For generations, sewing experts and novices alike have gathered for hours at quilting bees. Over fabric, needles, and thread, they share quilting techniques, family stories, and advice. Quilting bees provide support and assistance in the production of a quilt; but more importantly, they create a place for individuals to come together and affirm their communities.
The NAMES Project Foundation routinely hosts quilting bees, often called workshops, to assist people with designing or sewing their panels for The AIDS Memorial Quilt. These workshops also build communities and support networks for people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Today, there are more than ten chapters around the United States that facilitate quilting workshops.
Call My Name workshops encourage panel making in African American communities. Recognizing that African Americans are underrepresented on The Quilt, The NAMES Project Foundation responded with this program to support and build awareness in these communities impacted by HIV/AIDS.
In addition to documenting the people lost to AIDS, The Quilt is a record of artistic creation, especially quilting techniques passed from generation to generation and from one quilting workshop member to another.
“This panel began with Benjamin’s great grandmother who died in 1985 at the age of ninety-two, Aimetta Waters. It took four generations completing this quilt, which included Benjamin’s mother, his brother, both maternal grandparents, and a dear friend of Benjamin’s mother. Every stitch is hand stitched with love for Benjamin that surpasses all worldly love.”
At the beginning of the Call My Name quilting workshops, there is often a libation and a calling of names before the quilting starts. After someone says a name, the group answers with ase, an African word meaning “and so it will be,” as a bestowal of power and assurance that the speakers’ blessings be carried forth. Here, Ama Saran pours libations for the ancestors at The Women’s Collective in Washington, D.C., in 2012 at the start of a Call My Name quilting workshop.
“Eighteen women came to our dining room table to quilt. I watched their hands, some deft and others clumsy, some smooth and others wrinkled, every one providing service, not one needing command. For the quilting women, who did not know my son, this quilt in his memorial became what they organized their days around. They gave to it and were given to by it and by each other. And they came to love each other and one felt that what made them able to love was the need the quilt had for their ministry. It was at times as if the quilt were Keith himself, lying in their midst, a fallen man.”
“We also wanted to commemorate the fact that AIDS claimed not only Freddie, but a fantastic collaboration of four men who called themselves Queen, who shared one vision of music for twenty years. These men deserve remembrance here not only for their considerable talents, but for the manner in which they stood by Freddie, understanding him, protecting him, and helping him in those final years. Their love and loyalty stand as a true measure of what sort of men they are... It is impossible to say what Freddie meant to me. He was my hero, my inspiration. His was the music of my every day.”
Sarah Leigold, Carol Hunterton, Sharon Fetter, Linda Neel, and Darien Duck hold the panel they made for Freddie Mercury, block 02442. Photo courtesy of The NAMES Project Foundation
A boy takes part in a Call My Name workshop in Houston, Texas, by sewing fabric cut-outs onto a panel.