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

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.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.