America Forgot

Updated: Jan 27, 2021

These quilts were created to bring attention to forgotten lines from American culture. I felt that over the past several years people have been eager to pick and choose evidence that only supports their arguments, instead of paying attention to evidence that supports us creating a country of opportunity for all. These quilts are a statement against inequality, oppression and injustice. Each one of the lines on these quilts called out to me, to be seen, used and remembered. In making these quilts I was also careful to select fabrics that would represent the diversity of our nation. They were pieced together in a way that sometimes looks woven together and in other places fragmented. The quilting on each piece is uniquely done to reflect sentiments in them.

America Forgot the Lyrics

36” x34”

Cotton Fabric, Cotton Batting, Thread

This quilt was inspired by Woody Guthrie’s classic tune “This Land is Your Land. “ Guthrie was considered to be a social activist who used his music to bring attention to the neglected and abused in our nation. He wrote this song in direct response to the hit “God Bless America”. He felt that popular song did not reflect the unequal distribution of property and wealth in America.

He frequently sang “This Land is Your Land” with the following verse that wan’t included in the official recording.

One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple,

by the relief office I saw my people.

As they stood hungry,

I stood there wondering if God blessed America for me.

The same fabrics were selected for all three quilts, but pieced differently for each one. For this quilt special focus was given to pieces of fabric that would represent the spaces and places Guthrie sang about. The quilting was done to look like an aerial photography of land, with different rectangular plots quilted with different textures.

America Forgot the Promise

35” x34”

Cotton Fabric, Cotton Batting, Thread

In our country Lady Liberty promises refuge and room to breathe, while corruption and racism in our justice system take it away.

The poem “A New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus was written in 1883 and gave meaning to the statue of “Liberty Enlightening The World”. The sonnets lines declared a safe harbor for not only Europeans fleeing fascist persecution in the 1930’s, but also immigrants from all around the globe seeking a stable place to call home.

The New Colossus

by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Fabric was fussy cut for this top to highlight Lady Liberty. The bottom half of the quilt was quilted with a pattern to represent the water that so many immigrants cross during their journey to America, be that a river or ocean. The top left quadrant is quilted in a very structured way to represent the gates or barriers immigrants to the United States have to cross. The top right is quilted with rays, representing the light, hope and enlightenment her torch brings to all.

America Forgot the Pledge

36” x34”

Cotton Fabric, Cotton Batting, Thread

Nearly every child in America recites the “Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag” every school day. For most this means about twelve years. Written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist preacher who believed that “that the distinctive principles of true Americanism will not perish as long as free, public education endures.”

During the Cold War the words “Under God” were added to the pledge against the wishes of the original authors family, to distinguish it from the similar pledges of “godless communists”.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

As an educator, citizen and mother, I am horrified that so many Americans can know and say this pledge by heart, while turning a blind eye to the stolen liberties and injustices in our country. The systematic racism against, exploitation, persecution and murder of men women and children has to stop. There is a clear and ongoing bias against minorities in our countries justice system and until this is undone, we will never be a truly free nation.

The fabric selected for this top was chosen to represent the people. The quilting is of prison bars that are used to lock away so many people unjustly in our country. These bars are quilted in an alternating pattern around the center piece to reflect the traditional courthouse steps quilt block.

I think it is important to note that Bellamy was a well documented xenophobe and racist. I absolutely do not share any of those thoughts with him.

America Forgot will be on display at the Arkwings Art Foundation from January 20th - February 28th 2021. Due to Covid restrictions viewings will be by appointment only and can be made by calling 901-240-4668.

These quilts were featured during several segments of Good Morning Memphis on January 21st, 2021 with reporter Amicia Ramsey.

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