Students visiting Shaman Drum Bookshop on South State Street yesterday may have been surprised to find bookstore workers dressed in drag and free chocolate-flavored condoms being distributed at a stall outside the store.

Paul Wong
JESSICA YURASEK/Daily
Shaman Drum Bookstore employees Patrick Elkins, Colleen Woods, Dan Velleman and manager Bob Carrie crossdressed yesterday to help raise HIV awareness.

Shaman Drum has been holding what it calls “Drag Day” in collaboration with the HIV/AIDS Resource Center since 1995, Shaman Drum trade manager Nancy Rohlen said. Dressed in men’s blue jeans and a black tank top, Rohlen explained that Shaman Drum workers began dressing up in drag for the first day of every Fall semester to promote HIV awareness after one of their managers died of AIDS. “We decided to hold Drag Day in his memory,” Rohlen said.

HARC is a non-profit HIV/AIDS service provider based in Ypsilanti that serves Washtenaw, Jackson, Livingston and Lenawee counties.

“Shaman Drum asks us to provide condoms on Drag Day,” HARC outreach worker Ben Fife said. “We are doing this so that students know where to get condoms and to get them thinking about how to protect themselves against AIDS and other (sexually transmitted diseases).”

Bookstore patrons were generally amused by the sight of workers dressed in drag, but they also realized the deeper message behind the reason for dressing in drag and distributing contraceptives. “Well, someone has to do it,” LSA freshman Lauren Dolega said. “It’s great that they were willing to dress in drag to draw students’ attention to the very real threat of HIV and AIDS.”

Rohlen added that besides being for a good cause, Drag Day helps to bring a bit of humor into their day’s work.

“It also helps build camaraderie between our workers, especially at this time of the year when many of our workers are new,” Rohlen said.

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