A Philadelphia drag queen read and performed for a group of children on Sunday, only a few days after she was dis-invited from reading at a New Jersey afterschool program.
Martha Graham Cracker, the alter-ego of theater artist Dito Van Reigersberg, is a professional drag performer and lead singer at the Martha Graham Cracker Cabaret.
Philly.com reports that the cabaret’s band leader was recently contacted by a supervisor at Haddonfield Child Care, a private organization that provides afterschool care for kindergarten through eighth grade students. The supervisor asked via email if Martha could read to the children as part of the National Read Across America Day, according to the Huffington Post, claiming that he was “trying to add a bit of variety” to the program.
Yet while Martha accepted the offer, officials at Haddonfield told the supervisor that his choice was “not acceptable,” according to the Huffington Post, forcing the supervisor to cancel Martha’s appearance. The Huffington Post reports that the supervisor claimed he was never given an official reason from the program as to why Martha would be an inappropriate guest.
After the canceled invite was first reported by Philadelphia Magazine, support for Martha poured in, with many commenting on the performer’s Facebook Page.
Ultimately, the story caught the attention of Christ Church in Philadelphia who invited Martha to read Dr. Seuss to children. This time the invite was not retracted and Martha performed at the church’s neighborhood home Sunday afternoon.
"I think it was unfortunate that the decision was no for the sake of the children and for the sake of forward thinking and for the sake of great art and entertainment," said Deborah Block, a parent who attended Sunday's reading. "It's a wonderful way of honoring Dr. Seuss. Martha Graham Cracker is the embodiment of the Dr. Seuss "wonder of the world." It's beautiful."
"What do you say to people who believe it confuses children and that they shouldn't be exposed to that sort of behavior?" asked NBC10's Daralene Jones.
"Our world is full of wonderful paradoxes," replied Block. "The younger they are to get to see the inconsistencies and the questions of the world, the more they'll get to grapple with them and understand."
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The Haddonfield Child Care Board of Trustees released the following statement in response to the canceled appearance:
Haddonfield Child Care is committed to providing an environment that recognizes and encourages diversity in our staff and activities. Along with that commitment comes a responsibility to be sensitive to the developmental levels, maturity and ages of the children in our programs, which range from 5 to 11 years old. We strive to provide a variety of activities that respect the individual needs and parenting styles of all of the families we serve.