The Lavender Newsletter creates central space for queer unity

By A. Oishii Basu, Staff Writer

In the 1970s, Champaign-Urbana was home to one of the first lesbian publications in the country, the Lavender Prairie News. This past month, Jada Fulcher and Sophie West, the founders of new The Lavender Newsletter, have paid tribute to them. 

The Lavender Newsletter, cofounded by Fulcher and West, is a queer-run newsletter bringing events and information to the queer community in C-U. This October, they published their first issue.

Fulcher and West met in assistant professor Corey Van Landingham’s fall creative nonfiction writing class, their senior years at the University. This past summer, they were spending time together after not having seen each other in awhile. 

“We were just chilling and talking about projects we want to do in our dreams,” West said. 

They shared an ambition of creating a queer publication in town. Fulcher had seen a display at the Urbana Free Library in honor of pride month about the Lavender Prairie. They began looking into old editions and the history of the newsletter.

“This is really cool,” Fulcher said. “Why doesn’t Champaign-Urbana have anything like this right now? And then we realized we could just make that happen.”

They spent the summer reading every issue of the Lavender Prairie from 1976 to the early 2000s. 

“When people think about queer history, they think about it in these giant epicenters,” Fulcher said. “They think about Los Angeles. They think about New York. They don’t think about places like Champaign-Urbana.”

Both said that the Lavender Prairie was predominantly a calendar of events in the Midwest for women and lesbians. West and Fulcher explained that they also wanted to expand upon this with more content and community engagement in the form of comics and horoscopes.

“The initial Lavender Prairie kind of became obsolete because of the rise in popularity and accessibility from the internet,” West said. “It kind of stopped as the internet became a community space. And here it is, reemerging because we find that the internet is not enough of a community space.”

The original publication roused the creation of their newsletter and propelled them forward. 

“There’s kind of a lot of inspiration from wanting to create such a thing at that time and to see the good it could do in a community,” Fulcher said. “We wanted to emulate that.”

Fulcher and West aim for The Lavender Newsletter to build the queer community and provide resources in C-U. Both said they know that being young and queer can often make one feel detached.

“It can be really isolating in this community even though we have such a large population of queer people here compared to a lot of other midwestern cities,” Fulcher said.

To combat this isolation, The Lavender Newsletter works to provide a space for queer unity.

“We wanted it to be a central space,” Fulcher said. “It kind of feels like you need to follow all the right people on Instagram or know all the right queers to know what’s happening in the queer community in this town, otherwise you’re shut out.”

On their Instagram, @thelavendernewsletter, they’ve begun classified advertisements, allowing queer residents with similar interest to interact with one another.

“People will be like ‘Hey, I’m looking for friends who wanna play D&D (Dungeons and Dragons),’ for example, who are in town and also queer,” West said. “We’ll post that and try to get these folk in touch with each other.”

Their idea of a central space exceeds more than just providing community connections. They want to become a place for queer people to express their own art and notions.

“Part of our goal down the line is to be a space where queer people can submit their own thoughts and be published in a publication in their town,” West said. “Reflecting the people in our community in that way.” 

The Lavender Newsletter is a collective working to nurture the queer community through their presence, they said. For those looking for queer community, The Lavender Newsletter is making that possible.

“If anyone is young and queer out there and they wanna make something happen, if you’re in Champaign-Urbana, I think they should try it,” West said. “This is a very nourishing and welcoming community.”

 

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