Home Studio Lab: Michael Brown Quilt
Recent discourse on white privilege has focused on dynamics of segregation, white fragility, microaggression, and violent, institutionalized racism. The newly published curriculum Transforming White Privilege: a 21st Century Leadership Capacity, created by Racial Equity Tools, examines the ways in which accumulated advantages create white privilege over time through the effects of federal policies and programs over the course of US history.
Home Studio Lab proposes to lead an interactive workshop that will examine the killing of Michael Brown in the context of Jim Crow laws and practices, especially convict leasing, that criminalized normal behavior in order to arrest and re-enslave African American citizens, exploiting their labor on chain gangs and prison farms. Home Studio Lab members Shari Hersh and Beth Enson will initiate a discussion using questions from the Transforming White Privilege curriculum and reference the New Yorker article “The Man Who Shot Michael Brown (August 10 and 17, 201.) The discussion will focus on the practice of Ferguson city government raising significant municipal funds from the fines and tickets imposed disproportionately (94%) on African American people for minor infractions, often issuing multiple citations for the same event and compounding the charges with a vague ‘failure to comply’ laws. Michael Brown was arrested for crossing a driveway in his housing development, not against the light on a city street.
Participants will share in the tying off of a quilt pieced by Hersh, which she created in memoriam to Michael Brown. It refers visually to an Abolitionist cradle quilt sewn in 1836 which was sold to benefit the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society. Proceeds from the sale of Hersh’s quilt will benefit Reconstruction Inc. to support its organizing efforts in resistance to the injustices of the criminal justice system, confronting the context of pervasive racism and white privilege that supports police violence. As white artists, it is our intention to support the leadership of Black and Brown people in dismantling racism.
The design of this quilt is based on the patchwork star design of the 1836 baby quilt and uses text as does its model. It includes eight questions sewn into the quilt border that will serve as the basis for group discussion:
When were you last stopped by the police and for what?
Have you experienced any micro-aggressions?
As a young person or parent, what are your instructions about interacting with cops?
Have you had to downplay your identity in order to fit in at work or school?
When you have something to say, do people usually listen?
Where are you safe in your neighborhood?
How many people in your neighborhood have died violently?
Do you attend or send your child to the public school in your neighborhood?
We will work to create a safe, non-judgmental space in which to promote reflection on the accumulated advantages of white privilege for the purpose of extending participants’ awareness beyond the current day to a historical perspective in which their own story forms one strand, and the stories of all are personalized and granted weight in light of unjust historical and current day policies and practices. Participants will learn about trauma resilience and the importance of rhythmic, physical activity to achieve emotional grounding (referencing the work of Dr. Bruce Perry and Laura Lipsky). Tying off the quilt is an example of this type of activity, helping to counter the traumatic content of the quilt. Participants will also honor the resilience of every family in the process of sharing their stories. Participants will use the active listening process in pairs and will relate one another’s stories to the group. Active listening promotes attunement, another vital tool in the process of trauma resilience. Dr. Bruce Perry, neuroscientist and trauma expert, states, “Change comes through repeated (attuned) interactions with a compassionate, regulated other.”