Queer literature is the future. And that future looks as bright as ever in New Orleans.

It was a steamy New Orleans night, with a dazzling party well underway: There were people on stilts, dancers donning angel wings, and even a fire eater.

It was an unforgettable queer party. Suffice to say, when the LGBTQ community in NOLA decides to do it up, they don’t do it halfway.

But this wasn’t just any old party.


This night was an incredible show of resilience from a community that was no stranger to struggle.

It was part of the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival, one of the oldest queer literary events in the country — and since 2003, it’s represented a legacy of LGBTQ creatives, surviving and thriving under difficult circumstances.

The festival was first designed to create awareness around HIV/AIDS in the LGBTQ community as well as bringing queer and trans creatives together in celebration of the arts.

And that party with the stilts and the puppets? A fundraiser, with proceeds benefiting not just the festival itself, but the NO/AIDS Task Force, the largest AIDS services organization in Louisiana.

Photo by Ride Hamilton via Saints and Sinners Literary Festival/Facebook.

It's about more than books. It's a festival with impact.

Paul J. Willis, executive director and founder of the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival, sees the festival as a chance to make waves in the community and beyond. "We can be a voice in our local community and an instrument of change," he explains.

By mobilizing the community, LGBTQ writers find new ways to use the arts to create greater understanding and awareness about the issues that impact them most.

Photo by Ride Hamilton via Saints and Sinners Literary Festival.

Saints and Sinners also creates an intentional space for the queer and trans community to connect and network, celebrate successes and new artists, and recognize the awesome history of LGBTQ creatives paving the way in queer literature.

In a wider culture that so often erases the contributions of LGBTQ people, events like these create an intentional space for community-building.

And with so many opportunities for artists and appreciators of art alike, there are so many different ways to connect with others: You can attend a panel discussion or master class with writers, editors, and publishers. You can learn about some of the up and coming names in LGBTQ lit, attend book launches and readings, meet advocates working toward LGBTQ justice, or just take in the infectious energy of the Glitter with the Literati Party.

"You can lean into conversations with some of the best writers and editors and agents in the country, all of them speaking frankly and passionately about the books, stories and people they love," writes Dorothy Allison, National Book Award finalist for "Bastard Out of Carolina."

"[It’s] hands down one of the best places to revive a writer’s spirit," Allison continues.

Writer Justin Torres. Image via Saints and Sinners Literary Festival.

That spirit, and the healing that takes place at Saints and Sinners, is what the event is truly about.

It’s not just about writing — it’s about uplifting one another, walking away with more energy and purpose than you started with.

"I was a victim of a hate crime several years ago," Willis explains. The impact was devastating: He had to have his right eye removed. But it was at the festival that he found strength, friendship, and a bold new fashion choice.

"That year at Saints and Sinners, several attendees chipped in to an effort led by author and editor Ron Suresha and presented me with an awesome assortment of designer eye patches."

Because at its core, Saints and Sinners isn’t just for the love of the arts; it’s for the strength we lend one another in community.

"The festival helps ensure that the written work from the LGBTQ+ community will continue to have an outlet, that people will have access to books that help dispel stereotypes," Willis explains. "[It also helps] alleviate isolation, and provide resources for personal wellness."

And it’s the breaking down of that isolation and bringing folks together that makes the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival unlike any other.

Photo via Saints and Sinners Literary Festival.

"Imagine the flirting, the arguing, the teasing and praising and exchanging of not just vital information, but the whole spirit of queer arts and creating," Allison writes. "Then imagine it all taking place on the sultry streets of New Orleans’ French Quarter."

"That’s Saints and Sinners — the best wellspring of inspiration and enthusiasm you are going to find."

That inspiration is in abundance in a city like New Orleans. And for the queer community and the folks who support them, glitter and literature has turned out to be a winning combination.

More
True
New Orleans Tourism

On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

Culture
via Cadbury

Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

Keep Reading Show less
Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

WE Teachers
True
Walgreens
via KGW-TV / YouTube

One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture