Indigenous Community Center Launches Indigenous Youth Skating Team in Lawrence – The Lawrence Times

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The Indigenous Community Center aims to help local Indigenous youth build confidence and adopt healthy habits through its new skate team.

The team is open to skaters of all kinds, from skaters to skaters and beyond, united by one goal: to have fun.


“We are focused on creating a place where Indigenous youth feel seen, validated and cool,” says Monique Mercurio, ICC Vice President and Committee Leader, Navajo and Esselen Nations.

Mercurio says the need for this program is deeper than ever, as many young people are emerging from the pandemic feeling disconnected from friends and physical activity. Although the skate team focuses on young people between the ages of 13 and 25, the ICC invites everyone to join the community and show their support. This includes veteran skaters who want to share their experiences, people who love the stage but don’t really skate, or other native Lawrencians who can encourage others and be part of the community.

“We just want to create a healing space for people to get out and relate and be together, similar to the idea behind our farm,” says Robert Hicks, ICC President and Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe Member. of Nevada.

The ICC held its first skate meet on Saturday at Edgewood DIY Skate Park, adjacent to the East Lawrence Recreation Center in the Brook Creek neighborhood. The park was a community project run by the Lawrence Skaters Association in 2016. It was the first – and remains the only – skatepark in the city located east of Iowa Street.

The young skaters, their parents and other members of the community joined the meeting to show their support. Another group that participated was a small team of River Rat Skate Shopa brand that started out as a screen printing studio but expanded in 2018 to become Lawrence’s only skate shop.

Justin Shiney, co-owner of River Rat, helped establish the store’s reputation as a community advocate for grassroots organizations like the ICC, especially when it comes to encouraging local BIPOC voices. Naturally, the River Rat team has become an essential partner for the Aboriginal Youth Skating Team.

“When Justin and I were talking about the skate team, he was so excited. He volunteered to come with his guys for quick drills and safety lessons, or do a ramp building session,” explains Mercury.

Shiney believes in the power of skating to bring people together. He says the local skate scene is a diverse group of people who like to be actively involved in improving parks and encouraging the next generation of skaters. An Aboriginal youth skating team would help build on this legacy.


“Skating is about creative expression and being around other like-minded people. It’s just like one big family. And then you can take that family outside of the skatepark, and those people will be there for you whenever you need their help or support,” says Shiney.

As Mercurio and Hicks lead the skate team into the future, they want to keep the focus where it belongs: on the community. Rather than deciding on a structure for the skate team, they plan to keep it fluid and get feedback from those who will participate. But they have some ideas of what it could become.

One idea is to enter contests. River Rat hosts an annual skate competition at Centennial Park, but ICC has even bigger goals. With skate competitions taking place across the country, the organization can build capacity to sponsor their skate team’s competition fees and travel across skate ranges.

“It’s really powerful to have an indigenous team to rally behind, like for me it’s cool to see Maori teams skating in New Zealand, and Apache Youth Skateboarding Teams. With all the community support we’ve already seen, we could bring that here to Lawrence,” says Hicks.

And beyond skating, the team is just one more reason to come together as an Indigenous community. Mercurio suggests making it a family program that hosts potlucks in the future at the skatepark.

The bottom line? It’s a way to create space for Indigenous peoples to come together and connect, starting with the youth.

“It’s one of the strongest medicines my kids could get from their community,” she says.

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Friends and family of Corey Lawrence, a skateboarder who died in an accident in 2021, hope to honor his love for the sport by building a new half pipe at Centennial Park.

Indigenous Community Center / Contributing Photo

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The Lawrence Aboriginal Community Center has set aside an acre of farmland, where board members and a team of volunteers will plant perennial crops including berries, vegetables, roots, edible flowers and medicinal plants.

Dave Loewenstein/Contributed Photo

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A tight timeline for the Lawrence School Board to make decisions on school closures appears to have lit a fire under many community members coming together to “#SaveOurSchools497.”

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