TAHLEQUAH -- While many businesses and organizations shut down early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Cherokee Nation citizen and artist Keli Gonzales decided to do her part in helping local communities and organizations through online fundraising.
Earlier this year, she launched a fundraising campaign through Bonfire, an online apparel company, to sell T-shirts and raise money for the organization Tri-City Collective in Tulsa.
"I was like 'how can I help?' You feel helpless when you can't go protest things you don't agree with or you want to show support," she said. "I had a friend who has just launched a campaign through Bonfire, and I went to look at it and you can send funds directly to a nonprofit organization, and I thought that's perfect, that way I don't have to physically go anywhere or mail shirts out."
Gonzales said she raised money for TCC with a "Black Lives Are Sacred" design, written in the Cherokee syllabary. She was prompted to recently re-launch the campaign.
Gonzales has also been approached to help the Cherokee Children's Home in North Carolina for her next fundraising venture.
"They're an organization that's been there for 50 years and they help Cherokee kids who have come from an abusive background and they don't have anywhere else to go so they take care of them there. A lot of their stuff is funded by donations, so I thought that's perfect. Anything for kids or language or art or anything like that I'm up for helping," she said.
Gonzales said her goal is to sell at least 50 shirts.
"I set a goal for 50 shirts. That's how it works is like the company gets paid for the product but the design money comes to me, but that money is going to the organization (instead)," she said. "The last one I did raised over $1,100, which was really exciting so I thought I can keep doing this even smaller organizations. It's active for 15 days and after that they'll ship out."
The design she used for the Cherokee Children's Home fundraiser is titled "Ball Play" and portrays a game of social stickball with a woman's hand reaching up for the ball with stickball sticks in the background, on the back of the shirt, with a stickball image in the top left corner on the front.
"It's depicting the Cherokee social game," she said. "In a lot of my work I like to center women, and that's just showing a female person grabbing the ball and everyone else has sticks, and I thought it would be really neat to have female hands coming up and grasping."
Her campaigns can be found at https://www.bonfire.com/store/adananv/.
She said she is looking for the next organization or community to help. "I'm still trying to find other organizations to donate. I thought it would be really good to just use what I'm best at, which is just drawing and putting that on a shirt. I was like people would want this I think. A lot of Native communities have been hit pretty hard by COVID and they still need help with supplies and things like that and I'm trying to find Native groups who would need that money."
To contact Gonzales, email firstname.lastname@example.org.