Harmonica Sunbeam broadcasts a message of acceptance one story hour at a time
Harmonica Sunbeam, with larger-than-life blonde hair and a flowing, colorful dress, was the center of attention, as one would expect.
The Jersey City drag performer has been on stage for audiences of all ages, and Wednesday morning was a labor of love: a group of toddlers and their parents at the Drag Queen Story Hour sponsored by the Hoboken Library.
“I think it’s important for kids to see this kind of representation because different people exist and always will exist,” said Sunbeam, who has been doing drag for 32 years for children’s story hours since 2016. “If I read a story about a child who has two fathers, now if that child has another child in their class who has two fathers, it removes any form of stigma; it normalizes the situation because they have already heard about it.
She said parents bring their children to this special story time for several reasons: they think their child might be different; or they want their children to know that they are different children from them.
Children in Church Square Park were engaged throughout story time as Sunbeam sang songs with them between each story, hosted 30-second dance parties and even a rubber chicken toy.
“A lot of parents and caregivers say, ‘Oh, this one in particular wouldn’t really sit normally, so you really caught their attention'”
“It was a really wonderful event,” said Lillian Park, a mom from Jersey City. “I really appreciate the Hoboken Library for hosting it and all of their free events for kids.”
June is nationally recognized as Pride Month, but Sunbeam spreads the word of acceptance and inclusivity 12 months a year, especially during these story hours.
“A lot of times people want to see themselves in stories, and that’s why people usually say if your story isn’t there, it’s up to you to tell your story,” she said. “A lot of times young people sometimes feel like they’re the only one in their situation, so they feel a lot more comfortable knowing there’s a story out there that really speaks to their experiences.”
The last story Sunbeam read to the children was “Families, Families, Families!” on different types of family dynamics, such as having multiple siblings, living with grandparents, or even having two fathers. The message is that love makes a family, not the number of members or how they are related.
“We really enjoyed it. The harmonica was great and it was our first drag history hour,” said Erin Sidwha from Hoboken who attended the event with her son Aslan.
Sunbeam is happy to see that Pride celebrations have expanded beyond the major cities. She noted that in Hudson County, August is also Pride Month “because (June) has become so overcrowded with so many different events.”
“For years you basically had two choices, you can go to New York … or Asbury Park,” she said. “Now there are a lot of pride celebrations happening in small towns in New Jersey and it’s wonderful because often people grow up and leave their town to go where there are more people to be with. can identify.
“With these small towns celebrating pride, it allows people to be seen and to be heard and to know that at least, you know, I can expect some kind of decency living here and some appreciation for me; maybe I don’t have to leave now, maybe I can make this my home and make a difference here because I’m seen and heard.