Upcoming event to continue amplifying Indigenous voices in efforts toward abortion justice

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The Indigenous Community Center (ICC) this Saturday will host an awareness event focused on abortion justice and how Indigenous people have been impacted ever since white settler colonization first occurred.

The Indigenous Voices & Abortion Justice event is scheduled for 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday, July 16 at the Lied Center, 1600 Stewart Drive. It will feature a panel discussion, food and art vendors, and music.

“We definitely wanted to create an event where we have healing because this conversation is going to be hard. There are going to be things you don’t want to hear, but in our culture and in many cultures, along with those hard conversations are a balance of healing and recognition to those in the community that take care of us,” said Moniqué Mercurio, ICC vice chair and community coordinator.

The ICC created this event to expand upon concepts discussed at a recent Indigenous voices panel on abortion justice and institutional violence.

Indigenous Community Center / Contributed Image

Guest speakers on Saturday’s panel will include Mercurio (Navajo people and Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nations) along with Jimmy Beason (Osage Nation (Eagle Clan)), scholar and professor; Sarah Deer (Muscogee (Creek) Nation), author and KU professor; Kayla Hansley, full-spectrum doula; Alexandra Holder (Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska), Haskell Indian Nations University student and Ms. Haskell 2019-20; and State Rep. Christina Haswood’s (Navajo Nation) policy team. Sierra Two Bulls (Oglala Lakota), ICC community coordinator, will moderate the discussion.

Food vendors will include Morning Light Kombucha with locally crafted kombucha drinks, Café Corazón with artisanal Latin American coffee and baked goods, and Peaches Fry Bread with Navajo tacos and dessert fry bread, according to event promotion.

BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) creators will also be sharing and selling their work. Vendors will include Iris Cliff, Forever Flowering Designs, Han’s Honey, 1 Ocean Lane, MercTribe Designs, Hats by Frendida, Coup Count Designz, Cherie’s Scents, Doula Kay, Miranda Bradford, and Resumes by Neesha.

Having food and art vendors is a chance for the community to shop local and support BIPOC businesses. Beyond monetary support, it’s a chance to honor Indigenous culture.

“Our artists are bringing us medicine through what they create. They bring joy, they’re made with intention [and] they’re made with love. And our Indigenous food vendors and the way that they care for the community is just as important and vital, so we would really love to see some support for them,” Mercurio said.

ICC Chair Robert Hicks added that “It’s much more than just selling stuff. Why we have these kinds of events is because the arts and all that [are] so significant to ourselves and our healing that they’re much more than an aesthetic, and I think a lot of non-Indigenous people just look at our art as an aesthetic rather than what actually is.”

Mercurio said Saturday’s event is very much welcome to non-Indigenous folks but that allies need to show up the “right way” by educating themselves ahead of time on issues Indigenous people have long been vocal about.

“If you want to stand up, have a voice, take action, and do something then you better come educated. It’s really hard to want to have these conversations with privileged communities because sometimes they don’t put their egos aside to listen. But I have to honor those who came before me who didn’t have the platform that I have,” Mercurio said.

Mercurio said that at a recent pro-abortion rights rally in Lawrence, she was angered to see white people throughout the crowd using the red-painted handprint symbol on their bodies. The symbol is the cornerstone of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) movement but has been stolen by non-Indigenous people on various occasions.

She said before asking Indigenous folks to explain concepts, such as MMIW, allies should first seek accessible information on their own.

“Google at home [and] try to understand. If you want to know why we’re so angry about why you’re appropriating the red handprint and the sacredness of that red handprint, then be a good ally and do some research,” Mercurio said.

Ahead of Saturday’s event, visit this link for more information on historical violence toward Indigenous people and abortion justice, this link for information on MMIW, and this link and this link for information on residential schools.

The ICC team will also use this event platform to encourage early voting in the Kansas primary election, so that people are sure to get their vote counted if summer traveling causes them to be away on Aug. 2. Early in-person voting opened on Wednesday. On the primary ballot is a constitutional amendment, called Value Them Both, which if passed will give legislators a path to fully ban abortions in Kansas. If the amendment is not passed, there will remain a constitutional right to abortion in Kansas.

Saturday’s event is free and no registration is required to attend. For more information and to stay updated on this event and future events, visit the Indigenous Community Center’s website, Facebook page, Instagram, and Twitter.

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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