Pronoun button party brings together members of Lawrence’s Indigenous, queer communities

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Dozens of community members gathered at Art Love Collective Friday evening for a pronoun button party. 

The event, originally planned to be held at the Lawrence Public Library, was moved to Art Love Collective after a flyer for the event was defaced with a note that conveyed “a message of hate,” according to the Facebook event page. 

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times

Garett Elliott-Minnis, Wyandotte Nation, is the president and founder of the Allies of Equality club at Haskell Indian Nations University. He started the club to empower Queer Native Americans and hopes to build relationships and share resources with other tribal colleges. 

Moniquè Mercurio, Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nation, is the director of operations for Art Love Collective. They said that Saturday marks one year of Art Love Collective, and Friday’s button event was the first event after their remodel and reopening. 

“Before we closed to remodel, we held a vigil for Nex Benedict,” Mercurio said. “It created a union that didn’t exist before.”

Members of the local Indigenous and queer communities came together at Art Love Collective last week to honor the life of Nex, a 16-year-old nonbinary student from Oklahoma who died last month after suffering injuries from a fight in their school bathroom.

Mercurio was made aware of the sticky note three days after the vigil. “We were both just hurt and appalled,” they said. 

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times Moniquè Mercurio (left) and Garett Elliott-Minnis

Mercurio encouraged Elliott-Minnis to bring the event off campus and include the larger Lawrence community. “Let’s build a reciprocal environment, a safe environment,” they said.


Elliott-Minnis said the space cultivated at Art Love Collective felt like “a safe haven for Natives.” 

“That is really rare,” he said. “That doesn’t happen very often.”

“I think that it’s important for everybody in this community to have a space to go to that they know without a doubt in their heart that it’s inclusive, it’s safe, it’s intentional,” Mercurio said.

Bringing these two communities together “is exactly the kind of energy that Art Love Collective is going to be moving with from now on,” Mercurio said.

Molly Adams / Lawrence Times

Elliott-Minnis framed the original flyer with the sticky note.

The piece was auctioned off during the event with the proceeds supporting collaborations between the local Indigenous and 2SLGBTQIA+ communities.

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Molly Adams (she/her), photojournalist and news operations coordinator for The Lawrence Times, can be reached at molly (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Check out more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

Note: A misspelled name in this article has been corrected.

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