The purple fabric around the edge signifies spirituality and protection. The green is the color for life, a life-giving color. And those tassels on the end that are covered up are all green as well – for life. And then as you come in all of these fabrics are from Africa and they represent the motherland.
Then as you go around it, there’s a whole line of safety pins that signify the pain of being pulled from the motherland in slavery so that’s what these pins are for. Then just beyond that is the blue fabric which is the Middle Passage representing the water. The red and the black represent the lives that were lost in the Middle Passage. And this purple, this big rope right here that is covered with the Stars and Stripes, I borrowed that idea from Faith Ringgold, who is a quilter and she usually puts this on the outside edge to anchor the quilt to give them some body. But this, it signifies being brought into the U.S. and being trapped in this space.
Just beyond that is the railroad fabric which has become sort of my signature piece of fabric and that here recognizes and honors the Underground Railroad. And on it, in this case for Barack Obama, every other box here represents, with the green around it, life – life experiences or highlights in his life starting from when he was born over there, coming all the way around. And then the other squares are pieces of legislation that are tied to his name while he was in the Senate. So when people say “What did he do,” well he did a lot. So all of these things are here.
And then what I like about the quilt, this kind of quilt, is that usually there is a center theme and in this case honoring Mr. President Barack Obama.And there are squares that anchor the quilt. There’s symbols that show up all the time. So I’ve anchored the quilt with hearts which are his family. So I have his mother down there, his father’s up here, his father’s mother is over there, and his mother’s mother – his grandmother that just passed - is in this bottom square. I realized in research that his father was not as evident, you know – present - so I put this red fabric over the top of it to signify he’s here, but not here. And I have another image I just printed it off the screen and am going to try to get it on today while we’re working on it to put back here.
As you come in from the corners to the center, I have anchored those with like a fleur de lis pattern and usually within the fleur de lis are words of wisdom. And you know what, Vivian I have part of one of Tony’s [Spencer] poems are spread throughout here. [Vivian Gist Spencer: Really?] So when I do the book, I going to be sure to give him credit for that, ok? But these are words, a lot of the words came from Barack’s books and from things that you see, you know, in his talks.Here’s a couple things, there are also symbols like a cornucopia and fruit bowl that show up all the time, so I thought “They signify plenty, a lot of stuff, and I went…what’s there are a lot of.” I went [snapping fingers] a lot of candidates. So over there with the cornucopia all of the Democratic candidate faces are over there and in the fruit bowl over here I have Republican candidate faces over here.
Usually there is a tree of life, which usually would have like family names and stuff like that on it, but for here I made this “Our American Family.” We are white, brown, black, yellow. We’re Democrat, Republican, we’re gay, we’re straight, we’re Christian, we’re Atheist, we’re all of these things for Our American Family.And here’s a couple quick things I like about this quilt. The day after he won the nomination, all the newspaper headlines throughout the US - that was the headline of the day. So the anchor lines, the horizontal lines that structure the quilt, all of the states in the Union are represented here – all 50 states with the headlines from the newspapers the day after his nomination. So Illinois – “He’s Number One,” Indiana – “Obama Over the Top,” Iowa – “Obama”, I can’t read this, oh, “Secures the Bid,” Kansas – “Obama Lays Claim to Party Nomination,” “Obama Makes History.” So all 50 of the states have been embroidered through here. And there’s this machine, you know, we used to do all this by hand but there’s this very cool computer that you can just type the words in and it’s hooked to a sewing machine. And so it just types your words and the sound that it makes is sort of like “ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-choom,” changes to another letter, “ch-ch-ch-ch-choom,” changes to another letter and then it goes like “ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-choom, ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-choom, ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-shooooom.” That’s a space, you know, kind of thing. And it’s like the coolest thing. But we used to do all of this by hand but there’s a computer that will do it.
Trying to think what else. Oh! And then the buttons all that are down here have been given to me by various folks and the big button in the middle, Ms. [Ruth] Brooks over here, Taylor, who makes all of these wonderful angels, she gave me that one right there to put on the quilt. There’s my friend from New York State brought me some hologram buttons that move and change. It says “Yes We Can”/“Yes We Did” on there. And Ruth the angel maker, I’ve always been so inspired by her work and she made four small angels. I always anchor the corners with angels for God’s presence or a spiritual presence in all corners of our lives. So she made these specifically for me and they say “Obama” on them with the African cloth so there’s one in each corner.