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The Lynch Quilts Project

This issue dedicated to Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and all the black men, women, boys and girls whose lives were deemed expendable, but we know are truly priceless.
April / May 2015 Edition

Greetings All!

Spring is in the air! After a very rough and icy winter complete with 3 gallons of kitty litter for the tires, weeks of negative temp day, a gas leak, which required evacuation of my house and days and days of shoveling snow, I am ready to put seeds in the ground and watch kale and collards and lots of tomatoes bloom over the next few months. Squash too!

With that said, these past few months America has had to continue to confront the bones in our closet around racism. From frats being caught singing,"Kill a nigger songs," to the continued shooting of black men and the recent possible lynching in Mississippi.  Now is the time for our project to continue to be a voice to speak truth to power and create the opportunity for dialogue in our communities. It is only through dialogue that the much needed conversations that need to occur can begin to take center stage and hopefully transforms individuals, communities and society as a whole. These conversations are the first stones in The 100 Year Impact.

LQP is gaining momentum on the west coast quite a bit, with California being the highest level of website participants lately. Organizing efforts in the Oakland area of the state to bring LQP have brought together a diverse group of individuals and organizations from various parts of our community including the juvenile justice and adult prison systems, higher education, faith-based and youth service organizations. This new effort is giving birth to a potential 7th quilt. At least is it running around in my mind, making itself a little more each day. Once pen hits paper and we infuse the vision of the west coast with the dance in my head, we'll see what chooses to be born. New opportunities have started to sprout legs in the New Mexico and Oklahoma communities. Giving birth to a possible 8th quilt; Again dancing in my head. I'll keep you updated as activities progress.

The exhibition of Her Name was Laura Nelson at Bowling Green State University was a success complete with public presentations at the university, many one-on-one conversations with faculty and students. But the most inspiring presentation was at an area high school where we presented about the work and what it means for each of us to take responsibility for our history, our community. How each of us had the responsibility to pick a passion and become an engaged, civic-minded citizen. We talked about in/equity, racial justice and I explained community development and how neighborhoods end up being derailed. In Undoing Racism jargon, they would call it the footprint of oppression.  And they drank it up with many, many questions. You could see the look of frustration on the face of some as they had to reconsider their version of reality after being confronted with their own privilidge. Others felt empowered and talked about how they felt they could change the world. 

I love young minds. So filled with passion and the ability to continue the work long after I am done. When we are done. While speaking to everyone is important, it is through our children that we have the opportunity to make "The 100 Year Impact." The ability to take our work further into the future for others to finish, impacting generations yet to come.

I have recently completed are the
Racial Justice Leadership Institute (RJLI) training provided by Race Forward. Where Undoing Racism through the People's Institute of Survival and Beyond gives you a hard core foundation in understanding the roots of racism and how we got to here. RJLI provides practical approaches to making racial justice apart of a sustained systemic assessment and impact. In essence, how to systemically undo the impact of racism and ensure we have racial equity. There is a training in the Oakland, CA area on April 10th if you are interested. And April 17th in New Orleans. See below for more details. 

Again, thank you for your continued to support.This project could not happen without your continued dedication and support. I am humbled as I see many of you become the flame that lights the fire of justice in your communities across the country.

With the utmost gratitude,

LaShawnda


Last years garden full of tomatoes and kale!
Check out
Root Workin' in the Asphalt Jungle from September 2012 to understand the importance of gardens to the project.

 

RACIAL JUSTICE ARTICLES

A few of the great articles you may have missed since the last newsletter. These were were posted to The Lynch Quilts Project Facebook pageinclude but are not limited to. 

So again, thank you for your continued support and the many messages and emails I have received of encouragement to continue with the work. None of this is possible without you.

With the Utmost Gratitude,

LaShawnda

P.S. I've included the photo of me this month as someone asked if I ever smiled.That all the photos of me with the quilts are serious and somber. I could sense a keen worry that they thought I was clinically depressed from the work. So here is me smiling, which is my typical state of being. I don't smile with the quilts, especially Her Name is Laura Nelson, because it is too reminiscent of lynching postcards.

RACIAL JUSTICE LEADERSHIP INSTITUTE TRAINING

The Racial Justice Leadership Institute, developed by Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation, is an interactive training for those who wish to sharpen their skills and strategies to address structural racism and advance racial equity. Unlike “diversity trainings” which primarily focus on interpersonal relations and understanding, the Institute emphasizes how to challenge and change institutional racial inequities.

 Training Components:

  • Racial Justice Values & Vision
  • Key Concepts: Different Dimensions of Racism / Structural Racism
  • Implicit Bias and Systems Analysis
  • Opportunities to Advance Racial Justice
 Participants will:
  • build a clear understanding of key concepts such as racial equity and structural racism;
  • learn to talk about race constructively within their organizations and with their constituents;
  • gain tools and practices for counteracting racial bias in their work and practices;
  • identify opportunities and next steps for applying concepts and strategies to advance racial equity.

For Scholarship Applications, email Ramesh Kathanadhi at rkathanadhi@raceforward.org. 



 

PROJECT UPDATE

Quilt I, Her Name was Laura Nelson,
 just came home from Ohio! Thanks to Viola for taking the initiative on this effort.


Quilt II, RedRum Summer 1919, resting and gearing up to travel again, after a stint in the Indianapolis International Airport.

Quilt III, A Partial Listing, has been reactivated. The final pieces of how this quilt should be completed have unfortunately come into play with the recent police shootings. We will start working on this in early June 2015.

Quilt IV, (Title TBA), is very, very close to completion. All the pieces are in and early 2015 will finished being assembled. Still getting settled in, but ready to go by May 2015. Will only take a couple of weeks to complete once I can get back to the sewing room.

Quilt V, The Making Quilt, is in the hands of Chicago master quilters. New discoveries on slavery era quilts and lynching history have added a new dimension to this quilt. We'll be taking a trip to a museum that has a slave quilts in its holdings soon.

Quilt VI, Memoria: In Progress, is always looking for a place to go up for a few days, weeks or months. Let me know if you have a place in your community where we can place the boards for a period of time, no matter how short or long.

Quilt VII, All Around the World the Same Song, still forming and making itself in my mind. As soon as pen hits paper and the community interacts with the idea, it will birth itself.


 Young men walking at the Peace March.


REFLECTIONS: And the Saints Go Marching In

Sunday I got my wish to participate in a march about Black Lives Matter here in Indiana. But Instead of fighting for a future around racial justice, it was to lament about a quadruple execution style homicide that wiped out a family, including one teenage boy, in the neighborhood where I work and members of my family have lived continuously for nearly 70 years. 
 
Chants of "Stop the Violence," "Peace in the streets," etc. accompanied by a consistent thump and rattle of a drum corps, went on throughout the public protest. It felt like we were in the middle of our own community's version of the film Drumline. In fact I am sure some of the beats were taken from the film as every time I heard them the movie popped into my head. I was waiting for Nick Cannon to jump out the bushes at every turn.  I saw a couple of folks actually dancing in the back.(ARGH! I can only hope that when they joined they really didn't know that we were "celebrating" the remembrance of lives snuffed out. Or, maybe this was simply their way of coping?)
 
The reality is that after 8 blocks of walking and chanting with about 300 residents it felt hollow. How many of these will we do and tomorrow do nothing to directly attack, challenge and bring down the systems of structural inequity and confront the historical trauma that sits at the very root of all these ills?
 
Can we now just be honest about something? Admit a very basic and unsavory fact? Rather it is a white cop shooting a black teenager, or a "black on black" shooting victim, at the root of both is the very real issue that is simply different sides of the same coin.
 
Black life is viewed as cheap, disposable and unworthy of value.
 
One is a reflection of internalized racial superiority; while the other is a reflection of internalized racial oppression.

The march ended in front of the victims' house with a sermon asking for divine intervention to make this right. I think that's when I really checked out. Not only did it become clear that a non-Christian like me would not have a seat at the table when this "new" effort got going. The march was organized by a minister; so I understood where he wanted go, and even his journey from mental point A to action point B. However, in matters as grave as community unity and change, impact must trump intention. Rather he meant it or not, for this to be a peace in the streets and anti-violence march, the message seemed to be that all were not needed or welcomed to the healing mat.

But, my gender also seemed to be at issue here.
 
The discussion only centered about black men and boys. And the laments went something like this, "Love boys. Love our men. Support our men. Everyone in the crowd now find a black boy near you and lay hands on him and pray. Let him know he is special. He has another choice." Yadda, yadda, yadda. 

So I guess the women and girls in the crowd standing in solidarity were kinda bupkis?

That's more than half the crowd.

Don't get me wrong.  African American men and boys are taking an ass kicking. Police shootings have risen to a level where a black person is being shot and killed at the same rate that mirrors lynching, and years of drug and gang wars in urban communities have taken their toll from murder to incarceration. As the mother of a very small black boy, and sister to 4 beautiful young black men, cousin to dozens and friend to dozens and dozens more, the streets of America have increasingly become hostile territory in a whole new way. Sometimes it can downright feel like you are trapped behind enemy lines with nowhere to run and all the while looking for cover.
 
This was different. It was the wrong message around this issue of community violence. This we were protesting a straight up mafia style hit, not the drug, gang and random violence which takes so many. I'm curious in a macabre kind of way to see how this story unfolds over time. Did this family pay for someone else's waywardness or was this a domestic violence situation?
 
But I digress.
 
Three of the four victims were women; women my age; the mother, the cousin and the family friend. My own cousin was so distraught after hearing the news she called and simply said, "Please tell me we didn't grow up with them." We hadn't. But during the march I saw many mothers and grandmothers, some of which I did know, holding portraits of their dead loves ones taken by violence.

Later that day, I met with another woman in the community for a completely different reason. We talked about our day and her face went ashen when I casually mentioned the march. She simply said, "I choose to stay away from knowing these things anymore. If I knew too much I wouldn't be able to function. I'd be too upset all the time." Another woman, in a separate community conversation talked about growing up in the community and knowing personally more than 30 people she grew up with in high school now dead.
 
Outside of death, women pay a huge price for this violence as well. I won't go into details as you can read
Melting the Butter Part II: Laura, Lynching, You and Me from the October 2012 newsletter, which does explore this more thoroughly. But in short, what do you think happens to a person's or community's mental, emotional and physical well-being and resiliency when you are left behind to pick up the pieces, to raise the kids alone, take care of the community, struggle economically and mourn and mourn and mourn, again and again?
 
So if we are going to confront the impact of the violence, it is more than simply the lives that are loss. It is the stain left on the lives of those that remain that must also be wiped cleaned, or at least faded over time. There is an HBO series called "The Leftovers" that deals specifically with how people, the world in general, coped when they are left behind after the Rapture occurs. As you can imagine, their response is all over the map as they try to thrive despite the chasm left when their loved ones are gone.
 
But we in this space and time have a choice. 

Like a quilt, all the "leftovers" born from the wreckage of violence can be woven together to create a new future. With each of us, all of us taking the disparate pieces of lives and pain, weaving into a whole cloth based in equity, healing and the value of black lives. Only then when we directly confront, attack and dismantle the root cause of anti-black racism and apathy, seek to uplift all those impacted by and dealing with historical and contemporary trauma (victims, perpetrators and witnesses) will Black Lives Truly Matter.

LaShawnda




REFLECTIONS: The 100 Year Impact

I can't remember why or how I got hooked on lynching. Was it somewhat gradual? I am not sure. But what I can talk about is the first piece of work I created about lynching entitled Family Values.
 
This piece is crucial to my development not only as an artist, but social activist and more elevated human being. It is the first time that academic theory, artistic and social justice leanings all clicked into place becoming a single language. I had prior to this time dibbled and dabbled in lynching lore. I was on one of my binges looking at one ghastly photo after another, when all of a sudden the rubber hit the road, and this particular photo made me stop and stare for a very, very long time.
 
Here was photographic evidence of the oral history around this appalling American saga.
 
Instantly, all the history around the word picnic came crashing home, and children's songs with lyrics that chime, "catch a nigger by the toe," danced in my head.

Before me was the image of the Rubin Stacy lynching, circa July 19, 1935 near Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It wasn't Mr. Stacy that made me stop and stare. In fact given all the horrific depravity that became status quo for spectacle lynchings, this one was somewhat "mild.” It was a simple hanging without the torture, mutilation, burning at the stake, bullets and other grotesquery. I was "happy" to see that he hadn't suffered that other heinous fate.
 
What caught my eye? Standing around Mr. Stacy were 4 little girls I guess between 5 to 10 years old. One was grinning ear to ear like a Cheshire cat as my grandmother would say, within a couple of feet of his lifeless body. The others were not much further away.
 
Given their relative age at the time of the lynching, these young girls have flowered into women, possibly mothers, aunts and grandmothers. They may actually still be among us, still impacting generations of their descendents. Imagine these women spending the next 50+ years sitting around campfires and the Thanksgiving table telling about the day, "That uppity nigger Rubin Stacy got his comeuppance." And the experience is completed with a sharing of photographs with mommy, auntie or grams at the event.
 
I have had the benefit of knowing my great-great grandmother born in 1896, my maternal great grandparents (b. 1913 and 1916), and my paternal grandfather born 1919. Just as they have each passed their history and stories forward to me, so to have these young girls.
 
This folks is The 100 Year Impact. How generations tell the tales of their own origin stories. How that story of hate, love or survival becomes the bedrock of building that person, community or nation. With each memory transferred a stone is thrown in the pond of history, moving forward as a ripple through time, eventually becoming a tidal wave of customs, culture and a way of life .
 
For the West African Yoruba peoples, at the core of their traditional belief system is the mantra to "Live the Medicine." In simple terms it means the way you live your life, your actions, how you move in the world, these are the ways towards healing our community. That healing lives in the doing. In the cooking, the cleaning, the day-to-day life practices, the burping of babies and laughter between friends.
 
Our lives are the medicine our communities need.
 
When we hide our stories and histories, these wounds fester and become poisons that cripple and dysfunction generations to come. When we choose to live the process of the telling of these histories, work together to dialogue and actively dismantle the harmful practices that have derailed the lives of millions. When we do this, we are living the medicine of racial healing and racial justice.
 
When we live this type of medicine on a daily basis, our impact will transform the world around us . . . one day.
 
I recently had a community organizing training by bad a** national organizer Don Washington. It was monumental in many ways, but primarily because it helped me to see the work we do from new eyes and new perspectives. At the end of the 3 week intensive training, he made one comment to this room of folks that cut across all race, ethnic, age, and class lines that rang true to me more than any other during the training.
 
"Look around you folks," he began. "Was this building possible 10 years ago?" We were in a new training facility built in the community about 5 years ago powered by grassroots activism."Was a class that looked like this possible 20 years ago? How about in the 1970's?  The 1950's? The 1930's?" Yes, yes, maybe, hells no were the responses.
 
"Keep in mind that we are able to sit in this room with each other, because some time decades ago, someone could see and believed that this future was possible. People said it wasn't possible, but they believed."
 
So, why do we do this work? Because one day in a far off future, our direct efforts will lead to a society with more racial equity and healing, less anti-black prejudice where mothers are terrified to send their sons and daughters into a world that is designed to trap, derail and kill them.
 
But I also know that the only way to get there is to keep my eye on the prize; that I must believe in that future. Live the medicine by working for it EVERY . . . SINGLE . . .DAY.
 
So, the question for each of us is twofold. What is YOUR 100 year impact and how will YOU live the medicine, day-to-day, for the rest of your life?

 
Epilogue
The other day, Toni Battle, the fire ball of an organizer, community healer and champion of LQP in California introduced me virtually to the
East Point Peace Academy.
 
I was mesmerized about their work and instantly began strategizing on how to find my way to the west coast. I went to their website and this is what I was greeted with, "Be a part of our 250 year workplan, learn more about our long term vision, and help peace to spread for generations to come."
 
100 years? D*mn! I've been thinking too small. Lol!


LaShawnda

PLEASE ACCEPT MY APOLOGY

I apologize if you are receiving this newsletter in error. A recent technical glitch required me to rebuild the database, which meant combining multiple email accounts, listserves and handwritten sign-in sheets. I have multiple emails without names attached.  As such, I am sure I missed a few as I tried to delete as many as possible, before it became kinda exhausting given there are hundreds upon hundreds of supporters. So if you are here and not by choice, I apologize. Please simply unsubscribe. 

ARTICLES ABOUT LQP

WTHR-13
Indy Reacts to the Quilt
Indianapolis Recorder
Clutch Mag On-Line
Madame Noire
Maybe Someone Should Write that Down
Beautiful Horror of History








 

TEDx INDIANPOLIS

 

Creative Power for Social Change!

 

Fighting for a racially healed and just future, since 2002.
 

Copyright © 2015 The Lynch Quilts Project, All rights reserved.


Our mailing address is:
LaShawnda Crowe Storm
The Lynch Quilts Project
P.O. Box 90348
Indianapolis, IN 46290

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