This post has been updated (Monday, December 16, 2:20 pm) to include this update:
Kira Zylstra, the acting director of All Home, has resigned her position as a result of the events described in this post. According to King County Department of Community and Human Services spokeswoman Sherry Hamilton, DCHS chief of staff Denise Rothleutner “has stepped in to provide oversight and supervision to the All Home staff.” The investigation into the event and the leadership of All Home is ongoing, according to Hamilton.
This post has been updated (Saturday, December 14, at 10:45 am) to include video from the event.
Kira Zylstra, the acting director of the agency that coordinates King County’s response to homelessness, All Home, has been put on administrative leave pending an investigation involving a solo drag show at the group’s annual conference by Spokane-based performer Beyonce St. James, who reportedly danced on tables, gave lap dances, and stripped down to a pair of silver pasties as people threw dollar bills.
Although some who saw the performance called it fun, “fabulous” and a rare opportunity for queer people of color—St James is black— to be represented in the sort of space usually dominated by straight white people, others disagreed, complaining that the show was too “sexual” and forced people to participate in a sexualized performance without prior consent.
UPDATE: Here’s the video (possibly NSFW):
The theme of the conference was “decolonizing our collective work.”
In emails, representatives of King County declined to comment about the investigation.
“We have placed the director of All Home on administrative leave pending the results of an investigation into the event and the leadership of All Home.”
Denise Rothleutner, deputy director of King County’s Department of Community and Human Services, said in an email: “The department is aware of an event that occurred during the All Home annual conference on December 9, 2019. We have placed the director of All Home on administrative leave pending the results of an investigation into the event and the leadership of All Home. Because there is an active investigation underway, I am unable to respond to specific questions about the event.”
Besides funders and city and county employees, the crowd included representatives from groups like Mary’s Place, Neighborhood House, Catholic Community Services, and other religiously affiliated organizations.
The controversy comes at a critical time for homelessness agencies, as the city and county prepare to merge their homelessness agencies into a single regional authority. As part of that process, All Home would be replaced by a new advisory board that would make recommendations to the new authority.
I’ve reached out to St. James to learn more about her work as a performer and activist and will update this post with additional information.