In response to a troubling surge of anti-drag and anti-LGBTQ harassment across the city in recent months, Jackson Heights elected officials led a community rally on Friday, Oct. 28, to show solidarity for Drag Story Hour and the Queens Public Library.
In September, protesters shouted homophobic epithets at drag performers at a reading at Elmhurst Library and allegedly defaced the district office of Councilman Shekar Krishnan.
“We have seen four incidents of hate and homophobia in our community in recent weeks, including one at my own office,” Krishnan said. “Our neighbors are being targeted and we won’t stand for it. Here in Jackson Heights, we show our children to stand up for each other; we teach them that all are loved. We are proud to support the beautiful storytellers of Drag Story Hour because their love and joy will always drown out the hate.”
Drag Story Hour NYC (formerly Drag Queen Story Hour NYC) produces storytelling and creative arts programs for children and teens, presented by local drag artists, in libraries, schools and other community spaces in all five boroughs.
“We are so grateful for the outpouring of support that Drag Story Hour NYC has received in the wake of heightened national backlash and media attention,” Drag Story Hour NYC Executive Director Oliver Click said. “This support – from parents, teachers, libraries, city officials and local community organizations – has enabled us to not only continue our programming as usual, but to expand our outreach and bring our mission of celebrating creativity, empathy and joyful self-expression to the communities that need it most.”
Queens Public Library has hosted Drag Story Hour at its branches since 2018.
“They inspire a love of reading while teaching deeper lessons on diversity, understanding and appreciation of others,” QPL president and CEO Dennis Walcott said. “Given the ongoing attempts across this country to silence and devalue ideas through hateful behavior and book bans and challenges, the library’s role is exceedingly important. We provide free access to knowledge, opportunity and diversity – even dissonant, uncomfortable or provocative – voices and points of view.”
Walcott said QPL stands firmly behind the LGBTQ+ community and thanked Krishnan and his colleagues in government for their support.
“There are many parents, myself included, who are choosing to raise their children in Jackson Heights because we want our children immersed in diversity,” state Senator Jessica Ramos said. “I’ll welcome the joy that Drag Story Hour offers over the bigotry of a loud, select few any day.”
Several of the protesters interrupted a recent street fair organized by Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz.
“The culturally rich and diverse history and composition of the Jackson Heights community is what makes us the most unique in the state, and possibly the country,” Cruz said. “We stand united here today with a clear message: hate has no home here. We proudly welcome the Drag Story Hour to our community, and remain committed to programming that enhances and educates our families and neighbors.”
The protesters were so intense, a community affairs officer from the 115th Precinct had to lead away from a confrontation with the elected leaders.
“There’s no place for LGBTQIA+ hate in our community. The neighborhoods that I represent in Queens aren’t only racially, ethnically and religiously diverse, but diverse in gender identity and sexual orientation as well,” Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas said. “We must celebrate and uplift diversity in all its forms and combat hate whenever we see it.”
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said Drag Story Hour enriches children’s lives with their engaging and exciting stories while teaching them the values of empathy and respect for others, as well as themselves.
“I am beyond proud to say that this incredible program, and our LGBTQIA+ community across Queens, will always have the unabashed support it deserves from my office,” Richards said. “When we say all are welcome in Queens, we mean it, and we will continue to lead by example.”