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Student group hosts drag show to raise money for LGBT refugees

Drag performers take the stage at The Summit on March 3. Credit: Sara Stacy | Lantern Reporter

In celebration of the upcoming Jewish holiday, the Ohio State student group Jewish Voice for Peace hosted a Purim drag show on Friday night to raise money for LGBT refugees in Columbus.

The event took place at The Summit, located at 2210 Summit Street, and featured eight different drag performances that ranged from groups to duos to solo performers. All tips for the performers and the cover charges went toward the cause, which raised $1,219 for Stonewall Columbus’ Refugee Community Initiative, a campaign that aims to help provide housing and other basic needs for LGBT refugees.

“We really wanted to advocate for refugees that are often overlooked by mainstream advocacy agencies,” said Elaine Cleary, president of Jewish Voice for Peace and a fourth-year in economics and political science. “Refugees that are LGBT face a whole different host of issues than refugees outside of that community and, especially in a place like Columbus, we really wanted to make sure that we are supporting the most vulnerable in our community.”

JVP partnered with 15 different organizations, both OSU-based and Columbus-based, to put on the event, and Stonewall Columbus co-hosted the show.

Siobhan Boyd-Nelson, Stonewall Columbus’ development manager, said LGBT refugees face particular challenges when coming to the United States from their home countries.

“Once the refugees come to Columbus, we’ve got amazing immigrant populations here, but those communities themselves may continue to have some of the homophobia of their native countries, and therefore Stonewall can step in to be a resource and to be a family for those people,” Boyd-Nelson said.

Obstacles faced by LGBT refugees are just one aspect that JVP focuses on, but using a drag show to raise funds for the group ties in well with the holiday of Purim, Cleary said.

“(Purim) is all about people being in another land and having issues with that, then celebrating your vitality anyway through drinking and dancing and dressing up and costume. So (the show) is sort of in theme with the holiday of Purim,” Cleary said.

As a Jewish organization, Cleary said there are members of JVP who have a special connection with refugee populations.

“This is a really personal issue for a lot of our members. My dad is an immigrant, a lot of people (in JVP) come from immigrant backgrounds, and the Jewish experience is a refugee experience in a lot of cases,” Cleary said.

The group CMB # was the first act of the night. One of its members, Amanda Bality, is an OSU graduate whose father was a Jewish immigrant.

“I told (JVP) when we applied, that, even if they don’t pick us to perform, we would still be here because this is something that we care about. So I was, like, ‘Heck yeah, we will come,’” Bality said.

Boyd-Nelson said she was inspired to see Ohio State students spending their time and resources to help LGBT refugees in Columbus.

“The fact that we have Ohio State here and we have young people with very open minds is amazing and it’s part of what makes Columbus so great,” Boyd-Nelson said. “Students really taking time out of their lives to make time for others just speaks to the philanthropy of this community and how smart and open the city of Columbus is.”

This year, the Purim holiday begins on the evening of March 11.

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