Monday, December 18, 2017

The Women Who Fly

I haven't told you about the my latest book. It is "The Women Who Fly" and a really good read. This book includes twenty quilts and the stories that accompany them. The stories tell of struggle, pain, disappointment, loss and finally self-discovery.

I don't usually delve into politics but the women in this book decided that there were some subjects that they wanted to touch on. I started out with the idea of making twenty quilts for an exhibit and it turned into much much more. I went inside myself and saw some of my story, then the subjects of the quilts took me inside themselves and shared their intimate struggles. When I finally set down to write their stories which were intertwined with my own, I saw a universal truth about women's resilience emerge.
The women who fly took me to the depths of my feelings and then allowed me to soar above the clouds with them as we found our own peace.

The exhibit debuted in Lawrence, Kansas at the National African American Quilt Convention in July 2017. I was so proud to share these strong women with the world. They are by no means the full extent of the pain women experience. I would go so far to say that they are the tip of the iceberg, but we are at least beginning to chip away at it. We as women have the unfortunate subtle training to disdain one another, to pull each other down and generally compete against each other. It is time that we learn to hold each other close. We have to start to be dear friends because we don't know what each one of us has gone through. Stop judging and start loving. 

The quilts took a year to make, which was quite a feat for me. I literally worked night and day. I started out with a list of quilts that I wanted to make. That changed as the time went along. Some stories pushed their way to the front of the line while others dropped off.  Some backgrounds started
out as traditional quilts and then turned into abstracts. I had an opportunity to explore a lot of different colors that helped tell the story of the personalities, even Nina Simone's Mississippi Goddam got into the mix. I loved writing about her because I was so very familiar with the anguish that went along with the Civil Rights movement. Annell Ponder was my cousin on the front line of many of those marches and jail time. I sat right at my Aunt's feet as she worried about Annell's well-being.

More dancers ended up in the series than any other occupation. I don't know if it is because I love to dance or if the dancers just came forth as our mechanism for letting go of frustration. I studied butterfly wings because I thought they were more apropos than bird wings since the butterfly goes through a stage of developing it's wings. We, women, go through our stages of developing our own wings and ability to soar beyond our circumstances. The beauty and the different nuances in the wings clearly spoke to our distinctions.

The first quilt I made in the series ended up being the last story that I wrote. I kept asking her to tell me her story and nothing but the blank quilt stared back at me. After I finished with everyone else, she quietly said, "I had two great loves in my life." Really, where do I go with that? What does that mean and is there a story of pain behind those loves, before those loves, after those loves? What? That little tidbit did not help me any. I kept working and looking over at the quilt, knowing that the story would have to come to me soon because my closing deadline was quickly approaching.

Then one morning I woke up and I knew the whole story. I knew her pain, I knew all her children, I knew the men she had loved and I knew how she got her wings. Subconsciously, I knew why women had wings and she said, "Only Women Have Wings."

Book excerpt: "Mom opened the door and I dove into her arms. I jumped at that hug before I knew it. She was not usually a hugger. She gave back a halfhearted hug. It didn't take me long to come to my senses and remember where I was. I let go slowly.

"I was someone else in my new life. I was loved by my friends and family. I had forgotten this terrible place with its cold glaring accusatory walls staring at me. I forgot that we didn't exchange hugs or show any other sign of caring."

I hope you will give this book a chance to delight you, make you laugh, make you cry and connect with you on some deeper level. Hug your mom, hug your sister, hug your friend, hug your daughter, your co-worker and maybe even a stranger. Who knows maybe we can be the healing in the world that we dream of.

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Conaky Mays said...

I love both the book and the quilts! My respect for you is endless!

aisha said...

Thank you so much Conaky. You are so wonderful.

Karmen Sunshine said...

You are still doing beautiful work!