Created by Kathleen Wheaton, Fairport, NY
Title: “Gunshots in the Silent Summer (Remembering the Plainfield Riots)”
Theme: Women’s Rights
Materials and techniques: Fabric, thread, and batting to assemble, quilt and bind the top.
Pigma pens for the journaling blocks on fabric. Inktense pencils and paint for detailed designs.
Did you enjoy this project? Yes. Although I was an excellent student, I always disliked history in school because it was boring. Now, when I research history to create something for the Dream Rocket project, what I read and learn has personal relevance, and I am always intrigued and want to learn more and more. For example, when I studied the history of the Selma marches, I learned that the bridge where the “bloody Sunday” event occured was named after Edmund Pettus, US Congressman AND Grand Dragon of the Klu Klux Klan. That fact clearly tells a story within the story, and it was clearly no coincidence that the authorities chose to make their stand there.
I admit that quilting to a theme is more challenging than just sewing a traditional quilt pattern, but it also has given me the opportunity to explore different art mediums.
About: My life has been obliquely impacted by many (historic) reformers, including those who met in Seneca Falls to fight for the right of women to vote. But how did they inspire others to fight for the rights of all people? I soon realized that my attitudes have been shaped more directly by people and events closer to home. My mother was responsible for my open-minded attitude of acceptance. And the youth minister of my church was responsible for getting me directly involved in doing something about the situation.
I was a teenager in the 1960’s at the height of the fight of Black Americans for equality. My quilt depicts the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma where one of the most despicable events against Black Americans occurred. This event triggered other fights, and during the summer of 1967, riots broke out in Plainfield, NJ – the next town over. Windows open to catch a breeze in the sweltering summer nights, we could hear the gunshots as we lay in bed. A stark reminder that depite laws which guaranteed rights and equality, in practice people of color were constrained to lives that offered much less than the rest of us had.
I have used the quilt to recall my memories about the way I was influenced to keep an open mind despite the turbulence and violence displayed by people who felt they had no other recourse.