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Black People White Gays Should Know: Introducing Katina Parker

Black People White Gays Should Know: Introducing Katina Parker

Katina Parker's passion is evident. Her passion is using a vast social network to rebuild the City of New Orleans, a feast of culture, music, food and freedom of expression that lost much of its richness in 2005’s Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. 

"There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive and
in case you didn't bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it
says: YOU ARE BRILLIANT, AND THE EARTH IS HIRING. The earth couldn't
afford to send any recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain,
sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute
person you are dating. Take the hint."

I read this quote from millionaire and social activist Paul Hawken on the Facebook page of Katina Parker, this week's person to know. I, along with her other 3,149 friends on Facebook, can attest that this quote is only one of many inspirations for social change to be found on her page. Katina's passion is evident. Her passion is using a vast social network to rebuild the City of New Orleans, a feast of culture, music, food and freedom of expression that lost much of its richness in 2005’s Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. 

New Orleans is the birthplace of Ellen Degeneres, Richard Simmons, Truman Capote, Louis Armstrong, perhaps the most famous jazz musician in the world, and has become the home of many others who sipped the Big Easy and couldn't leave, like Lenny Kravitz, Anne Rice and renowned chef Emeril Lagasse who found such culinary inspiration in the city that when he left Massachusetts, he never looked back. In that same beautiful city, now almost four years after the Hurricanes, at least 12,000 people are still not living in their homes, scattered with family in surrounding cities or in rundown FEMA trailers, 60 percent of schools have not reopened since 1995's Hurricane Katrina and the artists who relied on the city's tourism to survive are struggling. 

Parker thinks the rebuilding of New Orleans can be "a social experiment that is radically inclusive of everyone regardless of background or demographic." She plans to conduct this social experiment through New Orleans, A Labor of Love . It's a clever project that will use social media to mobilize anyone who wants to volunteer to help people in the Gulf Coast. The site is a central place to link volunteers to each other and also to resources and organizations where they can help.  "We’ve created an on-line clearinghouse where members seek volunteer opportunities, share resources with other volunteers, post video and photo updates about what still remains to be done in the Gulf Coast, etc. In short, we’ve created a space where members can collaborate to rebuild New Orleans/surrounding areas while educating one another about social justice issues like environmental pollution, housing discrimination and, gentrification."

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Parker has experience galvanizing people. She was the Media Manager for Communities of African Descent for GLAAD, where she coordinated a weekly digest of information about gay communities of color around the world. Like another activist concerned about New Orleans, Brad Pitt, Parker is also a filmmaker. Her documentary Peace Process, profiling a 17-year old poet's decision about whether to join a gang, was the Honorable Mention for Best Documentary at VIBE's Urbanworld Film Festival. 

Katina's commitment to this cause is inspiring. She relocated to North Carolina from Los Angeles two years ago so she could have easy access to New Orleans as well as Washington, DC to facilitate her Congressional lobbying efforts. Like many people inspired to great causes, Katina has used much of her own resources to jump-start NOLA: Labor of Love and now, with the help of a new team of advisers, she is raising funds for the August, 2009 website re-launch to coincide with the 4th anniversary of the Hurricanes. Her task is great and she plans to tap into various communities for support, including but not at all limited to, those in the LBGT community. 

"Getting New Orleans back on its feet represents a human agenda. While I've known a lot of LGBT people who have contributed to rebuilding, volunteering to restore hope and dignity to the lives of people who have few options is bigger than race, sexual orientation and class."

Rebuilding New Orleans is indeed taking the efforts of many. But, with the social networking angle of her approach, Katina and her New Orleans: A Labor of Love is putting this effort in the hands of individuals, one click at a time.  

3 Questions

Who is she? Artist, activist, supporter of other artists and activists. Labor of Love can do for Internet activism what Habitat for Humanity did for home building. 

What's her T? Black, Out and living in North Carolina no less. She gets props just for that.

Why should you care?  So you can donate. Someone's doing the work. All we have to do is support it.

Taj Paxton is a television comedy writer, award winning filmmaker and yoga teacher. This column is a provocative real door to open communication between LGBT leadership and LGBT communities of color. 

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Taj Paxton