Jeff Cotter, a San Francisco psychiatric social worker, says he started Rainbow World Fund (RWF) four years ago because none of the traditional relief organizations were developing philanthropy and consciousness in the LGBT community. It is that dual mission — direct relief hand in hand with changing opinions and beliefs — that moves RWF. Cotter calls it a solidarity model, rather than a charity model.
“As with our community’s response to HIV, we can’t wait for the rest of the world to take leadership,” Cotter said. “And as a gay man, I thought, if I want to change the world, I should start where I’m at, in the community I live in. And the gay and lesbian community was a huge untapped market.”
In the past year, RWF has teamed up with relief organizations to increase access to safe drinking water in Central America, eradicate land mines in Cambodia, provide food for victims of hurricane Jeanne in Haiti and save the next generation of Africans from HIV/AIDS. The group works closely with larger charity organizations (such as CARE) to give aid immediately, where it’s needed.
Cotter balances his time between Rainbow and his “day job”: counseling rape victims and gunshot wound survivors for the city of San Francisco. He has spent the past three years building the infrastructure for RWF, and has begun helping victims around the world this year.
Because administrative costs are covered by the board of directors and grants from various organizations (including the Catholic Church), RWF can ensure that 100 percent of every charitable dollar goes directly to field service work overseas. In the case of Sunday’s quake and tsunami survivors, aid will go to food, water, vitamins and medical supplies for many months, and possibly years, to come.
But why doesn’t an LGBT relief organization give to LGBT causes? Why enlist gays and lesbians to help victims they know nothing about? The question, Cotter says, should really be: why not?
“Suffering is universal, and the LGBT community knows more than a little bit about that,” Cotter says. “When we took the aid trip to Guatemala earlier this year, it was clear that we (the LGBT community) had a shared history of oppression with the Mayan population there. There was a systematic genocide there, and the government invalidated their marriage relationships, among other atrocities.”
The excursion to Guatemala had another benefit as well. In the primarily Catholic and socially conservative country, Rainbow’s outreach was the first contact most citizens had with gays or lesbians. Promoting tolerance and understanding of differences among people and cultures, and at the same time providing much-needed assistance to impoverished and developing areas, is a win-win, according to Cotter.
“We’re about changing attitudes toward gays and lesbians,” Cotter said. “Many of the places we visit and help have very little LGBT presence. Everyone we’ve worked with has been surprised by our commitment, and very open and accepting to our presence.”
Gov. Schwarzenegger may have painted himself into a corner. He made statements over the break that angered the Republicans and now, apropos of nothing, he wants to re-jigger the state’s legislative boundaries so that fewer Dems will be elected to the Legislature. Today’s Los Angeles Times (free subscription) describes the mood in Sacramento as the Legislature returns to business:
More confident after weathering their first year with Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Democrats who control California’s Legislature return to the Capitol today, eager to reclaim the loyalties of centrist voters even at the risk of greater confrontation with the popular Republican governor.
With an estimated $8.1-billion budget gap, the fiscal challenges are as severe as in Schwarzenegger’s first year. But easy solutions seem fewer, with last year’s gigantic borrowing package difficult to replicate. That makes extensive disputes more likely between Republicans, who oppose new taxes, and Democrats bracing to stop Schwarzenegger from cutting health and social services programs.
John Aravosis at AmericaBlog checked websites for leading religious organizations on the right and the left to see how they were handling appeals for aid for victims of the Christmas tsunami. Here’s what he found when he check rightwing sites:
A quick review of the home pages of the top sites of the religious right:
– American Family Association has one small news story up, not even something they themselves wrote, and no appeal for money. The only “action alert” is about the Ten Commandments. I guess AFA is only truly concerned about the American family: http://www.afa.net/
– The Family Research Council has nothing about the Tsunami. Their headline is about “activist judges.” http://www.frc.org/
– Traditional Values Coalition has a very small link or two from WorldNetDaily about the Tsunami, but the link is BURIED on their page. No apparent appeal for money for the victims. But lots of news about the homosexual agenda, which apparently is a bigger calamity than 150,000 dead in Asia. http://www.traditionalvalues.org/
– Concerned Women for America, not a thing. Though they do have an essay about how the media has lost is sense of morality. Apparently the CWFA is only concerned about American women. http://www.cwfa.org/main.asp
– Pat Robertson’s Web site. Nothing. www.patrobertson.com
– Jerry Falwell’s Web site has nothing, even though he did post an updated letter from himself dated December 30, days after the Tsunami hit. http://www.falwell.com/?a=
– National Association of Evangelicals, nothing. http://www.nae.net/
– Focus on the Family to its credit does have a prominent link to give money. I wonder how long that’s been up. http://www.family.org/
Conversely, sites operated by politically liberal religious groups – The Interfaith Alliance, Soulforce, Metropolitan Community Church, United Church of Christ and the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism – had appeals for aid up front and center on their sites.
Fifty years ago, racist politicians like Strom Thurmond, Lester Maddox and George Wallace used their white constituency’s hatred of blacks to launch and sustain their politcal careers. Now a new class of bigots is coming out of the wordwork – but this time they’re using hompobia to grab the spotlight.
Rev. Keith Butler out of Detroit is one of these new Talibanis. The wrinkle is he’s black. Pam’s House Blend has background on the story:
I came across this article and couldn’t place this guy’s name for a moment. Then I recalled why it is familiar. Keith Butler was one of the black folks trotted out by the GOP at the NY convention in 2004 to add a dash of color.
He and fellow token, the infamous professional “ex-gay” Donnie McClurkin are also world-class homophobes that subscribe to the belief that being gay is a sin and that any comparison of any kindbetween the struggle for gay rights and the black civil rights movement is an insult. [The above McClurkin link goes to an excellent essay by Keith Boykin on McClurkin and the church’s ignorance on homosexuality.]
This “man of God” should be recognized as a fledgling member of the American Taliban, ready to impose his limited worldview on everyone.
There’s a footnote to the story about the three racist politicians mentioned at the top. Thurmond, Maddox and Wallace all recanted and apologized for their part in encouraging fear and hatred. And of course Strom kept secret for 60 years the fact that he’d fathered a child with a black woman.
No doubt we’ll hear recantations and apologies from the new Republican Talibanis one day – when it’s too late to undo the damage they are about to cause. And no doubt we’ll learn that among the newly prominent black gay-haters are a few who are playing around on the down low.
CA Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger calls special session to change electoral districts.
Schwarzenegger’s action could convulse the state’s political culture. He hopes to strip lawmakers of the power to create politically safe districts and give the responsibility instead to a panel of three retired judges.