For LGBTQ individuals around the world desperate for sanctuary and fearing for their lives, the Rainbow Railroad provides hope.
“Our goal is to really help people in imminent danger because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Kimahli Powell, executive director of the Rainbow Railroad. “We do three things. We verify cases, work out a travel plan and pay for the ticket.”
On Thursday, Gap Inc. is sponsoring a panel on “Journey to Freedom” at SubCulture — 6:30 p.m., 45 Bleecker Street in Manhattan — with Powell and actress Cynthia Nixon the key speakers. Under the theme, they’ll discuss racism, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia as sparking fear within, and violence against, the LGBTQ community.
Jodie Patterson, activist and author of “The Bold World: A Memoir of Family and Transformation,” will also participate on the panel, along with Tiq Milan, a trans activist, writer and spokesperson for GLAAD, and Scot Nakagawa, a human rights activist, writer and senior partner at ChangeLab.
“Jodie Patterson is a vocal advocate within the LGBTQIA+ community and her family and her story are at the heart of Gap’s 2019 Pride campaign,” explained Alegra O’Hare, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Gap. From May 26 to July 6, Gap donated 15 percent of sales from its Pride collection to support the UN’s global campaign promoting equal rights and fair treatment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.
The Rainbow Railroad, founded in 2006, has helped more than 600 people find safety, but has many more requests for help.
According to Powell, 70 countries around the world, including Egypt, Jamaica and Chechnya, have outlawed same-sex relationships, and have policies sanctioning violence against the LGBTQ communities, imprisoning members of the community, even torturing them.
“The situation is dire in many parts of the world,” Powell said.
“The biggest intervention we did that put us on the map was in Chechnya where hundreds of gay and bisexual men were being detained in 2017,” Powell said. Forty-two found asylum in Canada, thanks to the Rainbow Railroad.
“It’s a real honor to lead this organization,” said Powell, a Canada-born member of the LGBTQ community.
Tiq Milan and Jodie Patterson will be on the Gap-sponsored “Journey to Freedom” panel.