Greetings LQP People!
Welcome back! I've missed you all these past few months and hope you have all enjoyed this summer, which has meant many, many lovely days of sunshine and near triple degree weather for weeks in my neck of the woods. I've spent much of the summer researching and working more than I anticipated on other projects, spreading the word about The Lynch Quilts Project and most importantly developing more skills on how to present this difficult topic of racial dialogue. At the pace we are going, I am hoping to start scheduling exhibits of at least 4 of the quilts in 2014 and adding the others as we go. So, please start spreading the word in your communities and looking for great exhibition spaces.
In addition, I am VERY HAPPY to report that we will be ready to begin quilting the top for Quilt II in the next couple of weeks. We are tossing around a few designs for this, so if you have an idea that you think would go great with this quilt top, then shoot me an email. Also, think about this in terms of Quilt IV. If you think you would like to long arm quilt either of these two tops or participate/learn how to hand quilt, then also shoot me an email. There are many, many ways to contribute.
While we may not all be together in the same room, our virtual community stretches from coast-to-coast and includes a few international enclaves also. As such, gathering as much input as possible from those of you scattered across the globe is appreciated as this is a COMMUNITY project and all voices are valued, wanted and most importantly NEEDED to create the space and place for racial healing. You'll find this month's newsletter loaded with lots of information on articles I've gathered over the past few months, a wonderful poem submitted by a supporter about the project and insight into new skills on racial dialogue, community building and such.
Before we dive into this month's newsletter, I want to humbly say THANK YOU all for your continued support and for helping to build new roads towards a more tolerant and healed society.
So with that said, let us begin.
P.S. We've changed providers for our newsletter. Please bear with us as we get up to speed on this new system and excuse any duplicate emails or if you have previously unsubscribed to the list.
Pieced blocks for Quilt II, RedRum Summer 1919.
This section is 2 x 12 feet long. Just 5 more sectiions to go.
Big Car Service Center Indianapolis, IN ( 8-6-2012 ).
Melting the Butter Part I:
Digging Deeper Into the Past
Over the past few weeks I have had several conversations about Laura Nelson, what is or is not real about the events that lead up to her death, as well as her beloved son. How this history is or isn't connected to me and everyone else? Does it really matter in this day and age? And so on and so on.
So, why has Laura Nelson been on my mind so much recently, more than usual that is? Especially as I contemplate what this history means and how it is or isn't connected to me? Ten years is a long time to live with the near daily examination and memory of someone's death; to spend hours digging into the details to uncover "the truth." And what IS the truth has increasingly become the ringing in my ears.
The story of Laura Nelson and her son is an odd one. The more I start to examine the 'official' story, the more I feel something is missing that it doesn't make sense. In essence, is someone hiding something and if so, who is it and why? When put into historical context, we know that many accusations of lynching were pure finger pointing and used to assert social control of the black population; In essence the goal was to keep them in their place as second class citizens. Others were used to hide crimes against black people such as rape or theft.
One account of this history states that the sheriff was shot upon entering Nelson cabin searching for meat. But is it possible he was not there to look for meat but possibly sexually assault Laura? Or perhaps, he or someone close to him, had had an affair with this woman? Sexual assault for black women during this time period, as with slavery, was an issue. So much so, that many tried to keep their daughters and mothers from working as domestics in the homes of whites where they would be more vulnerable to these types of attacks. This is the case for my own family as my great-great-grandfather proudly boasted he wouldn't let my grandmother work for the white man. She was instead a mother and eventually a teacher.
We know that Laura left behind a child. So, what happened to this baby girl? Did Laura's family claim her after these tragic events? Once Laura's husband was released from prison, did he reunite with the child? Or, was all this because the child was perhaps not the husband's but the sheriff's or another prominent white citizen in town? Yes, people don't frown or getting your panties in a knot. The beautiful rainbow of blackness from fair and freckled to midnight brown that can be found in the African American community is proof positive of the multigenerational miscegenation, whether by force or choice, between black, brown, red and yellow in the United States. So, let's just accept that people have been jumping the color line for well . . .forever. But I digress . . .
In the end, we know that the bodies were left on the bridge and then miraculously "someone" outside the Black community, took Laura and LD/Lawrence from the bridge and transported them to the Green Leaf Cemetery, leaving them in an unmarked grave. And this for me is where much of the story starts to fall apart in many odd ways. Especially after I traveled around in this area and got a good look at the terrain we are talking about.
Fast forward 125 years and the location of the cemetery is still very rural and literally off a graveled dirt road. Given the distance from the bridge to the cemetery in what was more than likely a horse drawn buggy in 1911 that is A LOT of effort over not so friendly territory. Surely there were other cemeteries along the way? And whoever took those bodies down seem to have done this with care and compassion, as it seems the lynchers would have left them to rot and drop in the river, or simply buried them on the banks of the river.
Given the Black community in the area did not remove their bodies; either it was someone close to the situation or someone outside the community. At this modest sized cemetery, there were all sorts of graves some which appeared very old, and some very new still being attended too. Is it possible that the actual burial site is not there, that maybe this was just a stop on the road to their final resting ground? So, if everyone knew that Laura and her son were taken to this cemetery, why is it that no marker was left behind, even weeks, months or years later once the tension died down?
In the official newspaper article it indicates that the bodies were discovered by a young black boy. However, during my time in Tulsa, I was informed by a local historian that at the time, the prosperous Black community up the road, in Boley, OK, knew what was happening, but was powerless to stop it. So people knew this "thing" happened. People knew who was involved and why. This event was not anonymous, so much so that 40 armed men dragged Laura and LD/Lawrence to the bridge and then a photographer later took photos showing the towns people posing at the bridge with the bodies.
If history is written by the victor, then I can say that the story we have inherited about Laura Nelson and her son should be taken with a grain of salt and a shot glass of tequila too. What we do know for sure, is that she and he died on that bridge on May 25, 1911 outside Okemah, OK. That the issue revolved around meat. That a child was left behind that has disappeared from the records . . . sorta. That her husband went to prison and perhaps survived until old age many years later. That the story of what happened before or after that event has not truly been uncovered . . . yet.
Next Month . . . Melting the Butter Part II: Laura Nelson, You and Me
For additional information and insight into the trip to Tulsa, OK, please click here and read Spinning into Butter in the Land of Oklahoma from the June/July 2012 Newletter.
The road leading to Green Leaf Cemetery outside Okemah, OK.
This is the "supposed" final resting place of Laura Nelson
and her son, LD/Lawrence Nelson. June 2012.
We've had our first submission from a member of the community concerning their reaction, experience and feelings concerning to The Lynch Quilts Project. The name has been withheld at the request of the author. I've included the first stanza of the poem, but click here to down load the entire poem.
THE LYNCH QUILTS PROJECT
T he Lynch Quilts Project there it is/this is it/ talk about “touching”…terrible…Turmoil… truthful… tellin it like it is… together… do tell…
H anging hopelessly/helplessly before your eyes- here, hang on hanging On by a thread… holy… hurting, humiliating, heaven and hell…
E ye opening,/ jaw dropping,/mind boggling, enraged, encouraged, Engaged, over the edge…
Examing Race in America
National Resource Center for the Healing of Racism
'We begin where diversity training and judicial laws end. All the laws that can be written to eradicate racism have been passed or discussed with much debate. Our focus is creating a society that embraces the reality of the oneness of humankind, and the eradication of racism and its many forms that dehumanize or cause strife.'
Radio in Black and White:
The most integrated hour of the week. A positive conversation about faces and places."
Rise: Racism Still Exists:
"Although public commentary describes the United States as "post-racial", racism continues to exert a very real and pervasive influence on institutional policies and processes, interpersonal interactions, neighborhood infrastructure, socioeconomic opportunities, media imagery, and more. RISE is a project designed to illuminate some of the ways in which racism operates in this country."
This podcast from August 10, 2012, examines race from various perspectives including medicine, if you can spot race, does it exist and the impact race can have in life or death situations. Click here to be connected to the podcast. Radiolab's website can be visisted at www.radiolab.org for other interesting articles.
A Comic's Take on Race: