Yesterday, Dr. Gaither presented a new project to tell the story of the watermen of the Chesapeake Bay at the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture public meeting. This new project will be a large-scale effort to tell the stories of the men and women living and working throughout the Chesapeake Bay using objects, story quilts, photographs, oral histories, and much more. Dr. Gaither is inviting the public to participate by "adopting" a community, person, or event on the Black Watermen of the Chesapeake (BoC) quilt and create a quilt about it. It is hoped people, communities, and organizations from all areas of the state will get involved in this project to tell the story of this vibrant yet undocumented community.
This project stems from the amazing response to the Black Watermen of the Chesapeake quilt project last year. People from all over the bay turned out to share their stories and pay tribute to the men and women who have been such a vital part of Maryland's history. Initial planning meetings for the project are in the works and we are looking for people who would be interested in getting involved whether through quilting, providing information, serving as coordinators for quilting and content gathering in areas of the state, grant writers, funders, and much more. If you are interested in participating in anyway please let us know. Individuals and groups are welcome of all ages, sizes, backgrounds, and quilting experience levels. This is the perfect project for school classes to take on as a way to learn about their own history while helping to preserve it for the future.
This project is a bold initiative, but one that we know is greatly needed and will be an awesome experience for anyone involved. Bold initiatives are nothing new to Dr. Gaither or those of us who work with her on a regular basis. This project will be modeled on the Trails Tracks Tarmac exhibition which started in very much the same way -- one large quilt that tells the story of a single community that inspired so many people to tell their own stories that there wasn't enough room on the large quilt and several small quilts came into being to share those other stories. That exhibit could be considered the "practice run" for this one given the scope and number of people we want to get involved.
I should say as a word of caution for anyone wanting to get involved, Dr. Gaither has not stopped "appropriating" objects for the quilts so if you meet with her in person to talk about the project be careful what you wear. The "appropriations" were at an all time high while she worked on the BoC quilt and I know she won't stop with the new project.