BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - "Reach out..."
“We’re gonna rise together...”
It was an open, inviting, healing invitation to a discussion about one of the most violent, disturbing aspects of America’s history.
Afriye We-Kandodis, founder of By the River Center for Humanity in Selma led a full house at UAB’s Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts in a call-and-response and libation ceremony in memory of those who died in the middle passage from Africa to America, and those who lost their lives to the horror of lynching.
“When we speak the names of the dead, still they live” said the community healer, inviting people to call the names of lynching victims as she poured water into a plant.
The activity was an introduction to “How To Be An Activist”, a discussion by LaShawnda Crowe Storm, who brought “The Lynch Quilts Project” to UAB.
Storm asked the gathering to “say thank you” to those who fought lynching including journalist Ida B. Wells, the black press and the NAACP, which she reminded people started as an anti-lynching organization.
Storm says it is important to talk honestly about the brutal practice of lynching, including calling attention the fact that women were also among its victims.
On the Lynch Quilts Project website, Storm explains that she was drawn to the project after learning of the death of Laura Nelson who was lynched with her 12-year-old son Lawrence in 1911 in Oklahoma.
The site also invites people to participate in sewing pieces of quilts for the project regardless of their skill level.
Storm describes the quilts as “a vehicle to transform the traumas from these communities into something that can be beautiful but that can also address the difficulties of this history and create space for dialogue”.
Storm says she is not seeking to elicit a particular response from people who work on or come to see the quilts. “The goal is always to be a catalyst to get to the idea that there are ways to heal from this” Storm says. “I’ve been very blessed to see people come to the process and work through whatever they needed to, especially elders who were able to talk about things they were told not to ever speak about.....I’ve seen youth activated to talk about how they can transform the world around them because in lynching they can see the connection to police violence and feel that this is the way forward in using the arts that they can transform the world.”
Several of the quilts from the Lynch Quilts Project are at UAB until through March 15.