By Melissa Van Der Stad
photo credit: Keith Hapip, Jr.
One North Dakota family is in the midst of an ongoing dispute with the Protect North Dakota Kids group and its primary member, Keith Hapip, Jr.
The controversial Facebook page has shared a photo featuring three kids, against the express wishes of the childrens’ guardians. When asked to take it down, the page refused.
Raquel Campbell, the mother of the children in the photo, took her kids to Pride in Bismarck this year. As a volunteer for Dakota OutRight, Campbell knows all the performers who were at the event and her children, ages 9, 6, and 3, enjoyed spending the day with their friends.
The image features all three of Campbell’s children, two of whom are handing a tip to a drag performer. Their faces are crudely crossed out, but the children remain recognizable. Campbell discovered that Protect North Dakota Kids and Hapip Jr. had co-opted an image of her children when her friends at Dakota OutRight reached out to her.
“Everyone knows that they are my children, they reached out to me before I even saw the post and said hey your kids are on this page.” said Campbell.
She quickly contacted the page. She told them that she didn’t know how they had gotten the image but that they couldn’t use it.
“I asked them not to use my children as a way to attack others. I asked them not to use (the image) for my children’s safety.”
A survivor of abuse, Campbell is careful to keep her Facebook page private for both her and her children's safety. She informed Protect North Dakota Kids of this and they declined to remove the post. They also declined to say who sent them the photo.
“I’ve contacted the Mandan police, state troopers… I called everybody I could to see what I could do about my minor children being shared on this page.” said Campbell.
As of this writing, the photo is still up on the Protect North Dakota Kids Facebook page. It is featured in several different posts, each decrying the art of drag as a danger to children.
The childrens’ grandmother, Reverend Karen Van Fossan, was also at the event.
“It was a family day, it was a very special family day. It was a really beautiful experience and the actions of Protect North Dakota Kids not long after came as a harsh surprise.”
“They literally claimed an image that wasn't theirs of children they have no relationship with to create some kind of emblem of wrong or bad or evil when actually what was happening was three children were surrounded by loving community and were absolutely awestruck by these performances of an art form.” said Reverend Van Fossan.
This wasn’t the first run-in this family has had with Hapip Jr. When Campbell shared this story with her sister, she said that her sister remembered Hapip Jr. from a former Minot pride event.
Campbell said, “My cousin lived out in Minot and went to Pride a few years ago. Keith (Hapip Jr.) was actually at that Pride and tried to manueve her child away from her during Pride and told her child in front of her fiancé, ‘come with me, we’ll get you to safety, you don’t need to be around these sinners’.”
Despite this extremely negative interaction with one anti-LGBTQ+ individual, the family hasn’t lost sight of all the positives that have come from their supportive communities.
“Every since I’ve gotten involved in the LGBTQ+ community my kids have grown a lot. The (all ages drag shows) are totally great for kids to be at. They (the performers) are just having a good time and trying to show these children that it’s okay to be who they are. That’s a major good thing for my kids to have in their lives. It's making sure that there are people out there who understand them and they have a safe space to go and be themselves.”
In short, the childrens’ mother reached the heart of the matter by saying, “The Protect North Dakota Kids group is not protecting children at all, and they are using God ad the bible as a way to attack these drag kings and drag queens.”
The page responds to a mother’s plea for her childrens’ safety with out-of-context bible verses and captions every hate-filled doxxing with words from a book that many see as an emblem of peace.
Reverend Van Fossen had this to say: “To see words that some hold as very sacred and liberating, to see those words used to harm anybody, including people in my family, is disheartening.”
As dangerous as the Protect North Dakota Kids page may be, they cannot overshadow the positive progress that North Dakota has made, as our state slowly blossoms into a community that’s more welcoming to everyone.
“The fact that pride is at the capital and that there are drag shows on the capital steps has been so empowering to me personally and I feel proud and humble to have had any part in the queer movement in N.D. that has helped us arrive where we’ve arrived.” said Reverend Van Fossan.
She is aware that people like Hapip Jr. exist, people who are eager to tear down happiness and preach their personal truths from the sidelines.
“I imagined there would be pushback, but I imagined it would be pushback against adults, I certainly experienced plenty in my own adult life. I didn’t imagine that the pushback would be against children in the name of protecting them. That’s a heartbreak.” said Reverend Van Fossan.
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