By Emily Croft, Staff Writer
Story Quilts, a national project dedicated to truth and reconciliation, is in Cincinnati and challenging Xavier students to be a part of the conversations surrounding systemic racism and social justice.
The project is a part of National Truth and Reconciliation, a division of the Center for Community Resilience at Washington University and the Truth and Reconciliation Grant Program. It is presented via the Learning Through Art (LTA).
The program was inspired by Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi, an African-American author and quilter, who created a quilt in response to the death of George Floyd. Her quilts hang in art museums around the world, and these quilts sparked an interest in the director of Story Quilts, Kathy Wade.
“In my head, I knew that I wanted to do something where we could combine art to have these difficult conversations about truth and reconciliation around racism,” Wade said.
Wade sees these quilts as a way to launch conversations about individual truths while coming together as a community to have large conversations about racism in today’s society.
Mazloomi gave LTA permission to use her quilts in a show that is currently being held at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in downtown Cincinnati. The showcase feeds into the second part of the program and includes making individual quilt squares while facilitating conversations about racism.
This allows Xavier students and community members to come in and share their own stories.
Dr. Erica Page, the Program Manager and Organizational Effectiveness Manager for Story Quilts, emphasized the importance of sharing a safe space.
“We don’t just sit people down with craft materials and hope they talk about something serious,” Page noted. “Facilitators are there to help people feel more comfortable to share things that may have been traumatizing in the past or struggles they currently face.”
The third and final aspect of the program is a concert program titled “A Black Anthology of Music: The Resilience of Jazz.” The concert is centered around the parallels between jazz and systemic racism in the framing of America. The details of the performance are still in the works, but it has been moved to a virtual platform to offer more community members a chance to watch the performance.
Story Quilts was set to hold a facilitated conversation on Xavier’s campus, but they were forced to postpone the event due to an increase in COVID-19 cases. To combat the issue of uncertainty in the pandemic, Story Quilts moved to a virtual format so that students are still given the opportunity to participate in the community conversation. This virtual event will be held on Oct. 6 at 6 p.m.
Dr. Jamie Trnka, a Xavier professor and conversation facilitator for Story Quilts, stressed the powerful opportunity the program provides to students and all Xavier community members.
“It’s important to make sure our own campus dialogue stays connected to dialogues that extend to other communities that we may be more adjacent to than integrated with,” Trnka noted.
She believes we are called to “understand better the communities we touch and our members are differently affiliated with.”
Event facilitators hope the virtual format will allow students to learn about themselves, along with their identities and core values. The participants will move to smaller breakout rooms to have facilitated conversations, sharing their quilt square and what it means to them.
In the end, the organizers will ask all participants to upload photos of their specific quilt square to Story Quilts to share their experience and story. Students then can go to storyquilts2021.com and not only see the different squares, but assemble their own quilt, choosing pieces on the website they like.
“We want people to know that these quilt squares are the emphasis for them to keep the conversation going,” Wade said.
There will be pre-packaged materials available on campus on Oct. 6 for students to make their quilt squares without having to buy their own materials.