In June of 2020 after George Floyd was killed I was shocked and devastated by the senselessness of his death. I needed to do something, but didn’t know how to start. I did some online research and came across the Social Justice Sewing Academy and realized it was founded by Sara Trail, a former author of C&T’s. I reached out to Sara to ask her if she needed help with her organization. She said she did so I jumped right in. I started off taking pictures of the community quilts and banner blocks to make sure SJSA had them professionally photographed and documented before they were shipped off to makers and events.
After photographing dozens of banners from makers around the country and the powerful community quilts made by young artivists at workshops I knew that C&T had to publish a book about this wonderful organization and share their message of social justice and hope for the future. Sara partnered with Teresa Wong, a seasoned author who, when co-creating this book, said, “I wanted to remember their dreams and the memories they left behind.”
As mentioned, I have known Sara, the founder of SJSA for over a dozen years, first meeting her when she was 13 and writing Sew with Sara, a project book for kids and teens. She is a smart, funny, dynamic person who has a way of getting people to volunteer, get involved and get stuff done. So far I have photographed over 100 banners and 30 quilts and each one has made an impression on me by educating me about racism, the BIPOC community and our underserved youth. It made me realize how fortunate I am that gun violence has never personally impacted someone I love. I have cried and been deeply touched photographing these amazing quilts and am honored to see many of them in Stitching Stolen Lives. This project has changed the way I think about racism, mental illness, social justice and so much more.
Remember how I said she is great at getting you to volunteer? I also helped Sara host a pop-up exhibit in early July where she presented two families with memorial quilts made from their lost loved ones clothing, something they will treasure forever. It was a touching event and a way to honor these families and let them know they are loved. At the event we were able to show over 40 banners and 4 community quilts. We had a terrific turnout and the space in downtown Oakland was perfect.
Below are a few images from the book, Stitching Stolen Lives, and from the pop-up exhibit earlier this month. Please also take the time to check out the SJSA website. Both authors are donating their royalties to SJSA and C&T is also donating a portion of the proceeds to this worthy organization.
— Amy Barrett-Daffin
Presentation of Steven Taylor's Memorial Quilt
Gabriela Nevarez family
Families and Memorial Quilts