Last year about this time I started putting some pennies in a jar in anticipation of the first ever National African American Quilt Convention. www.naaqc.org . Convention you say, why call it a convention? Convention means a large meeting of people who come to a place for usually several days to talk about their shared work. We definitely decided to do just that. We are going to convene and talk about our shared work.
How exciting is it to think of the wonderful aura that is going to ascend over the Lawrence, Kansas when we all get there? It will be the first time that we all will be together and love on each other. Quilters have a special energy, a special calm and a love for fabric! We are going to bring that calm to Lawrence in July. We are going to share our bits of fabric and our experiences with each other.
Some of you may have wondered why the convention looks so different from other quilt conventions. It is like asking what is the difference between Al Green's music and Johnny Cash's music. Different people dream differently. Ms. Marla Jackson dared to dream of a day and place where we could express our experiences through fiber art. Now her dream has come true.
Of course this convention is open to all people. It is the National African American Quilt Convention because we need a venue to express our specific stories, our experiences and our way of relating to the world around us. There can be no denying that our experience in America has been unique. We are taking this opportunity to express that uniqueness. We want everyone to come and enjoy this quilt convention with us.
I was also offered a special opportunity to exhibit at this convention. I was just honored to have my name beside such great and well known artist as Faith Ringgold, Bisa Butler, Rachael Clark, Lola Jenkins, Sandra Johnson, Jan Hollis, Lori Triplett, Carolyn Mazloomi, Dawn Williams Boyd, Hollis Chatelain, Carole Harris, Valerie Scruggs, Valerie White, Sara Bunn and a host of other wonderful fiber artist and speakers.
When Ms. Jackson asked me how many quilts could I put in an exhibit, I said twenty quickly because I thought I was going to do an exhibit based on quilts that I already had. Then I made the quilt called "And The Angels Cried" for the Emmanuel Nine shooting victims in Charleston, South Carolina. A light came on in my head. I should do an exhibit with quilts about "Woman Who Fly." Well I had forgot a little detail was the promise of twenty quilts. Oh well, I can do twenty I thought. Ha! Twenty new quality quilts are a lot. What was I thinking? Well, I have done it by the hair on my chinny chin chin. I can say that having my grandchildren underfoot while I worked has been an inspiration and a challenge.
The quilts turned into an adventure that I had not planned on. I first sat down and designed all the quilts. Some of them changed as I went along. I got into the groove of them and they took on a life of their own. They talked to me and we were collaborating a great show. The more I worked, the more they talked. The quilts took me to places that I had not planned to go.`We explored many of the situations that make women want to sprout wings and fly away. I realized it was too good not to write down. So I started writing in between sewing sessions. It got so bad that I didn't want to stop and cook. My husband was not too happy about that. All of the stories came after I started making the quilts. Some stories came easy as they flooded my consciousness. Some of the other ones I had to coax out of the subject who had endured such pain that it was hard to tell the story. The ancestors wrapped us all in a warm blanket and said that it was alright. Finally alright to tell.
I hope that you can make it to Lawrence, Kansas from July 12-15, 2017. We are going to have some fun, see some wonderful quilts, buy goods from some wonderful vendors, walking tours, riding tours, historic places, African American history, lectures, classes and workshops, good food and performances. Bring your dancing shoes. I'm bringing mine!