Income inequality in America is alive and well. Specifically, while the top 1% of the nation benefits from the concentration of wealth that they have, there are people at the bottom living paycheck to paycheck, working multiple jobs just trying to make ends meet. I designed this quilt to portray the imbalance between those at the top and those at the bottom and I want this quilt to remind people that we need to work to try and dismantle this inequality for the generations to come.
I decided to design this quilt with the US flag and jail bars to represent incarceration in America. Specifically, I chose to depict an African American man with hanging his head down in despair because I feel that African American men make up the majority of our prison population. During the process of designing this art piece, I simultaneously learned more about this social issue. From this experience, I grew both as an artist and an agent of change.
I choose to highlight how in society today, what you wear is often seen as a reflection of your levels of promiscuity. Any aspect of a woman’s appearance should not be used to explain or excuse rape. As stated in the quilt, “I am more than what I wear” this quilt serves as feminist affirmation that one’s choice of material clothing should not determine societies judgement of her or solicit unwanted advances.
This quilt was inspired by the gentrification process that is affecting urban areas in the Bay Area. Before I created this art quilt, I had never sewn before. I had witnessed gentrification but I didn’t know it had a name. After researching this topic and creating the design, I thought of the things that come to mind and decided that I would create a quilt that represents the lack of housing security that many families face. This quilt will definitely not be my last!
From my perspective, this quilt exemplifies White resistance to acknowledging the fundamental role that slaves played in the construction of this country. When I began to design my quilt I had an idea of what I wanted to emphasize but I wasn't quite sure how to capture it in an image so I started by choosing individual concepts that I wanted to incorporate like the planet Earth and the chains and I eventually accomplished my finished product. I feel that this quilt can be interpreted in more ways than one and ultimately that is what makes art unique.
At first I didn’t know what I would make, but then I thought about what comes to mind when people think of the United States. Many people come to the US because they believe it to be the land of opportunity. While for some that may be true, for many it is not; in America 1 in 6 people receive food stamps. Although this is the current state of our nation, this quilt serves as a reminder to those that are not affected by the current levels of inequality and poverty.
At first I couldn’t think of any social justice issue to sew that would directly relate to me until I realized the value of my experience as a young black male in society. In an effort to bring awareness to an epidemic of killing unarmed black men, I carefully situated as many names as I could on the quilt. While the entire black family is mourning the losses, for me, I specifically mourn the loss of what could have been my older brother. I hope my quilt will remind people that lives of these victims should not to be forgotten even after #Blacklivesmatter is no longer a trending topic.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”- Nelson Mandela. In the 9th grade, I saw this quote on my teacher's wall and at the time I didn’t understand why education was being referred to as a weapon. As time passed, I learned that, like a weapon, education is powerful and can hurt people if used incorrectly. I depicted a graduate exemplifying education as a form of freedom because with education you often (but not guaranteed) have better access to social mobility—college, jobs and a better future.
My great-grandfather shared the stories of his tiempos (time) in the hot summer fields and he reminded us of all the sacrifices he made for my grandparents. Inspired by his description of the uncomfortable work conditions, this quilt poses the question whether or not America actually supported the Si Se Puede motto. This slogan means ‘yes we can’ and typically is followed by an exclamation mark, however I choose to use question marks because my grandfather worked hard never knowing what his blood, sweat and tears would amount to. Soon I will be the first in my family to go to college, I am a product of my great grandfather’s work ethic and his efforts are not taken for granted.
Despite repeating the phrase, “I can’t breathe” eleven times on July 17, 2014, 43-year-old Eric Garner died from a chokehold in the hands of the very people we look to for protection—the police. As a child I was always taught to never run from and always respect the police, but with countless lives being lost at the hands of the police I wonder if the respect is mutual. This sewing opportunity allowed me to express my creativity in a way that encompassed current social issues and I enjoyed it much more than expected.