Black Joy

Inside the Sew Black lounge at Quiltcon

Near the end of February, QuiltCon 2023 descended on Atlanta, GA. While the convening brought hundreds to the city, there was a safe space made specifically for Black quilters by Lisa Woolfork, founder of the Black Women Stitch podcast and assistant professor of African American literature at UVA.

The Sew Black space felt like a respite in the gray monotony of the convention center. The space for the Sew Black Lounge was filled with bright magentas, teals and soft yellows that made the room feel ethereal with a table of fabric scraps, pressing machines and chatter about the take home tasks for the lounge attendees.

Woolfork and the dozen or so black women that maneuvered in and out of the Sew Black lounge came to discuss the legacy of slavery, expression and joy that ruminate in every aspect of the weekend’s events. While the energy in the Sew Black Lounge was centered around the panels, discussions and ongoing displays of historical quilts it mainly was a site for joyous squeals of reconnection between black quilters who come to these quilting convening just for those moments of connection.

The first day of the conference in the Sew Black space began with a panel discussion with Uzoma Samuel Anyanwu, who was attending his first QuiltCon and was presenting his latest works that depict Black women and Black life in portrait formats in his textile work. The main course of the Sew Black Lounge was a four-person panel with all Black women quilters, garment makers and seamstresses to discuss the importance of negating white supremacy in their craft, understanding and love for quilting.

Black Joy was able to speak with Dr.Woolfork and Sara Trail, founder of the Social Justice Sewing Academy about the ups and downs of leading their own organizations, why they gather at QuiltCon and why the Sew Black Lounge is a safe space for Black women quilters in the wake of white supremacist violence.

my name is Sarah Trail, pronouns she, her, hers. From the Bay Area and I started the Social Justice Sewing Academy, a 501c3 nonprofit that teaches young people how to become artivists — agents of social change through Textile Art.

—  Sarah Trail

My name is Lisa woolfork and I am the founder of black women’s Stitch where the sewing group where Black lives matter. I’m also the host and producer of “Stitch Please.” We are a weekly audio podcast that centers Black women girls and femmes in sewing. And we are here at the Modern Quilt Guilds QuiltCon in Atlanta Georgia in 2023 in a space that I convened called Sew Black. And this space is designed for Black joy. It was designed as a space for respite. It was designed as a creative oasis. It was designed as a site for reunion and connection. And I’m really glad to see that on the second day of QuiltCon it is really living up to that.

—  Dr. Lisa Woolfork
The Reckon Report.
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