Last week, a North Carolina school hosted local drag queens, encouraging them to talk to middle school students and celebrate how people are different.
The idea was promulgated by two teachers at Central Park School for Children in Durham, North Carolina, Taylor Schmidt and Schara Brooks, who felt students identifying as LGBT were being bullied. Schmidt said, “If we’re going to be a school that’s focused on equity and justice, and if we’re going to be a school that believes in the act of liberation, we need to be creative with our approach.”
Last December the two teachers suggested to the school that an event be held to address the issue, prompting the creation of the Pride and Liberation Event.
Thus, last week Vivica C. Coxx and Stormie Daie of the House of Coxx drag house spoke at the school, along with a panel featuring a city council member. The event featured a drag show and a show from the school’s step team, as CNN reported. CNN noted, “Students were allowed to opt out of the event, but the school says most decided to attend.”
The News & Record reported:
In between Beyonce and Nikki Minaj songs, Coxx and Daie connected with the students over growing up in Durham and what it was like to feel different, slipping in quick lessons about LGBT history along the way. For one song, Daie swirled a floor-length skirt, each layer of fabric a different color of the rainbow. Cheers erupted when she pulled the skirt off to reveal a gold jumpsuit and knee-high gold boots.
Coxx stated, “Central Park didn’t water it down, but they made it age-appropriate to give a depth to social justice and activism, which is the core of the queer experience.” Coxx told CNN of the students, “I thought they must be feeling so empowered to see someone being themselves on stage. Visibility matters, and seeing a queer person of color on stage saying ‘this is me’ has an impact that no one can really measure.”
Daie added, “You hope that the children listen to this, so that they know we didn’t have this when we were growing up. We weren’t seeing people like us being celebrated.”
Schmidt said. “Our drive was to remove barriers to success, belonging and the ability to thrive for all students. It called for a hard look at the roots of these behaviors and intentional actions to liberate not just the bullied from oppressive acts, but the bully from the oppressive root causes of their actions.
The school offers a program called “Rainbow Unboxed,” noting on its website, “Rainbow Unboxed is CPSC Middle’s Gay Straight Alliance, promoting inclusion of ALL students.”
Schmidt wants other schools to follow Central Park’s lead, asserting, “If schools are nervous about doing the work of Pride and Liberation, we get it … but what to us seems daring, to our LGBTQ+ students could be lifesaving. Public school educators ultimately teach for liberation — that’s the job.” He lauded the House of Coxx, saying, “They could never see the impact of how far their work has led.”