Lori Divine will read "Go, Dog, Go!" by P.D. Eastman for Athens Pride's third virtual drag storytime. (Courtesy/Athens Pride)

In the face of COVID-19 closures and cancellations, Athens Pride is exploring new, socially distant ways of engaging with the Athens community.

The non-profit organization will host its third virtual drag storytime at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 22. The event will be held via live stream on Athens Pride’s Facebook page and will be streamed from Hendershot’s in downtown Athens.

Athens Pride has held a virtual storytime every Friday this month in partnership with Avid Bookshop, which donated children’s books to be read. Previous readers include current Mx. Athens Pride, Ravion Starr, and Miss Lacie Bruce.

Miss Lori Divine, who has more than 30 years of drag experience, will be reading on Friday. She has selected books she described as being “very Lori Divine.” One of her choices is “Go, Dog. Go!” by P. D. Eastman because of its personal, sentimental value.

Although Divine prefers to perform for a live audience and isn’t big on digital drag shows, she agreed to be part of the event so she could give back to the community, she said. This will be her first time ever reading for a drag storytime.

“I’m that favorite auntie that everyone has,” Divine said. “You’re like, oh god, she’s coming out. I don’t know what she’s gonna be wearing, I don’t know what she’s gonna say and I don’t know what she’s gonna do, but we’re gonna have a good time.”

Cameron Harrelson, vice president and spokesperson of Athens Pride, said the COVID-19 pandemic has had the organization rethinking its outreach and engagement strategies, such as using online methods like live streaming for virtual storytime.

Athens Pride continues to provide Athens’ LGBTQ community with access to necessary resources, and encourages community members to reach out if they need help, Harrelson said. He has found this access to be more important now than ever.

In addition to facing problems rooted in housing, food and job insecurity, which have been worsened because of the coronavirus pandemic, LGBTQ people are now “stuck in homes that are not necessarily the most supportive environment,” Harrelson said. They might not feel connected, loved and accepted by the people they’re surrounded with, he said.

Harrelson said this is where Athens Pride steps in, whether virtually or in person, by “creating those spaces for people to be exactly who they are” with people who accept them.

“We’re still here,” Divine said. “I wanted to be able to send that message out to everyone… we’re still in this together.”

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