From the beginning of the first posting, December 17, 2008, Quilting the Journey to the White House launched this site giving voice to members of several different communities with so much to say, see and to take in. Knowing my lack of technical web abilities and a much stronger desire to quilt, it’s been awhile since I have “officially” posted. Extended gratitude goes to the devoted regular postings by Genevieve Kaplan of Banneker-Douglass Museum who has kept this site viable. Within the museum educator Genevieve is a trapped statistician that is forever cognizant of patterns that “deserve recognition and celebration.” According to her, the 100th posting had to be done by me. “But you’re doing such a tremendous job! And, can’t I just quilt and talk to you?” I so enjoy reading about our conversations that share with others the stories about the quilts, the workshops, the quilting from the soul process, and the multiple stories that bring laughter, tears, and spiritual energy as we document lives and legacies in fabric.
I also need to say a special “Thank You” to my ever-increasing inter-generational supportive communities and “quilting from the soul” followers and quilters. Not to be forgotten is 3 year-old great niece London who stuffed the Oba face patterns with batting while I worked on the National Black Theatre Festival Quilt (NBTF) during the Las Vegas portion of my sabbatical leave.
In Genevieve’s most recent posting, she shared the good times had by many of the original TTT (Trails Tracks Tarmac) quilters as they added stitches to NBTF: Peggie Bessicks, Yvonne Gaither Henry, Yolande Dickerson, Margaret Eldridge, Estella Caldwell, Betty Mack, Genevieve Kaplan, my sister Kathy Ballard, and 6 year-old great niece Rockelle MoragneEl. I thank you for always being there with needles in hand and the laughter you bring to the quilt gatherings. We quilted into the night on the 7th My American Series quilt, NBTF quilt to be presented in Winston Salem, NC during August 2011 (http://www.nbtf.org/). By the way, TTT can still be seen at Bates Legacy Center in Annapolis with avid support of Northern Arundel Cultural Preservation Society (NACPS).
Needless to say, the growth of the multiple projects within the communities and our collective passion for documenting the disappearing stories as loved ones leave this earthly life, we are missing Anita Turner and Yolande’s mom quilting in heaven. We also miss my mom quilting in Newport News with my youngest sister Carolyn Wright, now her caretaker. The large documentary story quilt projects with supporting smaller contextual quilts accrue invaluable importance in preserving contributions of Americans. Look for more information about my 40 quilt decades series, momentarily entitled My Memory is Only As Good As Yours, in which I invite all to participate by creating a circular quilt panel about who you are, how we know one another, and an important memory about a person, place, or event. This time has been humbling and, yet, empowering.
Since the first posting, the fifth quilt in My American Series, Journey to the White House was exhibited January 2009 and the sixth quilt, Black Watermen of the Chesapeake Bay Quilt was launched in December 2009 during the dedication program at the Maritime Museum in Eastport Annapolis before the series was scheduled for the Hartford CT city wide quilt exhibition Community Threads. The monumental size BWCB quilt serves as the table of contents as schools, families, and church groups now adopt and begin quilting the larger stories about one of the 200+ watermen and their communities identified on the larger BWCB quilt. Please leave a comment on the site if you are interested in participating in the BWCB Extension Project. BWCB is currently on exhibit until May 30, 2011 at the Maryland States Arts Council www.msac.org/gallery in Baltimore as a part of Respecting Humanity: Quilting for Social Justice exhibition.
Numerous workshops in the community, particularly Pathway to Awareness: Quilting for Social Justice Exhibition at Maryland Institute College of Art last spring has been given extended visibility in Stitches in Time/Threads of Change Exhibition at Benjamin Banneker Historical Park & Museum in Baltimore. In addition to I Am: My Family History Quilt (2000), the impetus for documenting personal history in large format fiber and mixed media, Stitches showcases selected quilts from Pathways. My joy is seeing other quilters, seasoned and novice, pose existential questions to self and others about identity, connections to the greater American story, social (in) justice concerns, and making the world a more humane place by using quilt making materials and techniques. http://charmcitycurrent.com/bolger/category/benjamin-banneker-historical-park-museum/
Numerous other projects continue to emerge and the original TTT quilters lead quilting sessions of their own that document family ties to American history. For instance, Peggie Bessicks along with Betty Brooks will present the Harriet Tubman quilt completed by Glen Burnie Maryland John Wesley United Methodist Church members at the Montgomery County Black Memorabilia Show April 16th and 17th, 2011. Peggie and Betty facilitated the making of the Tubman quilt as each quilter selected a state in the union identified with the Underground Railroad and Tubman’s life. http://www.mcagfair.com/calendar/event_details.asp?ID=964&ch=4&y=2011. My plan for a queen-sized bed Tubman documentary story quilt is still part in the sketchbook and partially sketched in fabric pieces on my worktable. Additionally, Peggie also collaborates with Geraldine Lippman, President of Morris-Cedar Hill Improvement Association community in documenting their community’s lives and contributions to the history and culture of Anne Arundel County.
While Glen Burnie Park Elementary School students and teachers began collaboration on the history of the people, places, and events in the GB community, Genevieve has an on-going collaboration with Banneker-Douglass Museum, Anne Arundel Public Schools social studies teachers, and Black Watermen of the Chesapeake Foundation that teach high school students interviewing strategies as they uncover history and culture in conversation with seniors from Carr’s Beach in southern Anne Arundel County. Other professional development workshops facilitated by me with Anne Arundel Public Schools art teachers, MICA and Towson pre-service art teachers, broaden the scope of research and documentation in the neighborhoods that surround our schools, families and personal lives.
In closing this 100th posting, the wonderful journey, the community involvement and support, the meaningful projects, new quilters, increased museum visitors, and these extraordinary exhibitions have expanded beyond leaps and bounds. The community activities and documentary story quilts continue to grow out of interaction between groups of individuals who have become empowered by engaging in a creative process that allows them to make connections to the greater American story and to preserve a part of their own lives, a story that needs telling, one that only they can tell. If Greg Anderson of The American Wellness Project (1964) is correct, we will be involved for a very long time in that “Joy is found not in finishing an activity, but in doing it.” I humbly thank you for the continued focus on the journey. Let us with passionate urgency record our seniors stories while they are still able to share the roots of our lives and legacies.