Youth Speak Through the Social Justice Sewing Academy
From quilts made supporting abolition and temperance, to signature quilts raising money for war efforts, to the AIDS Memorial Quilt, our community has always used quilts as a way to express political beliefs and support social causes. As quilt scholar Marsha MacDowell said, "Many people think of quilts as a warm, fuzzy domestic art. Yet we see time and time again artists have used this particular medium to make strong statements that address human rights issues." Most of these quilts have been made by adult quilters, but today the tradition of quilting for social justice is being introduced to young artists who learn to see quilts in a new way.
Founded in 2017, the Social Justice Sewing Academy (SJSA) is a youth education program that bridges artistic expression with activism to advocate for social justice. Through a series of hands-on workshops in schools, prisons, and community centers across the country, SJSA empowers youth to use textile art as a vehicle for personal transformation and community cohesion to become agents of social change.
Young textile artists make quilts or blocks focused on a variety of social justice issues that directly impact their lives, including educational funding, violence in schools, police brutality, immigration, and environmentalism. Stitched into each of their quilts is a sense of wanting more for their lives and hoping for a better and more just society. As youth artist Olivia Schneider wrote in her artist statement for a quilt about educational funding, “Let this show that protests can be peaceful, powerful, and produce change. Never be silenced into submission. Demand more.” With help from the Social Justice Sewing Academy, youth across the country can demand more for their futures, and express their concerns and hopes in cloth.
To get involved with SJSA by signing up to be an embroidery block volunteer, visit http://www.sjsacademy.org/embroider-a-block.html
HOW YOU CAN HELP
There are many ways that quilters can get involved with the Social Justice Sewing Academy. Your contribution to our organization continues our 21st century sewing bee, supports youth voices in quilting, and creates a space in our quilting community for conversations about social justice. SJSA focuses on giving youth a voice in quilting, but our work would not be possible without the volunteer efforts of countless seasoned quilters across the country.
Each raw-edge appliqué block made at an SJSA workshop needs embroidery to secure the appliqué and add embellishment and detail to the image. When you sign up as an embroidery volunteer, you’ll receive a block in the mail to embellish and return within 30 days. Once the block is returned, it is pieced into an SJSA community quilt which you may get to see hanging at a quilt show or museum in the future. Click here to become an embroidery volunteer today!
The SJSA Remembrance Project is a quilt block community art project that provides activist art banners to local and national activist art organizations that have requested creative statements to be publicly displayed that represent solidarity as well as remembrance. This partnership creates a visual statement to memorialize those who have been unjustly murdered by community violence (e.g. gun violence, domestic violence, child abuse, etc.), race based violence, law enforcement, and gender or sexuality based violence. These artivism blocks honor the lives of individuals through symbolism and portrait. Their names and identities will be displayed during community activism events, reminding the world that their lives mattered. Click here to volunteer for the SJSA Remembrance Project.
Thank you to all the quilters who have volunteered for SJSA!
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