Home' LOTL : May 14 Contents 32 Lesbians On The Loose Magazine • lotl.com
Sometimes a vacation is just a vacation. But sometimes it’s a
chance to connect and to contemplate your place in the uni-
verse. It’s a chance to be moved to engender change, to make
a difference. That’s what happened when I ventured out on Olivia
Travel’s Leadership and Equality Cruise, Feb. 1–8, 2014.
The cruise took us across the Caribbean Sea, with stops at Grand
Turk, San Juan, St. Thomas, and Holland America’s private Baha-
mian island, Half Moon Cay. Each stop was filled with every pos-
sible kind of excursion, from zip-lining to snorkelling to city tours
to kayaking. Each stop was more gorgeous than the next. But more
than that, it was just incredibly empowering to be out and loud and
proud, with everyone around you supporting your commitment to
And because this was not just a cruise, but a leadership and equal-
ity conference as well, it featured an all-star array of special guests and
speakers, including writer, poet, and activist Maya Angelou; civil rights
pioneer Edie Windsor; chair of the Democratic National Commit-
tee, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz; president of Elizabeth Birch
Company/Global Out, Elizabeth Birch; and executive director of the
National Center for Lesbian Rights, Kate Kendall.
The cruise was also jam-packed with entertainment: Grammy
winners and political activists the Indigo Girls; actress Meredith
Baxter; comedians Gina Yashere, Linda Williams, and Vicki Shaw;
and the band Antigone Rising. My head was reeling from the mo-
ment we got on board.
The ship itself, Holland America’s Westerdam, was gorgeous. The
theme nights, including White Night, Show Your Roots (hometown
pride), Sheros (female heroes), and Formal Night were great fun.
The dance floor, whether on the deck or at “Club O” in the crow’s
nest of the ship, was always packed. The pool games, bingo, the late-
night dessert buffet, all of it was amazing. But it was the panels and
speakers that made this cruise so powerful and unique.
Maya Angelou was scheduled to be our keynote speaker, but a
few days before embarkation, her doctor deemed her unfit to travel.
Olivia jumped into action and confirmed that she would appear via
satellite instead. It wasn’t the same, but it sure was better than not
getting to see her at all.
“ Welcome, my sisters, my daughters, my friends,” she began. It
was clear that she wasn’t 100 percent, but she thrilled and delighted
us all, nonetheless. She called the ladies of Olivia “rainbows in the
clouds,” and sang to us: “ When it look like the sun ain’t gonna shine
any more, God put a rainbow in the clouds.”
She was gentle and strong and sweet. I couldn’t help but cry through
most of it. I was an English major in college, with a focus on black
women’s literature, and hearing her speak felt a lot like coming home.
“Olivia is a rainbow in the clouds. In the worst of times, there is a
possibility of seeing light,” she told us again.
Angelou’s presentation was like a glorious piece of performance
art—song and poetry, recitation and smart quips, and moments
of pure inspiration: “ I never trust people who don’t laugh.” “ I am a
human being. Nothing human can be alien to me.” And, “ Without
courage, you cannot be anything else consistently.” Toward the end of
her time with us, she had to be connected to her oxygen tank. “ I am
a patient of COPD, so I need more oxygen than I can get. I have to
put this on. Please don’t be alarmed,” she said. “ You are developing,”
she told us. “Thank you for being rainbows in the clouds.”
It was a powerful start to what turned out to be an incredibly
powerful and empowering week.
The first panel of the week was called “Activism in Action: The
Importance of Creating Your Own Future Through Political Par-
ticipation” and featured Rep. Wasserman Schultz; Aditi Hardikar,
director of the LGBT Leadership Council at the Democratic Na-
tional Committee; and Claire Lucas, a senior advisor for Public-Pri-
vate Partnerships at USAID. Judy Dlugacz, Olivia’s president and
founder, was the moderator.
Rep. Wasserman Schultz kicked off the panel with a rousing
speech. “ Being a woman before the Affordable Care Act was a pre-
existing condition,” she joked. The packed theatre could not get
enough of her message, which included this advice: “ Run for office.”
She was reminding us that there is still too much at stake that really
CELEBRATING THE TRAVEL TRIUMPHS OF OLIVIA.
BY JENNY BLOCK
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