Drag story hour at park went on as planned despite protest

Tensions flared on Saturday at a Keiki Community Fair at a public park that featured drag performers.
Published: Apr. 30, 2023 at 11:06 AM HST|Updated: Apr. 30, 2023 at 11:08 AM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Tensions flared on Saturday at a Keiki Community Fair at a public park that featured drag performers, but organizers say they considered the event a success despite the controversy.

The event was organized by the nonprofit Family Promise of Hawaii, which has helped homeless families and children for almost two decades.

They said Saturday’s event focused on food distribution and offering services to the community’s most vulnerable.

Protesters at the event told HNN when they found out it also involved drag performers reading to kids at a public park; they felt it crossed the line and wanted to make their voices heard.

“Can you imagine coming to this event with your child to have a fun day in the park and the next thing that you see are two grown men wearing costumes trying to pretend to be women,” said Sheryl Bieler, one of the protesters who showed up to A’ala Park.

Police presence was heavy to avoid clashes between supporters and opponents of the event.

“People think we are against the gay community and we’re not. We’re not even against the trans community. But when you bring it to our children, you’ve crossed the line,” said Bieler.

Supporters formed a line in front of the event at A’ala Park to block the protesters who held signs that said “protect our keiki” and “Jesus saves from the wrath of god.”

“I understand that there is this big political storm going on right now, but we are just trying to bring something wholesome and fun to the community,” said Dan Paul Roberts, a drag performer known as “Candi Shell.”

Some critics said they were also concerned taxpayer money was being used to support an event with drag performers.

A DOE school bus was seen at the park. Organizers say the department partnered with the event to provide free books to the community.

The state health department says its contract funds to Family Promise to support services for homeless children and families and that some funding went to rentals for tents, tables, and chairs for the event. However, the DOH claims no money went to funding the drag performances.

A full statement from the DOH reads:

The Department of Health (DOH) is concerned about the spread of misinformation, propagation of divisiveness and efforts to interfere with vulnerable children’s receipt of food, clothes, and health screening. The DOH supports inclusivity, acceptance, and caring for our vulnerable populations.

DOH contracts with Family Promise to coordinate support and services for homeless children and families. Family Promise will use some of that funding for rentals (tents, tables, chairs, etc.) and gift cards for homeless families at the upcoming Keiki Community Fair. Contract funds will not be used for the planned Drag Story Hour. Also at the event, staff from DOH and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will be on-site to provide lead screening that can be crucial for healthy childhood development.