On April 11, the international LGBTQ organization Rainbow Railroad launched a fundraising campaign at a benefit party held at the home of Phil Palmer (with the help of All Aboard committee member Bruce Koff) on North Lake Shore Drive.
The gathering featured the organization's executive director, Kimahli Powell, and a solo performance by Russian violinist and former refugee Artem Kolesov. During the gathering, Nigerian immigrant Valentine spoke about his flight from his country due to several mob attacks on his life and how Rainbow Railroad helped him attain asylum in the United States. The event served as a launch for organized fundraising in the Chicago area, with Stonewall Sports Chicago making a contribution at the start of the evening.
Rainbow Railroad is one of the few organizations focused on rescuing LGBTQ individuals facing persecution in their home countries and bringing them to safety. In the spirit of the Underground Railroad, the mission of the organization is to aid individuals who seek safe haven from state enabled violence, persecution or murder. The organization provides resources, information, safe transit and support networks to LGBTQ people from around the world. The organization works without government funding and is dependent on contributions.
Powell said to the gathering, "We give individuals the pathway to their true self."
Valentine shared his story of escaping Nigeria, where homosexuality is illegal. In his story he spoke about being abducted, stripped naked and attacked by a mob before connecting with the Rainbow Railroad, which provided him with travel support. Valentine now lives in New York City and is working with an LGBTQ immigration organization.
Kolesov flew in from his home in California to perform at the event.
Rainbow Railroad was founded in 2006 and has helped more than five hundred individuals find safety throughout the world. For more information on supporting Rainbow Railroad, visit RainbowRailroad.com .