In our family we remember the unpleasantries and the hurts that we have experienced. My mother will regale you with stories about the way her younger sister constantly failed to keep the electric bill paid. And my sister tells of the time when some of our relatives ripped off our mom’s younger brother. We rarely share stories about what made us a family and how we survived the Great Migration. We had land in the south but our ancestors we forced to leave, so the story goes.
But coming north did not keep us together generations have past and the divisions have cut a hole in the things we share. Perhaps creating a hanging quilt and listing our relationships with one another can be a step towards becoming a family once more. I know that our present situation doesn’t work for me any longer.
To me it is very important that the color scheme reflect and celebrate diversity. My nephew is in an interracial relationship, and has an amazing daughter Grace, of whom we expect great things. I would like to have our family members’ names embroidered onto the quilt and have enough space for new names to be added. Quilting is celebrated in African-American and many other traditions. My mother learned it from her grandmother and we are hoping that Grace will learn it from our mother. I also want the quilt to travel and be passed down from generation to generation as an heirloom because at this point we don’t have anything that we can say has bound us together. Instead we are more of a family being pulled apart by bitterness and old bad memories.
This picture above is my nephew John and his daughter Grace.
The woman in the middle of the picture in this blog is my soon to be 91 year-old mother. She is one of the sources of strength in my life. My companion and I sleep under a quilt that my mother made. Quilting is a part of our heritage as African-Americans. So today when Liz and I went to the St. Charles resale shop I was drawn to a series of quilts nicely displayed in a prominent corner. I am hoping to be able to get a quilt for hanging in our living room and another to send my dear mother. Even though I am giving up the name she gave me, I hope to give her something back. perhaps the woman who makes the quilts will make one I can send my mother.
The quilts I saw were by Ella Brooks, who describes herself as a quilter, teacher and an artist. Della Wells, an artist, author and teacher at UWM, had some pictures of Ella’s work on her Facebook page. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published an article about Ella several years ago.