Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cause Commandos to the rescue in Haiti

Each week I get a fair amount of promotional e-mails and press releases from people promoting something or other they think I might write about on this blog. Most times you wonder if the promoters sending those press releases have even seen the blog since the stuff they are promoting clearly doesn't fit within the topics I address (no, I will not write about your latest neon red Valentine's Day dildo). At other times, they are clearly product placement pitches which makes you wonder why the company simply doesn't take an ad on the blog (no, I'm certainly not going to write about the latest hair product being used by Eva Longoria). And then, there's those few promotional e-mails that actually do fit in with the blog, some of which also go by the side particularly if I haven't been blogging consistently during a period of time.

And then, well, your mouth just drops when you get something like this.

Meet Cause Commandos! From the press release:
When disaster struck the impoverished island nation of Haiti, it also struck close to the hearts of boyfriends Luke Montgomery and Nate Gudias. Having lived in Haiti and founded an AIDS orphanage in the coastal town of Jacmel, Montgomery feared the worst when no word was received from the orphanage. Within 48 hours the couple raised over $10,000 from family and friends in the gay community and were on a plane bound for the Dominican Republic which borders Haiti. When news reached them that children in the AIDS orphanage were unhurt but that the local hospital had collapsed on its patients the couple says they were transformed into "cause commandos" with a mission to get medicine and medical supplies to survivors.
Now, a month after the catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the island nation, Montgomery and Guidas have decided to expand their personal mission and go public with their efforts through the launch of and a series of YouTube clips showing their work. Their goal? To rally support from the LGBT community for Haitian relief causes and to allow site visitors to "directly buy medicine, food & tents".

"We're on a mission to help as many people as we can with medicine, food and tents for shelter. We're buying the supplies across the border in the Dominican Republic and running them by boat into the parts of Haiti that aid is still slow to get to. When a country is as poor as Haiti was before the quake, even the biggest relief effort is not enough. So we're stepping up to the plate and hoping that the gay community can join us," says Montgomery.

Their efforts are not the first time that gays in the United States have stepped up for Haiti. The Red Cross launched an LGBT Haiti Relief Fund that has raised more than $150,000; a small LGBT foundation based in San Francisco with previous work in Haiti called the Rainbow World Fund also launched one of the most immediate LGBT-specific responses to the earthquake; and the good men of Onyx, a "brotherhood of Men of Color in the Leather lifestyle" raised $1,200 for Haiti at a fundraising party. Olivia, Atlantis and RSVP, the leading travel cruise ship companies in the LGBT community, also called for the LGBT community to donate money in collaboration with the Red Cross. But I was first taken aback and then actually amused by the "Amazing Race" feel of Cause Commandos site and video.

I mean, my first reaction was actually that it trivialized the suffering going on in Haiti by adopting some of the 'reality show' elements in promoting assistance for Haiti and featuring yourself as the lead super-heros in the midst of all of it. But then those feelings actually subsided - I do tend to criticize everything - and began to see it for what it was. Two guys with a personal past commitment to Haiti who actually lived there before the earthquake using the internet to call others to do good. The "give now" button on their site takes you to their Paypal account so I can't voucher for how donations might be accounted for. But I also don't see any reason to think that the guys are anything but genuine in their intention. They do say that 100% of proceeds will go towards helping people in Haiti. And, looking again at the video, I actually have come around to think it's a pretty smart idea to engage certain segment of the LGBT community.

An aside: Something else caught my attention. At the bottom of the release there is also a little blurb that reads "Luke Montgomery is a former AIDS and gay rights activist best known for his highly-publicised interruption of President Clinton's 1993 World AIDS Day speech and legal name change to 'Luke Sissyfag' in the 1990's."

Yup. Luke Montgomery is Luke Sissyfag reborn. In 1995, Montgomery told The Advocate "I wish people would forget about the person named Luke Sissyfag and move on, I have. It's not part of me anymore".

It would be tough to outrun that past so I guess Montgomery has learned to live with it. He probably knows that putting that blurb there will probably get Cause Commandos more attention. For those of you who have no idea who Sissyfag is, I won't bore you with details. Let's say he was incredibly polarizing and, in some ways, Montgomery might still be. But last year I was purging my files, news clippings, and old magazines, and ran into a couple of articles I had saved about him. I'd actually nearly forgotten about him but I was shocked by the charge I felt in looking at clippings from that time. Whether he likes it or not today, he was a shock to the system, and I might have disagreed with a few of the things he did and said. I was equally shocked when blogger and friend Michael Petrelis ran this post in May of last year.

It's fascinating to me to see a man who was such a public figure go into media hibernation and emerge years later as a different person. In that sense, good bye Luke Sissyfag, welcome back Luke Montgomery.

For more information:

  • Cause Commandos official web page here
  • Cause Commandos YouTube page here
  • Cause Commandos Twitter feed here


Stone said...

Thanks for the wonderful post.I enjoyed it thoroughly.Nice to know that even those that haven't been in the limelight lately have come out in a show of solidarity for Haiti. We can all do our part.

SGL Café.com said...

Great post. I have no memory of Luke Sissyfag (not a name easily forgotten), but I'll take your word for it. Reinventing oneself can be a very wonderful and positive thing. I wish them the best.

I also like our community visibly, boots on the ground, working hard for the Haitian people.

Awesome story in a world with so many horrible ones.

libhom said...

I met Luke Sissyfag once, and I really admired a lot of his activist work.

Wonder Man said...

this was a great post