The Contra Costa County said Friday that the February 11 Storytime event featuring drag queen Bella Aldama reading storybooks to children will go on as planned.
The confirmation came after the Brentwood Library issued a press release announcing the event which created controversy and create more than a 1,200 comments on our Facebook page—both in support and against the event.
Aldama explained that Drag Queen Story Hour is reading a children’s book about diversity.
“Drag Queen Story Hour is an event that has been created to raise awareness for kids and families through literature. There is nothing wrong with reading a children’s book that display diversity and different gender identities,” said Aldama. “We are all different and everyone deserves respect and love. We are not trying to teach or brainwash anybody. Drag is just a form of gender expression.”
“I am really excited and thankful to visit the Brentwood Library. I know that many people might be opposed to this event. At the end of the day, we will take home a message of inclusiveness, self acceptance and self love,” said Aldama.
Brooke Converse, spokesperson for the library system, explained the event is not aimed to push an agenda or showcase drag in general, but rather it is just a performance.
“We stand by the event,” said Converse. “Part of the misunderstanding is what the event is and isn’t, this person is a performer who will sit and read to kids. It’s just a person in costume and reads books to kids about being inclusive and love. They may have a few laughs and that is it.”
Converse continued by highlighting that part of what the library is for is to be inclusive for all parts of the community and considered this reading no different than any other event they have across their system whether it be magicians, puppets, dancing, singling or cultural event, this performer is like everyone else.
In fact, a similar event with Bella Aldama occurred last September in El Cerrito which was part of a larger event. She says the event did not have much opposition.
Aldama says the El Cerrito event and other events were generally welcoming.
“Our first Drag Queen Story Hour was at Half Price Books in Concord. After that we had two of these events in El Cerrito. (One at The Rainbow Community Center and one at El Cerrito Library) I never thought parents and kids would be so happy and excited! We had great attendance to these three events. It was really exciting to see LGBTQ+ parents as well as allies with their kids. Everyone was so welcoming and thankful for the events. Many kids were participating, singing and dancing,” explained Aldama.
According to the Press Release issued earlier this week, Drag Queen Story Hour originated at the San Francisco Public Library, and celebrates diversity and empathy. Brooklyn librarian Judy Zuckerman describes it as “a fun and important program that celebrates diversity in the way that children may dress and act. It encourages children to look beyond gender stereotypes and embrace unfettered exploration of self.
The event is sponsored by the Friends of the Brentwood Library who funds multiple programs throughout the year at the Brentwood Library.
Mary Lou Klovee, president of the organization, explained they provided the funding which is through community donations and fundraising opportunities, however the library staff picks the events.
She said Liz Fuller, Brentwood Library Manager, came up with the event, not the Friends of the Brentwood Library. Klovee said parents have a choice of whether they want their children to attend or not and encouraged them to just “parent”.
“Friends of the Brentwood Library raises funds, so they have programs for the children, teenagers and adults, this was one they said they wanted to have. If it is something that you don’t care about or you don’t wish your children to be exposed to, then don’t go. If you do, then go,” said Klovee. “We are not trying to make a big statement or big anything, this is just a reading.”
According to Fuller, she explained they have thought about hosting the event for a while.
“Several libraries in the Bay Area and around the country have held these. With our full staff and new library it seemed like a good time to offer it,” said Fuller. “This is one of many programs we provide so it wasn’t a huge leap to add this as well.”
She said they are looking forward to Bella Aldama’s performance.
“We offer a variety of programs that reflect diversity, including an African Dance program later this month, and other music and dance programs from cultures around the world,” explained Fuller. “We hope to bring people and ideas together, our mission statement, and try to present experiences to the public that they might not see regularly. Belle Aldama’s storytime will be one of many special programs we’ll be offering this year.”
When asked if the event could change peoples perspectives about drag, Aldama explained the message is about inclusiveness and love.
“I am aware that people might be against this Story Hour concept and it’s understandable. We were all raised differently and that’s respectable. I’m sure everyone will take home a message of inclusiveness, acceptance and love,” said Aldama.
If You Go:
Monday, February 11 at 6:30 pm at the Brentwood Community Center (35 Oak St)