, and is providing services to people with HIV who were displaced.
Earl Pike, executive director of the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, has been in contact with other heads of AIDS organizations around Ohio, and they are working together to funnel donations to the Montrose Clinic.
�We had a staff meeting last week and there was a strong feeling that people wanted to do something for refugees with HIV,� he said. �We just wanted to do what we could as Ohio organizations to respond as quickly as possible.�
His organization has already raised over $6,000, and both the Columbus AIDS Task Force and the Ohio AIDS Coalition were on board. Pike was still awaiting confirmation from the AIDS Resource Center Ohio as of press time.
Pinkleton, in her research into reputable organizations providing relief for LGBT people, came upon a consortium headed by the National Youth Advocacy Coalition (www.nyacyouth.org), who are partnering with eight other prominent national LGBT organizations, including the Equality Federation, Family Pride Coalition, the National Black Justice Coalition and the National Center for Transgender Equality to provide help for LGBT families displaced by the hurricane.
�I�m sure they have a system in place to identify [LGBT evacuees], but at Stonewall we would want a specific and well-publicized system in place,� Pinkleton said, noting that she will be in contact the with NYAC-led coalition.
�How do we let them know we�re here? They�re going to have certain needs, and for some it may be simply being around members of the community,� she continued.
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